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How to Operate a Road Grader

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In the construction industry, it is critical to know how to properly operate the equipment you use. The road grader is a versatile machine that allows the operator to create a path for a road. This essential piece of equipment may be used for building roads or plowing snow. Using this machine properly will allow you to complete the job and maintain job and site safety overall.

Safety Check and Operation

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winter grader on road image by Denis Pepchuk from

Perform the operational safety checks before operating the road grader. Safety checks include actions such as ensuring that all equipment functions properly, all safety and emergency equipment such as a fire extinguisher is present, and knowing who will be signaling for you. Complete the safety check by manually walking around the grader and visually inspecting the entire machine and ensuring that the blade is in an elevated position.

Start the road grader. Test the brakes, transmission, clutch and controls. Ensure that you keep the road grader in the proper gear for working conditions and do not allow the grader to move too fast for the conditions. Keeping control of the grader during the entire operation is key for job quality and overall safety.

Learn to use your controls. The two middle levels will typically operate the blade rotation and the circle shift. The blade rotation allows you to angle your blade so you can set where your debris will be moved to. The circle shift allows you to turn the blade. Test the blade lower and lift levers. These levers are normally found as the third lever out from the middle lever. The grader has a lever to lower and raise the blade for each end of its blade, so to do a complete lift or lower of the blade requires both hands to operate. Road graders also have a blade shift control. You can use this to position the blade how far left or right it is needed.

Learn the basic functions of how to use the road grader to complete the desired job. You must know the grade of the road you are working on. This information tells you how far you must lower your blade. You will make several passes with your grader to complete a road. If you are using the grader for plowing snow, then you must know to keep the height of the blade up slightly to avoid the blade from damaging the road.

Dig a ditch safely. Most road grader operations will also have to know how to pull a ditch with their grader as well as level roads. Ensure your blades will not hit the tires when they rotate. If you are digging a ditch to the right circle the blade to the right and blade tilt forward. Keep your left side of the blade high and lower the right side of the blade. Proceed into the ditch to push out the dirt and cut through rock along the side of the road.


Plan ahead. You will have to use different styles of blades depending on the job being performed. Evaluate what your needs will be for the job and be prepared to install the proper blades to get the job done right. When you are pulling a ditch get out and check your work visually to ensure that you are maintaining proper depth.


Emphasize the importance of safety. If you do not perform all of your safety checks and ensure that your road grader is functioning properly, serious consequences could follow. Road graders are large machines that can easily kill a human if not functioning or operating properly. A malfunction in equipment such as brake failure could create a large accident. This scenario or others like it can be prevented by simply completing safety checks and performing maintenance on the grader. Be sure that when you are pulling a ditch you watch out for buried safety cables.


Todd Young has been writing professionally since 2010, with travel-oriented pieces and other works appearing on various websites. He attended the University of Kentucky and earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a Bachelor of Arts in history.

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