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Backhoe Training: How to Operate like a Pro

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

Learn How to Become a Professional Backhoe Operator and How to Operate a Backhoe Safely.
Free 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.

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
wing.

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.

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Locations

CA – San Bernardino:  1955 W. 9th Street | San Bernardino, CA 92411
 
CA – Ft. Irwin:  306 Langford Lake Road | Bld # TR0403 | CA 92310
(Location is on a military base and is VETERAN ONLY – Career Skills Program (CSP)*)
 
Georgia:  581 Sigman Road, Suite 300 | Conyers, GA 30013
 
North Carolina:  1909 Bragg Blvd, Suite 94 | Fayetteville, NC 28303
 
Oklahoma:  6101 W. Reno Avenue, Suite 1000 | Oklahoma City, OK 73127
 
Washington:  4701 McChord Drive SW | Lakewood, WA 98499
(Location is on military base and is VETERAN ONLY – Career Skills Program (CSP)*and VA Education Benefits)

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CALIFORNIA LOCATION ONLY: Heavy Equipment College of America is a private institution approved to operate by the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education. Approval to operate means the institution is compliant with the minimum standards contained in the California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009 (as amended) and Division 7.5 of Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations. (https://www.bppe.ca.gov/). Access all Catalogs, Student Performance Fact Sheets and Brochures here.

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Heavy Equipment Colleges of America cannot guarantee employment or career advancement or any particular earnings or salary.

OKLAHOMA LOCATION ONLY: Heavy Equipment Colleges of America has a Certificate of Approval from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). The school’s programs are approved by TWC. Students must address their concerns about this school of any of its educational programs by following the grievance process outlined in the school’s catalog. Students dissatisfied with the school’s response to their complaint or who are not able to file a complaint with the school, can file a formal complaint with TWC, as well as with other relevant agencies or accreditors, if applicable. Information on filing a complaint with TWC can be found on TWC’s website at www.texasworkforce.org/careerschoolstudents.

Heavy Equipment Colleges of America endorses the national certification program offered by the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) and provides training to prepare candidates for CCO examinations.

*The Army’s Career Skills Program (CSP) prepares Soldiers for civilian employment through first-class apprenticeships, on-the-job training, job shadowing, internships and employment skills training. Soldiers are eligible to participate in an Army CSP up to 180 days prior to separation from the Army and after completion of the mandatory 5-day SFL-TAP workshop. To be considered for an open seat in a CSP you must contact the POC at the installation where you want to attend a CSP and submit your commander authorized/signed participation memo in advance of the start date.

WIOA/TAA funded training may be provided only to individuals who qualify for the program and not only if funds are available.