There is no certification needed to operate heavy vehicles, but there are training requirements, such as completing post-secondary education or an apprenticeship. In some cases, the person may need to obtain a commercial driver's license.
Many heavy equipment operators complete some type of college or apprenticeship program. Usually, these programs are made up of classroom and hands-on training. Classroom training generally includes safety topics and classes about working with hazardous materials, maintaining heavy equipment and performing light repairs. Specific topics include lubricating parts, learning about different engines, soldering and welding. Hands-on training includes learning how to grade and use specialized equipment such as bulldozers and backhoes.
Classroom work generally takes one to two years to complete, but an apprenticeship may take three or four, and apprenticeships usually include pay. Though apprenticeships may not be required for every job operating heavy equipment, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that people who go through the process have a better chance of gaining employment than those without this training.
If a person needs to obtain a commercial driver's license, the requirements depend on state law. To get a commercial driver's license, most people have to pay a fee, obtain a temporary permit and pass a written and driving test. In addition, a vision test is usually required, and the person may need to pass a medical exam.