Jobs As a Train Driver

While trains are an older form of transportation, they are still heavily used for the transportation of cargo and for public transportation, especially because of rising oil costs. The heavily unionized railway industry is a very stable career option for those willing to receive continual training and work irregular hours.

  1. Function

    • Train drivers, also called locomotive engineers, transport passengers and property across long stretches of land. For locomotive engineers, in addition to driving the train, he must check the condition of the train, make alterations and document all problems. He must be aware of routes and signaling systems. During the route, he manages the speed of the train. When necessary, he also operates the driver safety device and brakes.


    • Trains operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The train drivers work 40 hours a week, and are required to take minimum rest breaks. The train drivers with the most experience receive the best hours. Many train drivers are placed on "extra board" and do not receive hours unless other train drivers are not available. Train drivers work irregular hours and have to work on short notice, based on the needs of the customers.


    • Train drivers need at least a high school diploma. Train drivers start off as train workers, are promoted to train conductor and are then promoted to train driver. Promotion is based on seniority, training and formal classroom experience. Training ranges from a few weeks to six months, depending on the program. After the classroom experience is over, train drivers must pass a hearing and vision test, a safety conduct background check, and railroad and skills performance tests.


    • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, train drivers held 51,100 positions in 2008. Between 2008 and 2018, the need for train drivers is expected to grow by 9 percent because trains have better gas economy than trucks based on the amount of cargo they can haul. Also, global markets will increase the demand for railroad transportation as more products need to be shipped across the country to ports. Prospects for aspiring train drivers are good because a large number of train drivers are expected to retire.


    • The BLS reports that the median hourly wage for train drivers was $22.54 in 2008. Train drivers are heavily represented by unions, with 76 percent being a part of unions.

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  • Photo Credit man in railway/train station standing beside train image by L. Shat from

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