When it comes to construction equipment, no one piece of machinery is the same. This is true for any type of heavy machinery, but especially for backhoes. Backhoes are used to dig industrial-sized holes that are essential in the process of constructing various types of buildings and other commercial developments. Depending on the type of backhoe that you use, there may be more advanced components that are unfamiliar and require more expertise; and most construction equipment does deservedly require a license. But when it comes to backhoes, there are some similarities that extend across the board. This backhoe training guide will help you understand how to operate a backhoe like a professional without the need for advanced licensing or training.
Backhoe Training Guide
Step 1: Get a Feel for the Hydraulics
Operating a backhoe is all about hand-eye coordination and integrating one’s feel of the hydraulic system in the operation of the backhoe. Over time, you should be able to feel like the backhoe is an extension of your human brain and body — not unlike how NASCAR drivers feel when they are in their sporting element. This is why we can say with confidence that “no backhoe is the same”: Like a living animal, each backhoe has its own personality in the sense that it feels differently. Before you operate a backhoe, you’ll want to try to tap into this mindset.
Step 2: Locate the Controls
Backhoes are also very similar in the sense that once you're inside the cab of the backhoe, you'll need to locate the levers. In most cases, there will be two levers — the one on the left can be moved up and down, while the one on the right can be moved left and right. When operated in controlled unison, these levers are used to control the backhoe's stick, at the end of which is a bucket which is kept from spilling over due to the boom lock. The first thing you’ll want to do is initiate the stabilizers, then release the boom lock. Push the left control forward to extend the backhoe’s stick. Then push the right control to the right in order to open the bucket.
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Step 3: Dig it Up
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the controls and the hydraulics, you’re ready to begin digging up some soil. For this, you’ll need to consider how both levers operate in relation to each other. After pushing the right control to the left to curl the bucket inward, you can lower the bucket into the ground and scoop up the earth beneath the bucket. By pushing the right control to the left, you are able to curl the bucket inward, lowering it into the ground to scoop up earth beneath it. Oftentimes, it’s best to go in at an angle.
Step 4: Lift The Loaded Bucket
Once you’ve picked up a load of soil, you’ll want to use the left and right levers to retract and raise the boom lock while keeping the bucket curled. In this step, beware of what you’re doing: If you overfill the bucket, you’ll find it difficult to keep the bucket curled and could lose control of the load you’re carrying.
Step 5: Dump The Load
Push the right and left levers to the right in order to open the bucket, and then pull the stick toward the cab and dump the load. After you’ve moved the bucket to the Left, you’ll be able to
Step 6: Keep your Safety in Check
Sometimes people don’t consider safety protocols to be an essential aspect of backhoe operations, but in fact they are essential in order to consider oneself a “pro” backhoe operator. Whenever digging is a part of a scope of work, you should be sure to pre-inspect the location of preexisting underground obstructions such as utilities; if this hasn’t been done, then you risk damaging underground utility lines. Outside of this fundamental situational awareness, some other general tips and best practices include:
- Try to honk your horn before moving the machine, so that you can alert anyone nearby
- Make sure the swing lock is in place and the boom is locked before driving the backhoe
- Make sure to never leave the operator seat when the backhoe is running
- Do not go underneath the machine if it’s running
If you are interested in formalizing your education and becoming a truly professional backhoe operator (rather than just operating a backhoe like a pro), then you will need to receive specialized backhoe operational training. There are many of these across the country, but Heavy Equipment College of America has a particularly noteworthy backhoe operation training program due to its sheer comprehensiveness. Because they have a variety of different offerings, Heavy Equipment College is able to provide a wide variety of advanced aspects of training certifications, ensuring that you won’t just look like a pro backhoe operator — you will be one.