Locomotive Engineer: Job Description, Duties and Requirements
A locomotive engineer operates freight or passenger trains. They must thoroughly inspect the locomotive before and during operation, as well as check the speed, air pressure, battery and other various mechanics about the train while in route. Prospective engineers must be a minimum of 21 years old and have a high school diploma or its equivalent; federal licensure is also required.
Job Description of a Locomotive Engineer
Locomotive engineers operate large trains that carry cargo or passengers to different stations on a planned route. The must be familiar with the cargo, schedule and route for each trip in order to make sure the train operates smoothly and on time. This job often requires working on weekends and nights; many locomotive engineers also work more than 40 hours a week, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Engineers working on passenger trains often operate on a continuous, set schedule, while the schedule of freight trains often depends on the cargo and destination which results in irregular hours for its engineers.
Job Outlook and Salary Information
The BLS reports there were 38,700 locomotive engineers employed in the nation in 2010, but growth in the field is projected to be slow, at a rate of 4% between 2010 and 2020. The need for travel and transport by rail is expected to increase over this decade, but the difficulty of adding new tracks is likely to hold back employment growth. The median salary for locomotive engineers was $52,280 in 2012, based on data from the BLS.
Duties of a Locomotive Engineering
While the train is in operation, the locomotive engineer monitors the speed, brakes and other gauges to make sure the ride is smooth and is operating correctly. Before the train is in operation, the engineer also checks the mechanical aspects of the locomotive to make sure the train is ready for operation; the engineer may require that the train undergo a more thorough inspection if everything does not check out correctly.
Requirements for a Locomotive Engineer
The minimum educational requirement for a locomotive engineer is at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Prospective engineers should also be at least 21 years of age, in good physical condition and not have an alcohol or drug addiction problems. Most of the training for this career takes place on-the-job, through a combination of classroom lessons, simulator experience and hands-on instruction. Students must typically pass a conductor training class before being allowed to start the locomotive engineering program.
A locomotive engineer must earn federal licensure to operate freight and passenger trains. After completing the engineering training program, prospective candidates pass a skills performance test and a written exam that tests their knowledge of train operations. Licensure candidates must also pass a hearing and vision test, background check and a surprise operational test that measures the engineers response to unexpected and dangerous situations. A locomotive engineer must re-qualify for the certification every three years.
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