How to operate a backhoe loader

  • Editorial Team
  • Backhoe Loaders
  • 10 December 2019

If you are considering looking for a backhoe loader for sale, but you’ve never operated one before, you could be missing out on all the benefits that owning this versatile piece of plant can bring to you if you’re involved in construction or landscaping. You can use a backhoe for laying pipes, installing posts, grading surfaces, and many other tasks too.

Here’s our guide on how to operate a backhoe loader to excavate holes and trenches.

Getting started – literally!

First of all, you’ll need to get into the backhoe’s cab safely and correctly. To do so, mount the steps and grab the entrance handle, turning right around as you enter the cab so that your clothing doesn’t catch on any of the levers.

Close the cab door, buckle-up, and give the ignition a quarter turn. After you hear a beep, depress the foot control. Disengage the parking brake, and turn the ignition the rest of the way.

Digging with a backhoe

Here’s how to carry out excavation work with a backhoe.

1. Park where there’s plenty of clearance to the side and rear of the backhoe. Position the backhoe slightly to the right or left so that you can see past the stick and boom while you’re excavating.

2. Drop the stabilisers so that the rear wheels are suspended. Keep the backhoe in neutral to avoid it tipping over.

3. Lower the front bucket until both front wheels are suspended.

4. Drag the left control toward you so that the boom attains its highest capability. Now, depress the unlocking apparatus while simultaneously dragging the left arm control toward you. That will unlock the boom.

5. Push the left arm control away from you to drop the boom. To push the stick out, push the right arm control away from you. By moving the boom and the stick simultaneously, you’ll gain maximum reach.

6. To curl the bucket toward you, move the right arm control to the left. Keep hold of the lever until you feel the backhoe loader hit something. That means that the bucket is full.

7. Lift the boom by pulling the right arm toward you.

8. Shift the left arm control left or right to swing the full bucket to a suitable dumping spot.

9. Dump the bucket by moving the right arm control.

10. Now, use the left arm control to shift the boom back over the hole or trench you’ve dug, and then repeat as necessary.


A backhoe loader is a perfect tool for you if you need a piece of plant that will dig holes and trenches in a fraction of the time taken by manual workers. However, backhoe operation does require practice to achieve the coordination required to achieve smooth progress.