How Much Do You Know About Heavy Machinery?


By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: Thatree Thitivongvaroon/Moment/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Heavy machinery might not be a heavy topic, in the sense of "philosophically weighty" ... but it *is* a broad one. Heavy equipment can refer to trucks, trailers, bulldozers, cranes, lifts, drills ... all types of machinery. Equally broad are the fields this equipment is used in: farming and ranching, construction, demolition, mining, forestry, and more. 

Humankind has been using large tools to change our environment for about as long as we've been able to dream about using more than our own strength to build things. If the use of tools in general goes back to the Stone Age, the use of heavy equipment goes back to the classical age of the Greeks and Romans. Harnessing the power of oxen, horses or donkeys, they moved stone and marble and created structures that still stand today. (Well, a few of them, at least). 

Of course, heavy machinery really came into its own in the industrial age. That was when humans traded iron for strong, malleable
steel, and began using petroleum-based fuels for power. This gave us the machines we know and use today, including the tractor, the bulldozer, the pile driver and more.

Are you in love with these powerful tools? Test your knowledge of the world of heavy machinery now with our quiz!

What kind of fuel powers most heavy machines?

Diesel is a kind of fuel that doesn't require a spark to create an explosion, and thus the power stroke, in an engine. It is also common in large trucks.


A "semi" is a heavy machine used in what field?

"Semi" is short for "semi-trailer." It combines a tractor and a trailer to transport a number of goods efficiently.


A tractor would be used in ...

"Tractor" is a broader term than many people think. It's any vehicle with heavy, strong-gripping wheels, which pulls equipment behind it. It's most often mentioned in terms of agriculture, but is used in other settings.


If a machine uses pressurized fluids in its operation, what is it called?

Hydraulics don't just come into play in human-powered machines. The human body uses it, too -- if you have high or low blood pressure, that's a hydraulic issue that needs adjusting.


What is the name for a machine whose motion is controlled by pressurized gases (often air)?

"Pneuma" is the Greek word for breath. So "pneumatic" is the word for a machine which, while powered by something else, uses pressurized air or other gases to move arms or other parts. It's a cousin to the word "hydraulic."


At which of these locations are you likely to see a container crane?

Container cranes move freight modules, known as containers, on and off ships. But the usefulness of containers is that they can be loaded onto trains and trucks directly, without being opened and the cargo redistributed.


True or false: Cranes were named after the heron-like bird.

Cranes got their names from their long necks. Fun fact: The movie "Bulletproof Monk" exploits this dual meaning in a prophecy about the novice monk fighting "while cranes circle overhead."


Bulldozers share what feature with military tanks?

"Locomotion" here is a fancy word for "way of moving." Both tanks and bulldozers have tracks, made of many narrow interlocked plates, that continuously rotate and allow the machine to roll forward.


"Continuous track" is also called what?

A soldier observing a tank apparently gave this replacement for the wheel its name. A continuous track is long and low to the ground, hence the resemblance to the insect.


What is the advantage of a track over wheels?

Tracks distribute a bulldozer's (or other machine's) weight over a greater area. This reduces the chances of getting stuck in loose or wet ground. Heavy machinery, after all, often operates on unpaved surfaces.


Which of these machines gave its name to a pro-wrestling move?

The "pile-driver" (it's usually written as one word in wrestling) is a move in which a wrestler picks up his opponent, turns him upside down, and drops to a seated position, appearing to slam him ( or sometimes her) into the mat. Side note: we feel like it's a missed opportunity that there's not a "knuckle-boom" move in wrestling, too.


In actual construction, what does a pile driver do?

In lighter projects, the equivalent is a post-holer, which is used is the building of fences. For major construction, though, a pile driver is used.


A machine that makes the ground level is known as a/an ______.

You'll often see graders used in road work. They have a large blade in front, and look a lot like snowplows.


A machine that has joints which allow for sharper turns is called _______.

Although we use the word "articulate" to describe someone good with words, in engineering it means "jointed, for better turning capability." In the UK you'll often hear the word "articulated lorry" for a semi-trailer with a middle joint.


A small trailer you might see behind a tractor is called a _____.

This is a pretty flexible term. It's also applied to a "hand truck," the upright wheeled cart warehouse workers move boxes with, and a piece of equipment in film-making.


What might you hear simply called a "digger"?

Excavation is the removal of unwanted earth or other material from a site. The excavator is sometimes simply called a "digger."


What makes power shovels different from excavators?

Excavators are usually hydraulic in their workings (though sometimes pneumatic). A power shovel uses interior cables and winches to operate its arm, to which the bucket is attached.


True or false: A backhoe is so named because it's on the back of a tractor.

Though the backhoe is generally in that rear position, it's not named for that. The name comes from the way the arm and bucket scoop in a backward motion, compared to the forward position of an old-fashioned shovel to the human digging with it.


What is a combination of a backhoe and a front loader called?

"Backloader" would have saved a syllable! But someone went for clarity over time-saving here.


By what nickname is an elevating work platform better known?

Utilities workers often use these to access the tops of power poles. They are put into use by rescue workers, too, in emergency situations.


What is a common risk of elevated work platforms?

Utilities workers who use these machines are often in close proximity to wires. Care must be taken by the operator to avoid them while still getting access to the parts of a utility pole that need work.


Where would you find a compactor being used?

Compactors use large blades to compact (as the name says) material into a more manageable size. Landfills use them to make more space available; in scrapyards, they are used as car crushers, and warehouses use them on waste material.


How far back does the use of cranes in construction date?

The ancient Greeks were no slouches at inventing things. They used cranes powered by beasts of burden to construct some of their taller buildings.


Which fuel powered the steam shovel, the precursor to today's power shovel?

It requires a lot of heat to create steam from water. That's where the burning of coal comes in. Nowadays, the power shovel uses electricity as its power source (which itself is generated from fossil fuels burned elsewhere).


The world's biggest producer of heavy equipment is named for a/an ______

The biggest equipment maker in the world is Caterpillar. It is named for the caterpillar track feet of many of its machines, which in turn was named for the insect that crawls low on the ground.


What does a dredger do?

Dredging either removes material (often soil) from the bed of a body of water, or moves it to the side to increase depth. For example, dredging might be done to create a channel deep enough for large ships to come into a harbor.


A dredger that works like a vacuum is called a _____ dredger.

As you'd expect, it's simply called a suction dredger. A long tube sucks material off the floor of the sea, lake or river.


"Front-end," "skip" and "wheel" are all types of what?

"Loader" is a fairly broad designation in heavy machinery -- hence the number of possible prefixes. A loader is a simply a machine that picks things up to move them elsewhere, whether it is something disposable, or something of value.


A loader always has _____.

It's more common for a loader to have heavy, big wheels, like a tractor. But a few have bulldozer-style tracks.


Which of these is most similar to a loader?

A forklift is a small truck used for moving cargo over short distances. They are often found in warehouses, and are not as versatile as the varied types of loaders.


A "knuckleboom" is a type of ...

This is a bit of a trick question. A knuckleboom is an adjective, describing a type of arm on a loader or a crane. A "knuckleboom crane" has an arm that folds at a "knuckle," allowing greater range of motion.


Which of these companies, though not as big as Caterpillar, also makes heavy machinery?

Kubota is a Japanese maker of tractors and other heavy equipment. Though not always a big name in America, the company dates back to 1890 in Japan.


A tracked vehicle designed for snowy conditions is called a _______.

Snowcats are often used for grooming snow at ski and snowboard resorts. Fun fact: A snowcat was Scatman Crothers's co-star in a climactic scene in "The Shining," when he rides one to the rescue of Wendy and Danny Torrance.


True or false: There are armored bulldozers for military situations.

One significant battle that required armored bulldozers was Normandy in WWII. They were used to clear the French beaches of obstructions, allowing Allied soldiers to advance and claim territory.


A "mantrip" is used for transporting ....

"Mantrip" is the common name for the underground personnel carrier used by miners. Sometimes they run on rails, like the old-fashioned train cars they replaced. Others have wheels, like trucks.


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