Only about one-third of U.S. states require crane operators to be certified. From 1996 to 2005, the Fairfax, Va.-based National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators was the only game in town. It was the first test agency for crane workers that was accredited to meet the same psychometrics standards that apply to medical and teaching exams.
Today, is it one of three options available, and more are on the way. Since NCCCO began testing operators, several states and cities have recognized its independently audited, accreditation process and incorporated it into their licensing. For example, New York City on Oct. 6 scrapped its allegedly corrupt operator testing for small cranes in favor of NCCCO’s nationally accredited tests.
Despite pushback from some industry groups, the federal government in 2004 drafted in a pending OSHA crane and derrick regulation (now open for public comments through Dec. 8) that all crane operators be required to pass an accredited written and practical exam. Since then, more test agencies have come on board. In 2005, operating engineers’ Local 12 in Pasadena, Calif., gained accreditation, and on Sept. 15 of this year, Crane Institute of America Certification Inc., Minneapolis, launched a new program.
Because the criteria for basic crane skills already are spelled out in government and industry-consensus standards, the tests differ more in administration than subject matter: Some examiners require mandatory, on-the-job experience before operators can test. Some examiners allow calculators for the written exam, while others don’t.
Regardless of these differences, certification is becoming a commodity. “There will be Cadillacs and Volkswagens and Yugos,” says Ted L. Blanton, president of Alamonte Springs, Fla.-based North American Crane Bureau. The training company has a certification arm that is seeking accreditation, so it can offer exams through the National Center for Construction Education and Research.