Hiring the Best Wheel Loader Operators

Hiring: 4 Tips for Hiring the Best Wheel Loader Operators

You know the value a good wheel loader operator brings to your business. Increased productivity, less unnecessary wear on your equipment, reliability and more.

So how do you find the best operators? It starts with the hiring process. You don’t want to end up with operators who operate the machine at full throttle all the time, don’t follow maintenance procedures, ride the brakes and spin the tires, among many other bad habits. No matter the application, whether it’s rehandling, waste and recycling, or general construction, these operators wear out your wheel loader and cost you money. Worse, they can be a major safety hazard for your crew.

In my experience, these four tips for evaluating wheel loader operator applicants can help you put the best possible people in your machines. You can also use these to assess your current operators.

1. Watch the walkaround

What the operator does before even entering the cab will tell you a lot about how he or she will maintain your wheel loader. Have the applicant do a full walkaround inspection, checking everything from tire inflation pressures and greasing the bucket pins and checking for leaks, to fluid and fuel levels. Are they looking at everything that they should be before operation?

2. Pay attention to the entry and prep

Slips and falls entering and exiting the wheel loader cab are a common worksite injury I’ve observed. These kinds of falls are dangerous mistakes and can result in expensive workers’ compensation claims. Make sure the applicant maintains three points of contact entering and exiting the equipment and faces toward the cab when using the ladder. Once in the cab, see if he or she adjusts the seat and mirrors and surveys the area around the wheel loader. Failure to recognize hazards in the machine’s surroundings is a common cause of accidents.

3. Check for smooth operating

If you can, put your applicants through a real-life test. Have them run through a short cycle loading, and time each applicant and measure their fuel consumption for comparison. A skilled operator will quickly and effectively fill the entire loader bucket and cycle through load and dump cycle in a series of fluid motions, while conserving fuel.

If you don’t have time to test all your applicants in real equipment, I’ve found simulator programs to be a good assessment of operator skill. Simulator training can often be conducted by an equipment manufacturer or a technical school with a relevant operator training program.

4. Look for applicants with manufacturer training

Some manufacturers offer training programs, like the Volvo Certified Operator training program. In my opinion, having your operators attend one of these programs will solve a lot of your typical operator problems. Graduates from the Volvo program are trained on a specific late-model wheel loader and tested to ensure they know how to safely operate and maintain it.

Volvo also offers Eco Operator training, an advanced training course for experienced operators. This program teaches enrollees best practices for improving productivity and reducing fuel consumption.

Spend enough time working with heavy equipment and you’re bound to come across some bad operators. I know I certainly have. Follow these four tips to try to put together the best crew you can. For more tips on saving money on your wheel loaders, check out this post on daily wheel loader maintenance.

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