Crane Operator License

A City of Chicago crane operator license is required for an individual to operate a crane in connection with any work that requires a building permit within the City of Chicago. Licensed crane operators must follow the ordinances, laws, and industry standards which provide for the safe operation of the types of cranes they are licensed to operate and notify the Department of Buildings of any accidents or safety issues.

Crane operator licenses are issued by the Board of Crane Operator Examiners though the Department of Buildings.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is a crane operator license required?

A crane operator license is required for an individual to operate a crane in connection with any work that requires a building permit within the City of Chicago. Licensed crane operators may be assisted by licensed apprentice crane operators working under their direct supervision and control.

A “crane” is any power-operated mechanical hoisting equipment with a manufacturer's rated capacity of one ton (2,000 pounds) or more that lifts, lowers, rotates or moves a load horizontally or vertically. Such equipment includes, but is not limited to:

  • articulating cranes, including knuckle-boom cranes used to deliver material onto a structure with or without a properly functioning automatic overload prevention device
  • crawler cranes
  • floating cranes
  • cranes on barges
  • locomotive cranes
  • mobile cranes, such as wheel- mounted, rough-terrain, all-terrain, commercial truck- mounted, and boom truck cranes
  • multipurpose machines when configured to hoist and lower (by means of a winch or hook) and horizontally move a suspended load
  • industrial cranes (such as carry deck cranes)
  • service/mechanic trucks with a hoisting device
  • cranes on monorails
  • tower cranes (such as a fixed jib, i.e. “hammerhead boom”), luffing boom and self- erecting
  • pedestal cranes
  • portal cranes
  • overhead and gantry cranes
  • derricks
  • powered window washing units if used to erect portions of a building
  • track backhoes if used to erect portions of a structure
  • rack and pinion/skips
  • Chicago booms
  • hydraulic crawler/hydraulic truck cranes (lattice booms)
  • drumhoists
  • variations of the equipment listed above
  • Other equipment designed in Rules promulgated by the Building Commissioner

The term “crane” does not include:

  • dedicated pile drivers
  • straddle cranes
  • sideboom cranes
  • elevators
  • powered window washing units unless the unit is used to erect portions of a building
  • skid steers
  • all-terrain forklifts unless the forklift is configured to hoist and lower (by means of a winch or hook) and horizontally move a suspended load
  • mast-climbing work platforms, but it shall include booms attached to mast- climbing work platforms if the boom has a manufacturer's rated capacity of one ton (2,000 pounds) or more
  • any equipment listed in subsection (c) of 29 C.F.R. 1926.1400
  • variations of the equipment listed above
  • Other equipment designed in Rules promulgated by the Building Commissioner

If you own or control a crane, it is illegal to employ anyone other than a licensed crane operator to operate it.

Are there different types of crane operator licenses?

Yes, crane operators are licensed to operate specific types of equipment, which are listed on their crane operator license card.

The different license classifications are listed and described in the Rules Regarding Crane Operator Licenses.

Who may obtain a crane operator license?

Crane operator licenses are issued to individuals who have experience operating specific types of cranes, hold the required federal crane operator certifications, and have passed written and practical examinations.

What is required to obtain a crane operator license?

To obtain a crane operator license, an individual must pass both a written and practical examination demonstrating their knowledge of crane operations and safety practices as well as their competency and fitness to operate specific type(s) of crane(s).

A study guide for the crane operator written examination is available on the Continental Testing Services web site

To be eligible to take the written examination, an individual must:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Have worked as a crane operator for at least 2,000 hours during the preceding 48-month period or have completed an apprenticeship program that is recognized by the Board of Crane Operator Examiners
  • Not have had a crane operator or comparable license suspended or revoked
  • Have no history of substance abuse during the previous 3 years or have successfully completed a certified substance abuse rehabilitation program
  • Be physically able to safely operate a crane
  • Read, write, and speak English at a level that allows effective job site communication
  • Have a current and valid federal crane operator certification for the type(s) of cranes to be licensed

An applicant’s work experience must be verified by a letter from their supervisor.

An applicant will not be allowed to take a practical examination before passing the written examination. An applicant must pass at least one practical examination within one year of passing the written examination.

How do I apply for a new crane operator license?

Starting in July 2022, crane operator license applications are submitted through the City of Chicago Inspections and Permits web portal.

Continental Testing Services processes crane operator license applications and administers written examinations on behalf of the Department of Buildings and can provide assistance after you begin an application on the web portal.

How do I renew an existing crane operator license?

Starting in late May 2022, renewals are processed through the City of Chicago Inspections and Permits web portal.

A crane operator license cannot be renewed if it has been expired for 3 or more years. Individuals who were previously licensed as crane operators and are ineligible to renew may apply for a new license if they meet the qualifications.

How do I add equipment types to an existing crane operator license?

Starting in late May 2022, requests to add equipment types to an existing crane operator license are processed through the City of Chicago Inspections and Permits web portal.

To add equipment types to an existing license, your existing license must be active and not within 3 months of expiration. You will be required to show proof that you are federally certified for the additional equipment type(s). You may be required to take additional written and/or practical examinations.

How much does a crane operator license cost?

These fees apply to crane operator licenses:

Fee Type Amount
Written Examination Fee (per exam) $150.00
Practical Examination Fee (per equipment type and per exam date) $250.00
Initial License Fee (5-year license) $300.00
Renewal Fee (5-year license) $300.00
Amended License Fee (includes adding crane type to existing license) $50.00

How long is a crane operator license valid?

Beginning in 2022, all crane operator licenses will be valid for five years from issuance or renewal.

Ordinances and Rules 

Municipal Code of Chicago, Chapter 4-288: Crane Operators
Rules Regarding Crane Operator Licenses
Rules Regarding Crane Operations

This information is provided to help you better understand licensing requirements in the City of Chicago. It may not reflect all conditions, limitations, or exceptions that may apply to a particular situation and is not intended as a substitute for legal advice. To the extent the information on this page differs from the Municipal Code of Chicago or applicable rules, the ordinance or rule controls. 

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