A bridge tender controls the raising and lowering of drawbridges to stop traffic when watercraft need to pass by. Bridge tenders check vehicle, rail, and pedestrian traffic before closing access to the bridge. They sound an alarm to indicate that the bridge is being raised, and they communicate with watercraft as they pass through. Once a boat is cleared, the bridge tender lowers the bridge and opens the gates to allow car and train traffic to resume.
Other tasks that a bridge tender performs include logging the identification of all watercraft passing under an elevated bridge. He or she records the time needed to navigate and when the bridge was raised and lowered. The tender uses a radio, loudspeaker, or telephone to guide the vessel through the opening and obtain information needed for logbooks.
In the event of an accident, a bridge tender must respond quickly to determine if emergency personnel are needed to treat injuries. He or she is responsible for providing life-saving equipment such as life jackets, ropes, or buoys when people are in the water. Any accident must be reported and documented by the bridge tender to the appropriate safety authorities.
Drawbridges, which are present on highways and railroads, require basic safety rules for operation. When the bridge interrupts rail traffic, a bridge transmitter communicates with dispatchers to determine if trains are approaching. Water vessels usually have priority over rail traffic. Some bridges remain open until a train has to pass by. Other bridges stay down and are raised when boats approach.
Most bridge tenders require special training and certification to operate equipment that affects train operations. You learn to activate warning devices to alert approaching trains of an open bridge or to raise them. Some bridges are remotely controlled. Opens automatically when needed.
A bridge tender usually inspects and maintains the structure, including lubricating moving parts and making minor repairs. These tasks are usually recorded daily. A person working in this occupation must be physically able to climb stairs and ladders to perform inspections and maintenance work. When inspecting and repairing bridge components, he typically wears safety equipment such as a life jacket, boots with steel toecaps, hard hat and fall protection.
Most bridge tenders receive hands-on training before being tested to obtain certification or a license to operate drawbridges. You must learn safety rules, basic mechanical skills and communication requirements of the job. Some companies test their math and problem-solving skills before hiring bridge tenders.