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Crane and Tower Operators
SOC Code: 53-7021.00

Operate mechanical boom and cable or tower and cable equipment to lift and move materials, machines, or products in many directions.

Sample of reported job titles: Crane Operator, Heavy Equipment Operator, Machine Operator, Material Handler, Mobile Crane Operator, Overhead Crane Operator, Port Crane Operator, Scrap Crane Operator, Winchman/Crane Operator, Woodyard Crane Operator


  • Determine load weights and check them against lifting capacities to prevent overload.
  • Move levers, depress foot pedals, or turn dials to operate cranes, cherry pickers, electromagnets, or other moving equipment for lifting, moving, or placing loads.
  • Inspect and adjust crane mechanisms or lifting accessories to prevent malfunctions or damage.
  • Inspect cables or grappling devices for wear and install or replace cables, as needed.
  • Direct helpers engaged in placing blocking or outrigging under cranes.
  • Clean, lubricate, and maintain mechanisms such as cables, pulleys, or grappling devices, making repairs as necessary.
  • Load or unload bundles from trucks or move containers to storage bins, using moving equipment.
  • Review daily work or delivery schedules to determine orders, sequences of deliveries, or special loading instructions.
  • Inspect bundle packaging for conformance to regulations or customer requirements and remove and batch packaging tickets.
  • Direct truck drivers backing vehicles into loading bays and cover, uncover, or secure loads for delivery.
  • Weigh bundles, using floor scales, and record weights for company records.

Technology Skills

  • Data base user interface and query software - Data entry software
  • Industrial control software - Crane operation control software
  • Inventory management software - Inventory tracking software
  • Office suite software - Microsoft Office
  • Operating system software - Microsoft Windows
  • Spreadsheet software - Microsoft Excel

Tools Used

  • Adjustable wrenches
  • All terrain cranes - All-terrain cranes
  • Anemometers
  • Angle grinder - Angle grinders
  • Ball peen hammer - Ball peen hammers
  • Below the hook device - Anti-two block devices; Lifting magnets; Spreader beams; Tower attachments
  • Bench vises
  • Blocks or pulleys - Hook blocks
  • Blow torch - Oxyacetylene torches; Propane torches
  • Box end wrenches - Closed-end wrenches
  • Bridge cranes - Gantry cranes
  • Calipers - Vernier calipers
  • Claw hammer - Claw hammers
  • Demolition equipment kits - Iron balls; Overhaul balls
  • Demolition hammers
  • Draglines - Dragline buckets
  • Drum grabs - Barrel clamps
  • Ear muffs - Protective ear muffs
  • Ear plugs - Protective ear plugs
  • Earthmoving buckets or its parts or accessories - Clamshell buckets; Orange peel buckets
  • Floor or platform scales - Floor scales
  • Force or torque sensors - Load monitoring indicators; Rated load indicators
  • Forklifts - Pallet forks
  • Goggles - Safety goggles
  • Grapples - Timber tongs
  • Grease guns
  • Hazardous material protective apparel - Survival suits
  • Hoists - Chain falls
  • Hydraulic truck cranes - Cab cranes; Hydraulic truck-mounted cranes
  • Impact wrenches - Electric impact wrenches
  • Jacks - Hydraulic jacks
  • Jib crane - Jib cranes
  • Lifting hooks - Clips; Lifting clamps; Load hooks; Wedge sockets
  • Linear position sensors - Boom length indicators
  • Needlenose pliers
  • Oil gun - Oilcans
  • Open end wrenches
  • Paint sprayers - Paint application sprayers
  • Pile drivers - Drop hammers
  • Pneumatic impact wrenches
  • Power drills
  • Pressure or steam cleaners - Power washers; Steam cleaning equipment
  • Pry bars
  • Pullers - Comealongs
  • Punches or nail sets or drifts - Drift pins; Punches
  • Ratchets - Ratchet sets
  • Respirators
  • Rotary position sensors - Boom angle indicators
  • Rough terrain cranes - Rough-terrain cranes
  • Safety glasses
  • Safety harnesses or belts - Fall arrest harnesses
  • Screwdrivers - Phillips head screwdrivers; Robertson screwdrivers; Straight screwdrivers
  • Shackle - Shackles
  • Sledge hammer - Sledgehammers
  • Slings - Lifting slings
  • Slip or groove joint pliers - Slip joint pliers
  • Specialty wrenches - Spud wrenches
  • Tape measures - Measuring tapes
  • Tinners snips - Snips
  • Tire pressure gauge - Tire pressure gauges
  • Touch screen monitors - Wireless touch screen monitors
  • Tower cranes - Friction cranes; Luffing jib cranes; Ringer cranes
  • Track cranes - Crawler cranes; Monorail cranes
  • Track excavators - Excavators
  • Turnbuckles
  • Two way radios
  • Wear testers - Wear gauges
  • Welding masks
  • Wire brushes
  • Wire cutters - Wire rope cutters


  • Mechanical - Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
  • Mathematics - Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.


  • Operation and Control - Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
  • Operation Monitoring - Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
  • Critical Thinking - Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Active Listening - Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Monitoring - Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
  • Judgment and Decision Making - Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Time Management - Managing one's own time and the time of others.


  • Control Precision - The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
  • Multilimb Coordination - The ability to coordinate two or more limbs (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while sitting, standing, or lying down. It does not involve performing the activities while the whole body is in motion.
  • Depth Perception - The ability to judge which of several objects is closer or farther away from you, or to judge the distance between you and an object.
  • Far Vision - The ability to see details at a distance.
  • Rate Control - The ability to time your movements or the movement of a piece of equipment in anticipation of changes in the speed and/or direction of a moving object or scene.
  • Reaction Time - The ability to quickly respond (with the hand, finger, or foot) to a signal (sound, light, picture) when it appears.
  • Arm-Hand Steadiness - The ability to keep your hand and arm steady while moving your arm or while holding your arm and hand in one position.
  • Problem Sensitivity - The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
  • Manual Dexterity - The ability to quickly move your hand, your hand together with your arm, or your two hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble objects.
  • Response Orientation - The ability to choose quickly between two or more movements in response to two or more different signals (lights, sounds, pictures). It includes the speed with which the correct response is started with the hand, foot, or other body part.
  • Selective Attention - The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
  • Near Vision - The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
  • Oral Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Oral Comprehension - The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Perceptual Speed - The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. The things to be compared may be presented at the same time or one after the other. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object.
  • Speech Clarity - The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
  • Speech Recognition - The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
  • Visual Color Discrimination - The ability to match or detect differences between colors, including shades of color and brightness.
  • Visualization - The ability to imagine how something will look after it is moved around or when its parts are moved or rearranged.
  • Deductive Reasoning - The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  • Finger Dexterity - The ability to make precisely coordinated movements of the fingers of one or both hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble very small objects.
  • Glare Sensitivity - The ability to see objects in the presence of glare or bright lighting.
  • Information Ordering - The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
  • Spatial Orientation - The ability to know your location in relation to the environment or to know where other objects are in relation to you.
  • Time Sharing - The ability to shift back and forth between two or more activities or sources of information (such as speech, sounds, touch, or other sources).


  • Interest code: RCI
    • Realistic - Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.
    • Conventional - Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.
    • Investigative - Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Work Context

  • Wear Common Protective or Safety Equipment such as Safety Shoes, Glasses, Gloves, Hearing Protection, Hard Hats, or Life Jackets - 95% responded “Every day.”
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety - 79% responded “Very high responsibility.”
  • Contact With Others - 77% responded “Constant contact with others.”
  • Duration of Typical Work Week - 78% responded “More than 40 hours.”
  • Face-to-Face Discussions - 64% responded “Every day.”
  • Importance of Being Exact or Accurate - 58% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Sounds, Noise Levels Are Distracting or Uncomfortable - 75% responded “Every day.”
  • Work With Work Group or Team - 63% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Spend Time Using Your Hands to Handle, Control, or Feel Objects, Tools, or Controls - 68% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • Exposed to Contaminants - 68% responded “Every day.”
  • Indoors, Not Environmentally Controlled - 57% responded “Every day.”
  • Frequency of Decision Making - 62% responded “Every day.”
  • Consequence of Error - 52% responded “Extremely serious.”
  • Exposed to Hazardous Equipment - 70% responded “Every day.”
  • Freedom to Make Decisions - 44% responded “A lot of freedom.”
  • Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results - 41% responded “Very important results.”
  • Structured versus Unstructured Work - 44% responded “A lot of freedom.”
  • Very Hot or Cold Temperatures - 49% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
  • Outdoors, Exposed to Weather - 58% responded “Every day.”
  • Time Pressure - 40% responded “Every day.”
  • Exposed to High Places - 47% responded “Every day.”
  • In an Enclosed Vehicle or Equipment - 49% responded “Every day.”
  • Pace Determined by Speed of Equipment - 53% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Responsibility for Outcomes and Results - 42% responded “Very high responsibility.”
  • Spend Time Making Repetitive Motions - 38% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • Telephone - 42% responded “Every day.”
  • Spend Time Sitting - 29% responded “Less than half the time.”
  • Coordinate or Lead Others - 30% responded “Important.”
  • Extremely Bright or Inadequate Lighting - 43% responded “Every day.”
  • Letters and Memos - 29% responded “Every day.”
  • Outdoors, Under Cover - 28% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
  • In an Open Vehicle or Equipment - 39% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”


Percentage of RespondentsEducation Level Required
61%Post-secondary certificate
32%High school diploma or equivalent
8%Less than high school diploma

Work Styles

  • Dependability - Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
  • Attention to Detail - Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
  • Self Control - Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
  • Cooperation - Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
  • Stress Tolerance - Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high stress situations.
  • Adaptability/Flexibility - Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
  • Concern for Others - Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
  • Initiative - Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
  • Integrity - Job requires being honest and ethical.
  • Independence - Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
  • Leadership - Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
  • Persistence - Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
  • Analytical Thinking - Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
  • Achievement/Effort - Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
  • Social Orientation - Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.
  • Innovation - Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.

Work Values

  • Support - Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical.
  • Independence - Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.
  • Working Conditions - Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions. Corresponding needs are Activity, Compensation, Independence, Security, Variety and Working Conditions.

Wages & Trends

  • Median wages (2017)
    • $25.10 hourly, $52,200 annual
  • Employment (2016)
    • 46,000 employees
  • Projected growth (2016-2026)
    • Average (5% to 9%)
  • Projected job openings (2016-2026)
    • 5,300

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