Every day, tons of freight and thousands of passengers cross the U.S. through miles and miles of railroad tracks. Railroad track inspectors are the workers responsible for ensuring the proper maintenance of these tracks and that they meet federal safety regulations, which reduces the risk of train derailment and crashes. Railroad track inspectors earn a modest salary, but can earn annual wages of $100,000 per year or greater working for the U.S. government.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics includes salary information about railroad track inspectors under the category of transportation inspectors, which also includes freight inspectors and other inspectors of cargo vehicles. As of May 2010, the BLS reported that transportation inspectors earned an average salary of $63,050 per year, or $30.31 per hour. Transportation inspectors employed by the federal government earned the highest average salary of $100,920 per year. Railroad track inspectors working for private rail companies earned an average salary of $61,980 per year in 2010.
The U.S. federal government typically carries out railroad track supervision and inspection as the interstate nature of railroad tracks make them a federal concern. The Federal Railrod Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation, commonly employ most railroad track inspectors. Local utility or government agency advertise openings for railroad track inspector positions; jobs are generally within a specific geographic area covered by the utility provider or local government. Track inspectors are responsible for ensuring that different railroad lines comply with federal safety regulations and promoting awareness of the Federal Track Safety Standards.
Salaries for railroad track inspectors typically vary with the level of experience earned by an inspector. Job openings list experience requirements in terms of tiers of experience. The first tier requires very little experience, such as one year of work as an assistant railroad track inspector. Middle tiers might require two to three years of experience as a railroad track inspector at the federal or state level, and five to six years of employment in track construction or track supervision usually qualifies for the top tier. Depending on this experience, a track inspector's salary can range from about $5,000 to about $6,000 per month.
Railroad track inspectors have to successfully complete an examination in federal railroad codes and track safety before hiring. Track inspectors usually investigate railroad crashes and construct reports that state the causes of the crash and whether the railroad track followed federal safety codes. States offering the most job openings for all transportation inspectors, including railroad track inspectors, are Washington, Nevada, Montana and Alaska.