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What are Earth Movers?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 18, 2024
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Earth movers are devices which are used to dig, push, and transport earth. They are utilized on construction sites and in mines, among other locations, and the largest equipment requires the skills of a specialized operator who has received training both in driving and operating the device. Earth movers fall under the general category of heavy equipment, with some examples of major manufacturers being Deere & Company, Caterpillar Inc., Terex, and Volvo Construction Equipment.

Earth movers can be designed to dig into the earth with scoops, cutting blades, shovels, and sometimes saw-like attachments which can be used for trenching and breaking up very hard soil and rock. They can also push earth around a work site, as in the case of bulldozers, and be used to carry earth to other locations, with excavator buckets being an example of equipment which can be used for transport.

A small earth mover may be simple enough for someone with no training to operate after reading a quick guide. Equipment rental businesses sometimes offer such equipment who need to rent tools for trenching and other low-level earth moving tasks. For larger and more complex equipment, someone needs to learn how to operate the equipment effectively and safely. Many earth movers are built on a tractor base, and once one learns how to operate a tractor, other heavy machinery is usually relatively straightforward to operate.

Around the world, numerous companies specialize in operating earth movers and they can be hired to assist with site preparation and other activities. Contracting out this work can be more cost effective than retaining equipment and staff for earth moving, and the professional earth movers can often get the job done very quickly. These companies generally have a limited operational radius due to the expense and time involved in transporting their equipment to job sites.

The world's largest earth movers are used in mining. These heavy earth movers can seem more like buildings than vehicles, and they are capable of excavating and moving huge volumes of earth every day. They may come with a range of attachments which can be used in various settings, and some are designed to remain more or less fixed in place, digging out the ground around them as opposed to moving across a job site. Operators who work with this equipment must be especially careful, as the devices are often large enough to be capable of crushing vehicles and other construction equipment if they are operated unsafely.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WikiMotors researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By OeKc05 — On Nov 29, 2011

Bulldozers with excavator buckets are very powerful tools. They can be very scary to young children, who liken them to dinosaurs or monsters.

When my son and I were riding past a construction site where a bulldozer was scooping up dirt and placing it on the other side of the ditch, he suddenly screamed out in fright. He had never seen one before, and his mind didn’t know how to process it.

I tried to explain to him that it was a good machine that people used to help them build things, but he couldn’t hear me through his sobs and shrieks. I just drove past as quickly as possible and had the talk with him later on that night.

By cloudel — On Nov 28, 2011

@orangey03 - That is terrible that the owner did not care enough to come and take care of the situation! Yes, earth movers are excellent tools when it comes to burying large animals.

When my hundred-pound dog died, my dad and I were devastated. She died in the hot summer, and we knew that digging a grave big enough to hold her in the heat would be so hard.

My dad borrowed my uncle’s earth mover. With it, he was able to dig up the amount of dirt that would have taken us hours to do in just a few minutes.

When you are grieving, you don’t want to place extra stress on your body. The earth mover was a silent comfort to both of us.

By orangey03 — On Nov 28, 2011

Earth moving equipment is great for disposing of dead cattle. I found this out when a cow died in the pasture next to my house.

My husband called the owner to let him know, but he never did anything about it. This cow started to decay next to our house, and we could smell it.

We called our landlord, and his brother just happens to be licensed to operate heavy machinery. He came out the next day with his backhoe and buried the cow.

I watch as it scooped up the earth for the grave in just a few easy movements. Then, he used the back of the scoop to push the cow into the hole. He then raked the dirt back into the hole and smoothed it out by running over it with the backhoe.

I cheered as he drove away. I had been wondering how we were ever going to get rid of that thing, because I knew we couldn’t bury it on our own.

By kentuckycat — On Nov 28, 2011

@jcraig - You are absolutely correct. I know a few guys that operate earth movers for a living and they enjoy comfortable pay and great job security.

Usually earth mover operators belong to powerful unions and receive high hazard pay. This means that they have tremendous job security and since it is a skill based job they tend to keep their jobs for a very long time and are high in demand.

I think that being an earth mover would be a great job because of all the demands there are for the machinery. Every time a new building is constructed an earth mover is called upon to dig and this happens so often that an earth mover always has to be busy with their job.

By jcraig — On Nov 27, 2011

I have heard that earth mover operators make a tremendous salary with their jobs.

I know someone who dated a guy that operated earth movers and he told me that he was paid nearly sixty thousand dollars a year for his services. The strange thing about this was that this guy was only nineteen years old and only had a high school diploma.

For someone coming right out of high school a job that pays that much money is incredible, especially for a blue collar type of job. It may be somewhat hazardous, but I have never thought it to be that bad, and working early could lead to early retirement.

To me this seems like a very good profession to get into if you are not looking to go to college or go to a four year school. There are always needs for earth movers across the country and people could fill these once properly trained early in their lives and set themselves up in the working world.

By jmc88 — On Nov 26, 2011

@stl156 - I completely agree with you. I would have to say the answer to your question uses the same logic that is used with girls and barbies.

Barbies do not usually appeal to young boys and they are specifically aimed at little girls. Same thing goes for earth mover toys.

These toys are aimed at young boys because they are seen as a male dominated thing that young boys would like to play with. Another reason why I think they would like it is because it has to deal with heavy machinery and is kind of a neat and appealing thing to little boys.

Another reason may be because the earth movers deal with moving dirt in vast quantity. Most boys seem to like to play in the dirt and this may also appeal greatly to them.

By stl156 — On Nov 25, 2011

When I was a kid I was very interested in earth movers and had little matchbox type car like things that depicted the earth movers and I played with them for years.

I feel like I am not alone in this as I still see most toys, usually aimed at younger boys, that depict earth movers. I do not have any idea why this is the case and I would assume that it has to do with earth movers being seen as a "macho" type of machine that would be a male dominant thing.

Then again I could just be looking and thinking too much into this, but I have definitely seen the earth mover toy market being very good as I have seen many young boys own and play with these toys.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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