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Jobs Outlook: Rail Transportation Occupations




Even though employment in most railroad transportation occupations is expected to decline through the year 2014, opportunities are expected to be good for qualified applicants, due mainly to the large number of workers expected to retire or leave these occupations in the next decade. Employment is expected to decline, despite expected increases in the amount of freight carried, due to productivity increases.

Opportunities for long-distance train crews are expected to be better than those for yard jobs, because yard occupations generally require little education beyond high school and do not require as much travel. Employment of subway and streetcar operators will grow about as fast as the average for all occupations, due to increased demand for light-rail transportation systems around the country.

Demand for railroad freight service will grow as the economy and the intermodal transportation of goods expand. Intermodal systems use trucks to move shippers’ sealed trailers or containers to and from terminals and employ trains—which are more fuel-efficient than trucks—to transport them over the long distances between terminals. Railroads are improving delivery times and ontime service, while reducing shipping rates, in order to compete with other modes of transportation, such as trucks, ships, and aircraft.

Growth in the number of railroad transportation workers will be adversely affected by innovations such as larger, faster, more fuel-efficient trains and computerized classification yards that make it possible to move freight more efficiently. Computers help to keep track of freight cars, match empty cars with the closest loads, and dispatch and control trains. Computer-assisted devices alert engineers to malfunctions, and work rules now allow trains to operate with two-person crews instead of the traditional three- to five-person crews.