Bridge and Lock Tender
Bridge and Lock Tender
Education and Training High school plus on-the-job training
Salary Median—$37,050 per year
Employment Outlook Poor
Definition and Nature of the Work
Bridge and lock tenders operate bridges and canal locks to permit vessels to pass through inland waterways and dangerous areas near shore. They also monitor and inspect canal and bridge equipment for defects, make minor repairs or adjustments, and report any factors that would inhibit the safety and efficiency of such equipment.
Stationed in small booths on bridges or near canal locks, a bridge and lock tender must vigilantly watch for approaching vessels that require passage. Once a whistle is blown to indicate a vessel needs to pass, the tender operates the machinery that opens and closes railroad or highway drawbridges; horizontally or vertically adjustable bridges; or canal locks and dams. Tenders can also receive requests for clearance by radio. If necessary, they direct the movements of vessels using signals, telecommunication equipment, or loudspeakers.
As the vessel moves through the lock or across the bridge, the tender logs the name, type, and destination of the ship or train. In case of accident, the tender must fill out the necessary accident reports and make minor repairs if the equipment is damaged.
Tenders work for state or local governments or for private companies that are hired to operate and maintain bridges or canal locks.
Education and Training Requirements
Bridge and lock tenders must be at least eighteen years old, pass hearing tests, and must not be color-blind. They must also pass physical examinations, because some work may be strenuous. High school diplomas or the equivalent are usually required.
Some states have published guidelines on training, which include classroom instruction on safety procedures, Coast Guard regulations, state statutes related to bridges and railroads, and company or governmental policies. Applicants are required to pass written tests and participate in on-the-job training under the supervision of experienced supervisors.
Getting the Job
State or local employment offices should have information about job opportunities. Job seekers can also apply directly to private companies that are under contract to operate bridges and locks.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Bridge and lock tenders may advance to supervisory positions. Tenders can also move from one structure to another.
Employment growth for bridge and lock tenders is expected to be slower than the average for all occupations through 2014. Some of the work is now auto-mated, so fewer workers are needed.
Bridge and lock tenders work eight-hour shifts, including nights, weekends, and holidays. Depending on their employers, they work thirty-two to forty hours per week.
Most tenders are attracted to the isolation that the job provides. It can be stressful when traffic is heavy—tenders are responsible for the safety of people and large boats and railroads. The job may involve climbing and other strenuous activities.
Where to Go for More Information
American Association of State Highway
and Transportation Officials
444 N. Capitol St. NW, Ste. 249
Washington, DC 20001
International Bridge, Tunnel, and Turnpike
1146 Nineteenth St. NW, Ste. 800
Washington, DC 20036-3725
Earnings and Benefits
In 2004 the median salary for bridge and lock tenders was $37,050 per year. Benefits usually included health insurance and paid vacation and sick days.