Tractor Operator Jobs: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a tractor operator. Learn about job responsibilities, required training, job outlook and median salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Heavy Equipment degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Tractor Operator?

A tractor operator loads, controls, and drives a tractor to transport materials around a construction site, factory, storage area or other large warehouse space. After moving a large or heavy object from one location to another, they log the activity so that they have a careful record of the location of all important materials. In addition to directly maneuvering tractor machinery, they are also responsible for routine maintenance, such as making minor repairs.

The following chart gives you an overview about entering this field.

Degree Required None, though high school diploma or GED preferred
Training Required On the job training, apprenticeships and other training programs available if desired
Key Responsibilities Load, control, and drive a tractor to transport materials at industrial sites
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2% (for all industrial truck and tractor operators)*
Median Salary (2015) $32,090 (for all industrial truck and tractor operators)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Tractor Operator Do?

In the manufacturing industry, a tractor is a piece of heavy machinery that moves materials from one location to another. The machinery can also be referred to as a lift truck or a forklift. If you find a position as a tractor operator, your primary responsibility is to load, control and drive those machines. You may find yourself working as a tractor operator within one large warehouse space, or you may be responsible from transporting materials around a construction site, factory or storage area.

What Training Might I Need?

You typically gain tractor operator training on the job. You may learn how to operate the controls of a tractor or lift truck by shadowing a supervisor or experienced coworker. While some employers may prefer to hire you if you have a high school diploma or GED certificate, most simply require that you be in good physical condition. You need to be able to lift heavy materials for long periods of time if you are interested in working as a tractor operator.

The International Union of Operating Engineers does offer some apprenticeship and training programs for aspiring tractor operators and journey-level operators looking to refresh their skills. Most apprenticeships combine classroom instruction with practical training.

What is the Job Outlook for the Profession?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the employment of industrial truck and tractor operators will increase by two percent between 2014 and 2024, which is slower than the national average. Automated retrievers and conveyors are expected to reduce the need for manual labor in warehouses and on construction sites. However, jobs may become available as previous tractor operators retire from the profession.

What Salary Could I Expect to Make?

Industrial truck and tractor operators were employed in 539,810 positions around the nation as of 2015, the BLS reported ( The median annual salary in the profession as of 2015 was $32,090. The largest employers of tractor operators included warehousing and storage companies, building material and supplies dealers, employment services and grocery merchant retailers.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instead of working as a tractor operator, you could get a job operating a different type of heavy equipment. For instance, as a crane operator, you might get a job using the equipment to lift and move materials and equipment at a construction site, or you could use it to load and unload cargo from ships at a port. Alternatively, you could become a dredge operator. They maneuver machinery that removes sand, rocks and other sediment from waterways, in order to ensure that they remain navigable. For any job operating heavy equipment, you need to have at least a high school diploma.

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