Do You Need a Driver’s License to Operate Heavy Machinery?

by | Mar 21, 2023 | Blog, Heavy Equipment, Heavy Equipment Jobs | 0 comments

A career operating heavy machinery such as cranes or dozers can be a challenging, rewarding, and lucrative one. However, the construction industry is very competitive, and potential employers will be looking for candidates who are highly qualified to get behind the controls of their expensive and specialized machinery. These candidates must meet specific requirements to even be considered for the job.

Just what are these requirements? Do you need a driver’s license to operate heavy equipment? What about a commercial driver’s license? Are there any other types of licensing that are necessary? Read on to find out:

Do You Need a Driver’s License to Operate Heavy Equipment?

Yes, at the very minimum, you need a driver’s license or a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate heavy equipment. You don’t, however, necessarily need both.

United States law requires a commercial driver’s license any time you are operating equipment with a gross vehicle weight rating over 26,000 pounds. This usually means that a CDL is only required if you’re driving equipment from jobsite to jobsite. If you do not drive equipment from place to place and are merely in charge of operating it once it is on-site, then you can generally bypass the commercial driver’s license requirement.

Credentials May Be Required As Well

While you likely already have a driver’s license, you might need to take your training a step further to get a job operating heavy machinery. Most laws with regard to the operation of heavy machinery exist at the state level, as opposed to the federal. Some states require specific credentials to operate machines such as cranes, dozers, backhoes, and similar heavy equipment, while some states do not. Find out what the laws in your state are.

Note that, even if you do not legally need an NCCER, NCCCO, or other heavy equipment certification in your state, an employer may still require it before hiring you.

Where to Get the Licensing and Credentials You Need

If you need a driver’s license or determine that you need a CDL, you can begin by downloading the driving manual for your state. This manual will have all the requirements for that state, so read it carefully. For a driver’s license, you’ll need to pass both a written and physical driving test. For a CDL, in most cases, you will need to submit an application and pay a fee before you can take the basic knowledge test. After you gain some experience, you can take your practical road skills examination. A medical examination and vision test are required as well.

Remember that a driver’s license won’t be enough to get you hired. You’ll need plenty of training and experience, and likely proper credentials for operating heavy machinery. In most cases, you should also seek heavy equipment training and practical on-the-job experience from a school like West Coast Training. You can not only earn the knowledge and experience you need to land a job in the highly competitive heavy equipment industry, but you will also learn the networking skills that are required to make you stand out to prospective employers. Discuss your opportunities today.