Construction equipment operators
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Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators
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Overview
Construction equipment operators drive, maneuver, or control the heavy machinery used to construct roads, bridges, buildings, and other structures.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators are expected to grow by 12%, and should have about 47,800 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators are more likely to be automated than 86% of other careers.
Workforce size
Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators, with 371,100 workers, form a larger workforce than 88% of careers.
Education
Only 3% of construction equipment operators have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Education attained by construction equipment operators
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
Fewer construction equipment operators have bachelor's degrees than 95% of other careeers.
Salaries
The median (middle) salary for 51% of all other jobs is higher than the middle salary for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators. The graph shows inflation-adjusted salaries for most operating engineers and other construction equipment operators.
This job's median $48KAll jobs' median $39K$47K$38K20142015201620172018$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K
Context: Median Salary
Gender
Women account for 2% of construction equipment operators -- that's a smaller percentage than 94% of other jobs.
Gender of construction equipment operators
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For construction equipment operators, the median men's salary was 9% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 10% of construction equipment operators are minority, and 11% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of construction equipment operators
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (11%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. The darker the blue, the higher the job density.
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
Job benefits
Employer or union-sponsored pension plans are offered to 47% of construction equipment operators, and 64% have company-sponsored health insurance (13% have dependents enrolled in their employer's health plan).
Employer-provided health coverage for construction equipment operators
100% premiums covered
Partial premiums covered
Plan with no cost sharing
No health insurance
The downside
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of operating engineers and other construction equipment operators who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety (86%)
  • Exposed to Hazardous Equipment (85%)
  • Exposed to Whole Body Vibration (80%)
  • Exposed to Contaminants (80%)
  • Consequence of Error (72%)
  • Time Pressure (53%)
  • Frequency of Conflict Situations (36%)
  • Exposed to Minor Burns, Cuts, Bites, or Stings (32%)
SOURCES:24.0 O*NET
Salary and diversity
Salary overview
What do construction equipment operators earn?

In this section, we want to give you a clear idea of what you can expect to earn in this career. We use two sources of data here: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which asks employers to classify their workforce and to report salaries using the SOC-specialty level of reporting, and the American Community Survey (ACS), which asks people to classify their jobs using the broad classifications that ididio uses for career profiles, and to self-report their salaries. For some jobs, the differences in survey approaches between BLS and ACS can paint a very different end-picture. In particular, the ACS data is reported for the larger career group construction equipment operators, which combines the data for 2 careers, including operating engineers and other construction equipment operators. Whenever possible, we provide data from both sources.

The BLS-compiled salary data is reported by companies for their employees. This data is classified by SOC specialty, and excludes self-employed workers. We first show the distribution of salaries for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators, and then we show how the middle (median) salary for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators compares to the BLS-computed median salaries of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators (BLS Salary Data)
$48K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$48K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
We compiled household data from the ACS to determine the salaries that people working at least 35 hours a week report themselves to earn. Unlike the BLS estimates, this data includes self-employed wages. Additionally, we only have ACS survey data for the larger career category and not for the specialty level. We first show the full salary distribution for all construction equipment operators, and then we show how the median (middle) salary for construction equipment operators compares to the median ACS-reported salary of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for construction equipment operators (ACS Salary Data)
$46K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$46K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Employers and salary
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, and following we show the salary distributions for these workers based on those employer types. For some careers, the salaries can be vastly different between private, government, and self-employment. As with our salary overview, we view the both the BLS economists' salary profiles and the household-reported salaries from ACS to get a thorough understanding of where operating engineers and other construction equipment operators work and for what salary. We have the great faith in the accuracy of economist-vetted BLS data; however, the BLS restrictions on which employers are surveyed skews the data a bit (read more in the sources), and the ACS responses provide different and useful categorizations of employers and salaries.
Employers of Construction equipment operators (ACS)
Private for-profit (75.3%)
Private not-for-profit (1.3%)
Local government (13.4%)
State government (3.9%)
Federal government (1.5%)
Self-employed incorporated (2.0%)
Self-employed not incorporated (2.5%)
Working without pay (0.1%)
Distribution: Salaries of construction equipment operators by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses. These salaries were reported for the larger career group of construction equipment operators, which combines the 2 specialties for this career.
$46K$47K$41K$42K$42K$51K$37K$53K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000Self-employed not incorporatedSelf-employed incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of operating engineers and other construction equipment operators by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS. Remember that the BLS salaries are for the specialty operating engineers and other construction equipment operators, and may differ signficantly from the ACS salary estimates which combine several career specialties.
$48K$57K$42K$49K$41K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000Federal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivateAll
Age and career advancement
Salary growth for construction equipment operators

The biggest take-away from the following two charts is the relationship between salary and experience that we can infer from age. Does this job seem to attract especially younger or older workers? Does it reward experience?

Take a minute a look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working in this career changes. We only provide this data when there are enough consistent ACS survey responses to allow a reasonable margin of error, so for some careers you will see gaps in our reporting of salary by age.

$48K$50K$47K$47K$49K$42K$49K$41K$32K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KSalary distribution20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
010K20K30K40K50KNumber employed20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Gender and Equity
Construction equipment operators and gender

With 2% women, this occupation has a lower percentage of women than 94% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
2%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Construction equipment operators
Men (98%)
Women (2%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

As we'll illustrate at the bottom of this section, the median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 20%. The situation is a little better for construction equipment operators, with the median salary for men 9% higher than the median salary for women. This chart shows you the salary range for most workers by gender.

$42K$46K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

Nationwide there are twenty careers for which men do not have a higher median (middle) salary than women. The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary, for most jobs. Construction equipment operators have one of the smaller percentage increases for men's salary, with the increase the men's median salary over the women's median salary in this job lower than that for 75% of other jobs.

9%0%20%40%60%80%100%

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Race/Origin
Race and origin of construction equipment operators

The representation of minority and foreign-born workers is quite different between careers, and the relative pay of those workers also varies significantly between careers. There is a smaller percentage of minority construction equipment operators than for 91% of other careers. As with minority workers, there is also a smaller percentage of foreign-born workers in this career than in most other careers.

Race/origin of construction equipment operators
White (86% )
Black (6% )
Other (4% )
American Indian (2% )
Multiracial (2% )
Hispanic (1% )
Asian (1% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
10%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
11%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for construction equipment operators by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$39K$40K$40K$41K$44K$47K$50K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KBlackOtherAmerican IndianMultiracialHispanicWhiteAsian
Distribution: Salaries for construction equipment operators by nativity
$41K$46K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KAll foreign-bornAll native citizens

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Pathways to this career
Education requirements and salary
Education attained by operating engineers and other construction equipment operators

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), operating engineers and other construction equipment operators typically hold a high school diploma or equivalent.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as construction equipment operators as reported in responses to the American Community Survey. Following, we investigate whether education level influences salary for construction equipment operators.

Education attained by construction equipment operators
None
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Deg/Doct
Doctorate
Details: Education and training recommended for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators

A high school diploma or equivalent is required for most jobs. Vocational training and math courses are useful, and a course in auto mechanics can be helpful because workers often perform maintenance on their equipment.

Learning at vocational schools may be beneficial in finding a job. Schools may specialize in a particular brand or type of construction equipment.

Some schools incorporate sophisticated simulator training into their courses, allowing beginners to familiarize themselves with the equipment in a virtual environment before operating real machines.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators

Construction equipment operators often need a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to haul their equipment to various jobsites. State laws governing CDLs vary.

A few states have special licenses for operators of backhoes, loaders, and bulldozers.

Currently, 17 states require pile-driver operators to have a crane license because similar operational concerns apply to both pile-drivers and cranes. In addition, the cities of Chicago, Cincinnati, New Orleans, New York, Omaha, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC require special crane licensure.

Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for construction equipment operators? Below we see the distribution of construction equipment operators salaries based on the education attained. These comparisons are based on all survey responses by those who identified themselves as construction equipment operators, and are not intended as a statistical analysis of salary differences that would correct for non-educational factors that could contribute to high or low earnings.

$39K$46K$50K$50K$54K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KNone (19%)High School (53%)Some College (20%)Associate's Degree (5%)Bachelor's Degree (3%)
Certificate/degree pathways

The Department of Education recommends the following college degree programs as preparation for this career. You can click the program row to learn more about the program and explore a list of schools that offer the program.

Program
Education
Education level of awarded degrees
Less than bachelor's
bachelor's degree
Higher than bachelor's
Gender
Gender of graduates
Men
Women
Race/Origin
Race/origin of graduates
White
Minority
International
Number of degrees awarded in 2017
Construction/Heavy Equipment/Earthmoving Equipment Operation
1,038
Switching Careers
Most common new jobs
The most common next careers for construction equipment operators

What jobs will most construction equipment operators hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of construction equipment operators reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

Construction equipment operatorsConstruction laborersDriver/sales workers and truck driversFirst-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workersProduction workersManagers (specialized areas)Dredge, excavating, and loading machine operatorsConstruction managersIndustrial truck and tractor operatorsHand laborers and freight, stock, and material moversHighway maintenance workers
Lateral career moves
Lateral job transitions for construction equipment operators

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 9 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as construction equipment operators as well as 1% of respondents after working as construction equipment operators. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Lateral-move careers for construction equipment operators
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
Hand laborers and freight, stock, and material movers
389,900
$0$200K$28K
Driver/sales workers and truck drivers
376,900
$0$200K$41K
Construction laborers
153,300
$0$200K$30K
Managers (specialized areas)
84,000
$0$200K$72K
First-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers
70,600
$0$200K$56K
Industrial truck and tractor operators
66,000
$0$200K$31K
Production workers
37,400
$0$200K$32K
Highway maintenance workers
16,500
$0$200K$39K
Dredge, excavating, and loading machine operators
6,800
$0$200K$41K
Full prior and next career listings
Prior and next careers for construction equipment operators: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as construction equipment operators? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of construction equipment operators surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Prior careers for construction equipment operators
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
Percentage Transitioning
What percentage worked in this job the previous year?
Hand laborers and freight, stock, and material movers
389,900
$0$200K$28K
1.2%
Driver/sales workers and truck drivers
376,900
$0$200K$41K
5.0%
Construction laborers
153,300
$0$200K$30K
4.2%
Managers (specialized areas)
84,000
$0$200K$72K
1.3%
First-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers
70,600
$0$200K$56K
2.8%
Industrial truck and tractor operators
66,000
$0$200K$31K
1.7%
Construction equipment operators
48,300
$0$200K$46K
42.9%
Production workers
37,400
$0$200K$32K
3.6%
Highway maintenance workers
16,500
$0$200K$39K
2.6%
Dredge, excavating, and loading machine operators
6,800
$0$200K$41K
2.3%
Mining machine operators
2,400
$0$200K$63K
1.4%
No occupation
7.8%
Read about operating engineers and other construction equipment operators
Responsibilities and activities
Responsibilities and activities

Construction equipment operators typically do the following:

  • Clean and maintain equipment, making basic repairs as necessary
  • Report malfunctioning equipment to supervisors
  • Move levers, push pedals, or turn valves to control equipment
  • Drive and maneuver equipment
  • Coordinate machine actions with crew members using hand or audio signals
  • Follow safety standards

Construction equipment operators use machinery to move construction materials, earth, and other heavy materials at construction sites and mines. They operate equipment that clears and grades land to prepare it for the construction of roads, bridges, and buildings, as well as runways, power generation facilities, dams, levees, and other structures.

The following are examples of types of construction equipment operators:

Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators work with one or several types of power construction equipment. They may operate excavation and loading machines equipped with scoops, shovels, or buckets that dig sand, gravel, earth, or similar materials. In addition to operating bulldozers, they operate trench excavators, road graders, and similar equipment. Sometimes, they may drive and control industrial trucks or tractors equipped with forklifts or booms for lifting materials. They may also operate and maintain air compressors, pumps, and other power equipment at construction sites.

Paving and surfacing equipment operators control the machines that spread and level asphalt or spread and smooth concrete for roadways or other structures.

  • Asphalt spreader operators turn valves to regulate the temperature and flow of asphalt being applied to the roadbed. They must ensure a constant flow of asphalt into the hopper and that the machine distributes the paving material evenly.
  • Concrete paving machine operators control levers and turn handwheels to move attachments that spread, vibrate, and level wet concrete. They must watch the surface of the concrete carefully to identify low spots that need additional concrete.
  • Tamping equipment operators use machines that compact earth and other fill materials for roadbeds, railroads, or other construction sites. They also may operate machines with interchangeable hammers to cut or break up old pavement and drive guardrail posts into the ground.

Pile-driver operators use large machines mounted on skids, barges, or cranes to hammer piles into the ground. Piles are long, heavy beams of concrete, wood, or steel driven into the ground to support retaining walls, bridges, piers, or building foundations. Some pile-driver operators work on offshore oil rigs.

Personality and skills
Personality and skills

Can you see yourself in the ranks of operating engineers and other construction equipment operators? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.

Hand-eye-foot coordination
Construction equipment operators should have steady hands and feet to guide and control heavy machinery precisely, sometimes in tight spaces.
Mechanical skills
Construction equipment operators often perform basic maintenance on the equipment they operate. As a result, they should be familiar with hand and power tools and standard equipment care.
Physical strength
Construction equipment operators may be required to lift more than 50 pounds as part of their duties.
Unafraid of heights
Construction equipment operators may work at great heights. For example, pile-driver operators may need to service the pulleys located at the top of the pile-driver’s tower, which may be several stories tall.
Trends in employment
Salary trends
Distribution and trends: Salaries for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators
Choose actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars to view
Adjusted for inflation
Historic dollars

In 2018, the median (middle) for 51% of all other jobs were higher than the median (middle) salary for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators. This graphic shows how the salary distribution (adjusted for inflation) has changed for this job over recent years. The gray line, as a comparison, shows the median salary of all US workers.

This job's median $48KAll jobs' median $39K$47K$38K200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K
Projected versus actual employment
Exploring actual employment trends versus projected trends

Currently, jobs for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators are anticipated to grow by 12% over the next decade; only 19% of jobs are predicted to grow more.

The projected employment for operating engineers and other construction equipment operators is the best guess created by talented economists and statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, as you look through several careers you'll notice that the projections are heavily influenced by past performance and may miss current trends. No one can tell the future, and as new information and better techniques are developed, actual counts and future projections may change. Here's a glimpse at the actual counts versus the projections over time.

20002010202020300100,000200,000300,000400,000500,000
Employment counts
Actual measured employment
BLS 10-year predictions
Variation by state
Employment
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most operating engineers and other construction equipment operators? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as operating engineers and other construction equipment operators. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

One important factor in the differences between ACS and BLS data is that the ACS numbers are for all construction equipment operators, comprised of all specialities listed in the menu bar, and you can choose to view the BLS at the specialty or full career level.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS for this specialty
Number of Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.05.010.015.020.0
Salary
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where operating engineers and other construction equipment operators earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for construction equipment operators compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for construction equipment operators.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information. The ACS salaries are for all construction equipment operators, which combines the specialities from which you can choose at the top of the page.

Choose the metric to review
In-state comparisions
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS for this specialty
Median salary ratio: Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators to all workers (BLS for this specialty)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which operating engineers and other construction equipment operators earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.00.51.01.52.02.5
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the dots below to find other jobs you might like. The dots closer to the top represent jobs that are like Construction equipment operators (shown with a blue star). Look for the dots to the right to find the best salaries! (We pulled salary data from BLS, and they give a top salary value of just over $200K to protect privacy, so our graph would go much higher if the salaries were not top coded.)

How should the career similarity be computed

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?
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