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What Does a Terminal Operator Do?

Container ships have their cargo offloaded by cranes at intermodal terminals.
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  • Written By: YaShekia King
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 12 July 2014
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A terminal operator oversees activities at a terminal — a site where vehicles that transport materials empty their cargo and load new products. Terminal operators must ensure the safe and efficient delivery and packing up of goods on ships and trucks, for instance. They also keep terminals in suitable shape, supervise employees, complete training on company-specific scenarios and follow government regulations for handling various types of freight.

Terminal operators must know how to operate construction equipment such as bulldozers, hoisting cranes, backhoes and front-end loaders, all of which might require certain certifications to operate. A terminal operator can use this equipment to place cargo on railroad cars, remove cargo from barges, store products and anchor transporting vessels as necessary. terminal operators generally should be able to lift at least 50 pounds (22.7 kg) and be in good physical condition to do climbing, work in tight spaces and stand for hours on end. These professionals additionally must know how to operate a conveyor system and should know how to work with computerized equipment.

Helping to maintain a company’s grounds, machines and buildings is another important duty of a terminal operator. Terminal operators can fix electrical problems, perform welding duties and operate boilers if they possess the proper licenses or certifications. They often work with their hands, so terminal operators should have strong manual dexterity skills and mechanical ability.

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Taking part in training activities such as oil spill response drills is critical to a terminal operator's role as well. These individuals additionally must have solid leadership skills for overseeing the activities of other employees in this industry. They also should be self-driven.

Oral communication skills for interacting with supervisors, co-workers and clients are valuable in a terminal operator job. Terminal operators’ organizational skills and their attention to detail also should be strong. For this reason, employers look for terminal operators who have at least a high school diploma or the equivalent certification, although people who have a two-year associate degree or four-year bachelor’s degree in a field related to the industry of their potential employer are more marketable.

Terminal operators often work outside, so they should be able to handle a variety of weather conditions, including extreme heat and cold. Their duties often require them to be flexible and work evenings or weekends. Following health and safety regulations is important if terminal operators work in a chemical facility. These types of terminal operators also must wear personal protective equipment such as respirators to protect themselves from the hazardous substances that they handle.

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