A heavy equipment operator can be many things, and their workday very different, depending on what kind of machine it is they are working with. One such machine is the road grader, which is also known as a motor grader, and its job is to create a smooth, flat surface. It does this using a centrally mounted blade that sits behind a single front axle and in front of the double rear axles.
It is the elongated appearance of road graders that make them so easy to recognize though, with the cab and real axles sitting with the rear mounted motor, and the front wheels held a long way in front on an arched chassis that allows room for the blade itself. One of the more unusual looking machines you will find on site, they have been refined to the point that they are perfectly designed for the job they do.
Graders are mostly used for road building and road maintenance, where they create the flat, even surface that asphalt is laid on top of. As you can imagine, this is precision work, requiring careful operation to obtain the perfect grade required for the project. Following precise location and height measurements to deliver the foundation for the best possible road surface. That means creating a crown and slope, the gentle curve of the road from the high point centrally down to either side, that enables proper drainage. That slope needs to be around a half inch per foot, so you can see the kind of skill required to be able to do that right.
To do that effectively means experience, and the experience required to do that comes over time. However, for many road grader operators, gaining that experience comes from using the machines in more general work.
That includes earthmoving and spreading, fine grading on site, clearing debris and even snow removal. For new operators, these aspects of road graders provide valuable experience while building confidence in their own skills, requiring a little less precision that road grading itself. This means that the road grader operator has a varied work experience, with various tasks that all present different challenges.
While different tasks that road graders can be used for present different challenges for the operator, in every case, the ability to balance all aspects of the machine, including the blade angle, moldboard position, front wheel angle and speed of the machine, to get the right outcome require a skillful touch and a real understanding of the machine itself. Getting the best out of a road grader is certainly a challenge, but with a variety of jobs and the satisfaction that comes with a job well done when you see a beautifully finished roadway, it is a rewarding machine to operate as well.