Crane Operator Questions

Naturally you have many questions about crane training and crane operator certification. Do all crane operators need to be certified nationwide? How do I become a certified crane operator in California? What is the difference between crane operation in general industry vs. construction? How can I get the training I need to get into the lifting industry? Below you’ll find the answers to commonly asked questions in this industry.

In 2018, OSHA revamped requirements for crane operators and signalpersons, replacing the 1971 regulations. The current requirement is outlined under 29 CFR 1926 Subpart CC (unofficially known as C-DAC).

Under the current rule, crane operators must be either certified by an accredited crane operator testing organization, such as the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO), Crane Institute Certification (CIC), NCCER, or the Operating Engineers Union, or qualified by an audited employer program, depending on lift capacities and job classification. State programs that meet federal requirements and programs run by the U.S. military are also recognized in the standard.

The regulation also requires the operators of service truck-mounted cranes to be certified if said crane is “involved in construction.” Please keep in mind that “involved in construction” is defined by how the machinery is used. For example, a delivery truck that simply unloads in a common area is not defined as such. However, a delivery vehicle that delivers, say, an air conditioner unit to an upper floor of a building is said to be “involved in construction.”

  1. Per the NCCCO, certified crane operators: 
    1. Must be at least 18 years of age.
    2. Must have a current DOT medical examiners’ physical examination card. If the candidate does not have a current medical examiners’ card, he/she will have to have a physical examination completed.
    3. Must comply with NCCCO’s Substance Abuse policy.
    4. Must be able to read English at an eighth grade reading level. (ASME B30.5 requires a crane operator to be able to read the load chart and operator’s manual of the crane.)
    5. Must be able to do basic arithmetic, i.e., addition, subtraction, and multiplication, including knowing the times tables up to nines. Calculators are not permitted during the written exams.

Operators of cranes with capacities of 2,000 pounds or more need to be certified if employed in construction. Operators of cranes outside the construction industry or of machines rated for 2,000 pounds or less may require “qualification.” Qualification differs in that operators can be “qualified” through an audited employer program [1926.1427(a)].

Remember that “involved in construction” may include any crane used on a jobsite, including cranes mounted on delivery trucks, depending on how a piece of machinery is used.

Section 1926.1427 describes crane operator certification/qualification requirements. Option 1, which is the most commonly used, requires operators to be certified by a nationally accredited crane operator testing organization that tests operators through both written and practical testing, such as the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) or Crane Institute Certification (CIC). The organizations provide levels of certification based on equipment capacity and type.

The standard defines a crane as “power-operated equipment that, when used in construction, can hoist, lower and horizontally move a suspended load” [1926.1401].

The exclusion for cranes of 2,000 pounds and below refers to the maximum manufacturer-rated capacity. Even if you lift lighter loads, it is the crane’s maximum-rated capacity that must be 2,000 lbs. or less for you to be exempt from the requirements of 1926.1427. Employers are still responsible for training their operators on the safe operation of the type of equipment they will be using [1926.1441(e)].

If crane work does not fall under one of the special standards, such as Construction or Maritime, then OSHA usually considers it to fall under general industry (29 CFR 1910.180). OSHA generally considers construction to include the building, altering, or repairing of new or existing structures. Maintenance may also be considered construction depending on its complexity and scope. Delivery of materials and supplies may fall under the construction umbrella as well if the materials are manipulated in such a way as to make the construction crews’ job easier, such as delivering lumber to a second-story construction rather than simply dropping it on the ground. As similar work can fall into either category depending on the exact nature of the job, the general rule is: Go with the stricter standard.

Nationwide Crane Training affectionately calls our Riverside, California training and testing facility our “Crane Boot Camp.” This facility was designed with state-of-the-art technology including computer simulators and real-world equipment to take an operator through the training and certification process quickly and easily.

While NCT works with experienced operators, the programs offered at Crane Boot Camp were specifically tailored toward individuals with no training or operational experience to speak of. The curriculum and training pace allows new candidates fresh off the street to be fast-tracked through the process to certification,  which allows them to dramatically increase their job prospects and earning potential.

The combination of expert trainers, state-of-the-art facility simulators, and a complete line of equipment—articulating cranes, service trucks, small telescopic, large telescopic and lattice cranes—makes this hardcore training possible.

Preliminary written exam scores are available immediately after completion of the exam, with final scores received by the candidate approximately 12 business days later. Final scoring for the practical exam is delivered approximately 12 business days after exam score sheets are received.

NCCCO currently offers three ways to take the written exams:

Online Proctored Testing (OPT)

Test Center Testing (TCT)

Event Online Testing (EOT)

Exam fees are the same for each option, and all tests are computer-based. A preliminary score will be available immediately. Results are subject to review and approval following standard testing protocols.

Exams that require supplements (e.g., load charts) or calculators have these available on-screen. In place of scratch paper, candidates may bring their own physical whiteboard/dry-erase board up to 8.5 inches by 11 inches or utilize an on-screen whiteboard built into the exam.

Check out  how the CCO testing platform works before you sign up.

NCT offers the ability for you to test on your equipment in your yard if you are scheduling a private class of six or more candidates. Otherwise, your options include:

  • Any of our open enrollment classes, rotated every three months between Alabama, California, Iowa, and Texas in order to make them easy to attend
  • Our Riverside, California, or Des Moines, Iowa facilities using our equipment, offered about once a month

Certified operators receive a plastic photo ID card at no cost when they certify for the first time and when they complete the requirements for recertification. CCO cards can take up to 30 days to arrive.

The certification is good for five years. Before your five years is up, you are required to retake the written tests, which is half of the initial tests. Candidates who are currently certified must begin the recertification process in the 12-month period prior to when their current certification expires.

If a certified operator changes their address, they must notify CCO as soon as possible. Failure to do so may cause them to miss important updates on the CCO program that could affect their certification.