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Heavy Equipment Basics

The use of heavy equipment is an important part of residential, commercial, and roadway construction and maintenance operations. A variety of heavy equipment are used in construction and maintenance.

Types of Heavy Equipment


Heavy equipment can be classified into the following categories based on the type of operation:

  • excavating equipment
  • lifting equipment
  • loading and hauling equipment
  • compaction equipment
  • grading and finishing equipment
  • paving and surface treatment equipment

Depending upon their versatility, heavy equipment may be used for multiple purposes. For example, backhoes are normally used for excavating but they can also load the excavated materials into trucks.

Excavation Equipment


An excavator is a power-driven machine mostly used in earthmoving operations. Heavy equipment typically used for excavating include the following:

  • Backhoes: Backhoes are used for surface or subsurface excavation of solids and sludge. Backhoes are used to dig below the surface, such as trenches, building footings and foundations. The backhoe is attached to the loader frame with a ridged coupling.
  • Excavators: Excavators are large backhoes. They can be truck mounted, truck carrier mounted, or self-propelled wheel mounted. They are hydraulic powered and consist of three structures: the revolving unit, the travel base and the attachment.
  • Front-End Loaders: The front end loader is a self-contained unit mounted on rubber tires or tracks and is one of the most versatile and capable pieces of equipment used in excavation work, as well as loading. The front end loader can be equipped to operate as a loader, dozer, scraper, clamshell, forklift, backhoe, crane, auger, or sweeper.

Lifting Equipment


Cranes are used for raising, shifting and lowering loads by means of a projecting swinging arm or with the hoisting apparatus supported on an overhead truck. An appropriate capacity of crane shall be chosen to work for a specified size of load. The use of a crane for loads beyond its capacity poses several hazards to workers, as well as operators.

Note that coverage is limited here. For detailed information, refer to the OSHA standard (Subpart N 1926.550) for cranes.

For more information about crane and derrick safety see OSHAcademy Courses 820 and 821.

Loading and Hauling Equipment


Loaders: Loaders are used to excavate and move soft materials and load/unload trucks.

Dozer (Bulldozer): Dozers are used for pushing and pulling loads typically in earthwork operations and demolition work.

Scrapers: Scrapers are used for loading, hauling, dumping, and spreading loose materials.

Dump Trucks: Dump Trucks are the most common type of hauling equipment due to their versatility.

Wagons: Wagons are earth moving trailers pulled by tractors.

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Compaction Equipment

Rollers: Rollers are used for compacting road bed materials like earth, aggregates and bituminous mixtures. There are various types of rollers. The selection of rollers for a particular job depends upon the types of material to be compacted.

The following are the types of rollers commonly used in highway and street construction/maintenance: 814-4-x-comp-mndot.gif Note: This is an animated gif image, so it must be saved properly to work.

  • static steel-wheeled rollers
  • vibratory steel-wheeled rollers
  • pneumatic (rubber-tired) rollers

Grading and Finishing Equipment


Graders are commonly referred to as road graders, or motor graders. They have a long blade used to create a flat surface during the grading process. Graders are multi-purpose equipment used for:

  • finishing
  • shaping
  • bank sloping
  • ditching
  • mixing
  • spreading
  • side casting
  • leveling and crowning
  • site striping operations
  • earth road maintenance

Paving and Surface Treatment Equipment


Paving equipment (paving machine, paver finisher, asphalt finisher) is used to lay asphalt on the surfaces of roads, parking lots, bridges, etc. Here is an expanded list of paving equipment operations:

  • aggregate spreaders
  • asphalt distributors
  • asphalt kettles
  • asphalt pavers
  • rotary power brooms
  • blowers or water sprays
  • pavement profilers


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Which of the following is a power-driven machine mostly used in earthmoving operations?

2. Which of the following has a long blade used to create a flat surface?

3. Which of the following is used for pushing and pulling loads typically in earthwork operations and demolition work?

4. Which of the following is used for compacting road bed materials like earth, aggregates and bituminous mixtures?

5. Which of the following equipment is used to lay asphalt on a surface?

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.