How Much Do Crane Operators Make?

I work in downtown DC near the old Woodies department store building and there are two large cranes that I was watching just now. They are close enough that I think their booms could collide if they swung together at the wrong time.

This got me thinking about the difficulty of operating these giants. Just how much are these guys paid? And do they have to climb the entire way up to the cab or is there an elevator?

I don’t know the exact answer, especially for the US, but i remember when i was living in Vancouver about ten years ago, and i knew a guy who did construction. He said that the crane operators were the highest-paid guys on site, and that their official income was A Fucking Lot Of Money.

I have a friend who works at a defense plant as a crane operator and he makes nearly $100 an hour.

Band Name! :stuck_out_tongue:

This is a cool question. I hope we get answers, and also on how one becomes a crane operator…

I think you get your start with those machines you feed with quarters and try to pick up the stuffed toys!

The “American Salary and Wages Survey” I have access to gives a much lower figure for “Crane and Tower Operator”

Usually around $15-20/hour.

I would assume that a guy making $100/hour must have some special skills.

Or perhaps the job description encompasses several different aspects of the job.

First learn how to operate construction machinery.
Second get a union job as a “rigger and operator.”
Third bid for the lush crane operators job against all other contencers.
Fourth be very lucky.

Nationally, the median wage for crane and tower operators is $3,030 per month ($17.47 per hour). Half of all crane and tower operators earn between $2,340 and $3,830 per month ($13.50 and $22.07 per hour).

Wages vary based on the operator’s experience. Crane and tower operators who belong to a union generally receive higher wages. Also, pay is usually higher in large urban areas. Seasonal work may reduce overall earnings.

Whoops, and this too:

Me and my multiple posts. :smack:

Here’s and interesting site on tower cranes. You can see they have an elevator to get to the top.

On the other side of all that money is this wonderful site, which illuminates the many dangers of this job.

I just noticed while looking something else up that Connecticut requires a special license for crane operators.

I ran a crane for about 6 months in 1981. It was a 35 ton pedestal crane on an offshore rig (near the Forties-C field in North Sea). IIRC I was paid about 14-15 per hour (usd). Doesn’t sound like much, but with 12-hour workdays, 7-days/week (with OT) it added up to quite a good wage. Didn’t get any training, the former crane driver for that shift was fired. I was standing nearby and got a battlefield promotion. It was actually pretty easy to learn. The only difficulty was compensating for the waves (and blind lifts really sucked; I never got used to them).
Sorry if this info is kinda dated.

First hand info. My brother works a union job as a HEO (Heavy Equipment Operator) in New York. The chief perk of this job is that when he’s on site for eight hours, if the…let’s say backhoe…isn’t needed that day, he sleeps in the cab for eight hours. :cool:


This topic help me a lot in developing my project. I will contribute more when I finished it.

I am a journeyman crane operator from canada and the wage of crane operators depends if you are working union vs nonunion. Union operators make close to twice what nonunion operators make. Also there is different classes of crane. Tower crane , hydraulic crane, conventional crane. The salary are based on tonnage of the crane. I operate a 300 ton Manitowoc crawler conventional crane in fort Murray Alberta and have a salary of $48/hour with overtime and double time I usually take home $10,000 a month. I doubt the guy who says he’s making $100 a hour never heard that. I started like everybody else, right at the bottom. If you want to become a operator go to a crane company and apply as a rigger that is the best training you can get to start off. Anybody can pull levers but you gotta know what’s going on at the business end of the hook. Once you have spent a few years rigging register as a apprentice and join the IUOE and It will take 3 years to get you red seal ticket but its only 2 months of schooling per year.

There was a fly-on-the-wall documentary here a while ago. TBH, the operators were reasonably well paid, but it wasn’t that great considering that they worked in all weathers and silly hours. You need certificates here too and the pay is based on tonnage.

As an aside, there was a report this week that Pimlico Plumbers in London, were looking for French speaking (we have a lot of rich French refugees here) plumbers. Apparently they could earn upwards of £100,000 a year.

My first day in the cab of a hydraulic crane long before certification was required i was working out over the edge of a flooded mine pit. The lead Mechanic/rigger informed me that if he gets wet, so do I.
I passed the Apple Knocker test but worked as a mechanic until i bought my own crane and then getting certified was a cake walk.
I was working non union and a IUOE rep visited the site i was working. I met with him and bought myself and my Son-in-law into the union and then simply challenged the test. After passing the practical skills test administered by the Union i payed the next fee and took the written test.
Here in MN there is/was no grandfathering certification and when i took the written test there were many many great operators that basically didn’t have the reading skills to pass the written test.

A tower crane operator is a very special breed. Many have to climb the tower much like a radio tower jack and they are alone for long hours and they carry their 5 gal. pail up and down with them each shit, i mean shift.
Crane operating is a stressful job. A wrong move and someone might not go home.

My husband worked for many years in construction, and that was his experience with the crane operators, too - it’s a very specialized field, and they are very well paid. He told me about a crane operator on one of his sites who had a panic attack out on the jib, and had to be brought down using the air ambulance.

Does the pay start when you start climbing or only when you get to the cab?