Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators
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Operate industrial trucks or tractors equipped to move materials around a warehouse, storage yard, factory, construction site, or similar location.
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Titles for this career often contain these words
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Responsibilities and activities

Material moving machine operators typically do the following:

  • Set up and inspect material moving equipment
  • Control equipment with levers, wheels, or foot pedals
  • Move material according to a plan or schedule
  • Signal and direct workers to load, unload, and position materials
  • Keep a record of the material they move and where they move it to
  • Make minor repairs to their equipment

In warehouses, most material moving machine operators use forklifts and conveyor belts. Wireless sensors and tags are increasingly being used to keep track of merchandise, allowing operators to locate them faster. Some operators also check goods for damage. These operators usually work closely with hand laborers and material movers.

Many operators work for underground and surface mining companies. They help to dig or expose the mine, remove the earth and rock, and extract coal, ore, and other mined materials.

In construction, material moving machine operators remove earth to clear space for buildings. Some work on a building site for the entire length of the construction project. For example, certain material moving machine operators help to construct highrise buildings by transporting materials to workers who are far above ground level.

All material moving machine operators are responsible for the safe operation of their equipment or vehicle.

The following are examples of types of material moving machine operators:

Conveyor operators and tenders control conveyor systems that move materials on an automatic belt. They move materials to and from places such as storage areas, vehicles, and building sites. They monitor sensors on the conveyor to regulate the speed with which the conveyor belt moves. Operators also may check the shipping order and determine the route that materials take along a conveyor.

Crane and tower operators use tower and cable equipment to lift and move materials, machinery, or other heavy objects. From a control station, operators can extend and retract horizontal booms, rotate the superstructure, and lower and raise hooks attached to cables at the end of their crane or tower. Operators usually are guided by workers on the ground who use hand signals or who transmit voice signals through a radio. Most crane and tower operators work at construction sites or major ports, where they load and unload cargo. Some operators work in iron and steel mills.

Dredge operators excavate waterways. They operate equipment on the water to remove sand, gravel, or rock from harbors or lakes. Removing these materials helps to prevent erosion and maintain navigable waterways, and allows larger ships to use ports. Dredging also is used to help restore wetlands and maintain beaches.

Excavating and loading machine and dragline operators use machines equipped with scoops or shovels. They dig sand, earth, or other materials and load them onto conveyors or into trucks for transport elsewhere. They may also move material within a confined area, such as a construction site. Operators typically receive instructions from workers on the ground through hand signals or through voice signals transmitted by radio. Most of these operators work in construction or mining industries.

Hoist and winch operators, also called derrick operators, control the movement of platforms, cables, and cages that transport workers or materials in industrial operations, such as constructing a highrise building. Many of these operators raise platforms far above the ground. Operators regulate the speed of the equipment on the basis of the needs of the workers. Many work in manufacturing, mining, and quarrying industries.

Industrial truck and tractor operators drive trucks and tractors that move materials around warehouses, storage yards, or worksites. These trucks, often called forklifts, have a lifting mechanism and forks, which make them useful for moving heavy and large objects. Some industrial truck and tractor operators drive tractors that pull trailers loaded with material around factories or storage areas.

Underground mining loading machine operators load coal, ore, and other rocks onto shuttles, mine cars, or conveyors for transport from a mine to the surface. They may use power shovels, hoisting engines equipped with scrapers or scoops, and automatic gathering arms that move materials onto a conveyor. Operators also drive their machines farther into the mine in order to gather more material.

Median salary: $37,560 annually
Half of those employed in this career earn between $31,570 and $45,570.
Context: Median Salary
How do salaries for this career compare to other jobs' salaries?
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Salary growth for industrial truck and tractor operators
Is this job likely to reward you for sticking with it through pay raises and promotions? The higher a job’s “experience quotient,” the more you are likely to get as you stay there.
Experience quotient percentile
Take a minute to look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working at each age change. Does this seem to be a job for the young or the old, or could it be a career offering steady salary growth for many years?
Salary distribution
Number employed
About Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators
How do benefits for this career compare to other jobs? The availability of health care, especially employer provided health care, and pension plans can add significantly to the value of compensation you receive in a career. These charts compare how this career compares to other careers with regard to health care and pension plans.
Employee has health insurance
Employer is providing health insurance
Employer-provided pension plan is available
Worker concerns
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of industrial truck and tractor operators who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Exposed to Contaminants (93%)
  • Time Pressure (93%)
  • Hazardous Equipment (78%)
  • Consequence of Error (72%)
  • Responsible for Others' Health (68%)
  • Minor Burns, Cuts, Bites (57%)
  • High Conflict Frequency (51%)
  • Exposed to Whole Body Vibration (47%)
  • Hazardous Conditions (42%)
  • Unpleasant or Angry People (37%)
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Personality and skills
Can you see yourself in the ranks of Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.
Material moving machine operators must be aware of their surroundings while operating machinery.
Communication skills
Material moving machine operators signal and direct workers to load and unload material. They also receive direction from workers on the ground when moving material.
Material moving machine operators should have steady hands and feet to guide and control heavy machinery precisely. They use hand controls to maneuver their machines through tight spaces, around large objects, and on uneven surfaces.
Mechanical skills
Material moving machine operators make minor adjustments to their machines and perform basic maintenance on them.
Visual ability
Material moving machine operators must be able to see clearly where they are driving or what they are moving. They must also watch for nearby workers, who may unknowingly be in their path.
Injury and Illness
About 85 industrial truck and tractor operators become injured or ill for every 10,000 workers, making this job more dangerous than 78% of other careers. The most common specific illnesses or injuries are detailed following.
Chemical burns and corrosions
Heat (thermal) burns
Education pathways to this career
Education attained by industrial truck and tractor operators
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), industrial truck and tractor operators typically hold no formal educational credential.
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 industrial truck and tractor operators as reported in responses to the American Community Survey.
Details: Education and training recommended for industrial truck and tractor operators

Although no formal educational credential is usually required, some companies prefer to hire material moving machine operators who have a high school diploma. For crane and tower operators, excavating machine operators, and dredge operators, however, a high school diploma or equivalent typically is required.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for industrial truck and tractor operators

A number of states and several cities require crane operators to be licensed. To get a license, operators typically must complete a skills test in which they show that they can control a crane. They also must pass a written exam that tests their knowledge of safety rules and procedures. Some crane operators and industrial truck and tractor operators may obtain certification, which includes passing a written exam.

Education level of Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators
Only 3% of industrial truck and tractor operators have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Education attained by industrial truck and tractor operators
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
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Where are the jobs
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.
Select a state to see local area details
Number of Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators per 1,000 workers (ACS)
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Job density versus job count
Which states hire the most industrial truck and tractor 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 industrial truck and tractor operators. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where industrial truck and tractor 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 industrial truck and tractor operators compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for industrial truck and tractor operators.
We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which industrial truck and tractor operators earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this figure 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
Location-adjusted median salary for Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators (ACS)
5% of Industrial truck and tractor operators are working part time.
We’ve found that some jobs have a huge number of part-time workers, and typically that is because they are unable to find full-time work or the job itself can’t provide full-time hours. With 5% part-time workers, this occupation has a lower percentage of part-time workers than 77% of careers.
Employer types
This donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, giving us a picture of what employers most typically hire for this career.
Employers of undefined (ACS)
Private for-profit
Private not-for-profit
Local government
State government
Federal government
Self-employed incorporated
Self-employed not incorporated
Working without pay
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Distribution: Salaries of industrial truck and tractor operators by type of employer
Here are the salary distributions based on employer type.
$32K$32K$31K$42K$42K$31K$30K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000Self-employed not incorporatedSelf-employed incorporatedFederal governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Industrial truck and tractor operators and gender
With 7% women, this occupation has a lower percentage of women than 84% of careers.
Gender of Industrial truck and tractor operators
Men (93%)
Women (7%)
Distribution: salaries by gender
Does gender greatly influence your salary in this career? The closer the bars are, the less discrepancy there is.
We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.
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Context: Women in the workforce
How does this career compare to other careers with regard to the percentage of women in the career.
Context: Salary inequity
The median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 19%. The situation is better for industrial truck and tractor operators, with the median salary for men only 0.7% higher than the median salary for women.
Race and origin of Industrial truck and tractor operators
This donut shows the distribution of race and origin among those employed as Industrial truck and tractor operators.
Race/origin of industrial truck and tractor operators
White (61% )
Black (23% )
Other (10% )
Multiracial (2% )
Asian (2% )
Hispanic (1% )
American Indian (1% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Distribution: salaries by race/origin
Some careers might have a pay disparity based on race or origin, the closer the below bars are the less of a discrepancy is present.
$30K$30K$30K$31K$31K$31K$32K$33K$0$20K$40K$60K$80KOtherHispanicPacific IslanderAmerican IndianMultiracialBlackAsianWhite
We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.