So just what is a pump operator? What skills does it take to actually be a professional concrete pump operator?

First and foremost he needs to truly enjoy his profession.

A professional operator wants to be an operator. This job is not something to keep you busy until you find the other job. A professional operator has one job and one job only; to be better tomorrow than he is today. He is proud of his profession.

He needs to be honest.

That honesty needs to be directed inward as well as out. He is entrusted with not only a giant piece of equipment but even more important, the lives of those around him. He needs to not sell his company’s gear or their time. He needs to be right and fair on his application, timecard, job tickets and accident reports. He needs to ‘tell it like it is’ no matter the cost. Equally important is the inward looking honesty. I can’t speak for everyone, but I have doubts as to whether or not I am qualified for one task or another; my guess is that everyone is about the same. If an operator feels for whatever reason that he or his equipment is not up to a task he needs to tell the responsible party. “I have never done this – I have never been trained to do this – It just doesn’t feel safe” are all reactions of an honest individual. To doubt and question is honest.

He needs to be able to interact with others.

Before an operator can do his thing, he needs a chance; he needs a job. If you cannot talk the boss into giving you a shot you need to brush up on your people skills. If given the opportunity to show a company what you are made of you need to be able to get along with the most important guy in the world, your customer. The fact is that no matter what you can do if you can’t get along with the customer, you won’t make it as an operator.

He needs to be flexible.

Concrete pumping is a service business without regular hours of operation. A professional operator must be willing to accept the random hours as a condition of employment. This is a must do. In order to keep the customer base satisfied the operator needs to show up on the job sober, awake, ready, and happy to be working and getting the hours. He must be able to adjust his family life and working life. He needs an understanding family.

He needs to be able to communicate.

The boss, the dispatcher, the mechanics, your fellow operators, the safety guy, the contractor, the hoseman all need to understand what it is you need while at the same time you are able to understand what they need. That is communicating. It is a two way street. God gave all of us a clue as to the proportions of talking and listening. We were issued two ears and only one mouth. Listen – think – talk. If you are lost, the first thing that was lost was the ability to communicate. If you cannot understand what the customer wants or he cannot understand your problem, you are lost. If the mechanic asks you what the pressure was and you do not answer the question you are lost, when the dispatcher asks you where you are and you don’t know; brother, you are lost. This ability must be prevalent in whatever language [s] is common to the area.

He needs to be an excellent driver.

You need a good driving history and good habits. You need to respect your stopping distance and difficulty to see next to your unit. You need to not see how fast you can get from here to there even when the pressure is on. You need to back off when the young lady eating breakfast styling her hair while she texts her sister and putting on her lipstick cuts you off. Being a professional driver is a full time job while you are behind the wheel. There isn’t time or attention for anything else.

He needs to be a salesman.

The guy in the pickup sells the first pour on a job. A professional operator sells the rest. Every pour is an opportunity to sell that contractor.

He needs to be a soils engineer.

When he pulls on the job and gets out to ask the job sup’t where he is to set up, he is looking at the dirt. Will it allow him to drive to the designated setup area, will it support the load imposed by the outrigger, can he drive out after the ready mix trucks have tracked back and forth. Now is the time to have the conversation about the responsibility of getting the pump back on the roadway.

He needs to be able to build bridges.

He needs to be able to build a structure that will safely transfer the load imposed by the outrigger onto a large enough area of the ground to properly support that load. Throwing a bunch of wood on the ground and pounding it in with the outrigger is not what it is all about. He needs to have a plan for how this may be properly accomplished.

He needs to be a concrete technician.

Much of the success of a professional operator is in his ability to ‘read the concrete’ and know how it is likely to react at a given time and place.

He needs to be a mechanic.

Concrete pumps are complicated pieces of equipment. A professional operator needs to understand the various systems. This knowledge is imperative. It is not necessary to be able to repair all the problems. It is a condition of employment that he have the knowledge to be able to communicate in the nomenclature of the industry in order to better communicate the exact problem to any support staff.

He needs to be a ringmaster.

He needs to be able to deal with all that is going on around him without ever loosing focus on who is responsible for the safety of his machine, his hoseman, the mixer when possible, the concrete and all the hazards of the jobsite.

He needs to be able to run a boom.

This part of the job is more times than not all that the customer sees. It must be done well and safely at all times. A professional operator is like a duck on a pond; smooth to the observer while paddling like his life depends on it underneath.

Written By Bob Sanderson

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