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Do I Need a CDL to Operate Heavy Equipment?

 In CDL Training, Trucking Blog, Trucking Jobs

Many heavy equipment operator jobs require the applicant to be skilled at operating multiple types of vehicles. Many of these vehicles may require a CDL to operate, so it’s smart to get CDL training if you’re planning on a career as a heavy equipment operator.

“You must have a CDL to operate: Any single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more.” 

You’ll Need a CDL to Operate Some Equipment

A heavy equipment operator is responsible for safely and efficiently operating various pieces of heavy mobile construction equipment. Depending on which State you’re working in, some of the machines on this list might require a CDL to operate.

List of Common Heavy Equipment

Here we’ll list a few different types of heavy equipment and whether a CDL is needed to operate them or not.

Grader Blade – Like the name implies, this vehicle has a long blade used to create flat surfaces for roads, parking lots, building pads and other construction situations. In some states you need a CDL to operate them, in some you don’t.

Bulldozer – A CDL is required for most dozer operator positions. That’s because a dozer is a huge machine with a blade attached to the front. The blade is used to push massive amounts of material around.

Loader – A vehicle similar to a tractor, used to lift and move material around construction sites. A CDL is often required for loader operator jobs.

Forklift – Most forklifts don’t require a CDL license to operate, but you may need to be certified to get a forklift operator job. A good number of the companies I researched do offer training.

Crane – You may not need a CDL to operate a crane but you do need a CDL if your crane operator job requires you to transport the crane from job to job, over the road.

Bobcat – A bobcat is basically a small bulldozer. You will not need a CDL to operate a bobcat since the typical weight range for bobcats is 2,000 to 12,000 lbs.

Boom Lifts/Aerial Lifts – Boom lifts and aerial lifts are mobile vehicles used to lift people and materials up in the air. If the equipment is under 26,000 pounds it’s safe to assume that no, you do not need a CDL to operate it.

Roller – A roller is a piece of compaction equipment that uses steel drums to compress whatever material needs compressing. There are many sizes of rollers out there on construction sites across the country, and the weight of the one you’re operating will tell you if you need a CDL to operate it.

Some states require a CDL to operate any heavy equipment at all, and some don’t. Be sure to check your local information to be sure. See the list of 50 state DMV websites to find your local information.

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