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Career profile Locomotive Engineer

Also known as Locomotive Engineer, Passenger Locomotive Engineer, Railroad Engineer, Through Freight Engineer, Train Engineer, Trainmaster, Transportation Specialist

Locomotive Engineer

Also known as Locomotive Engineer, Passenger Locomotive Engineer, Railroad Engineer

Interests Profile
  • Realistic
  • Conventional
  • Investigative
Pay Range
$43,580 - $97,430 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Operation and Control
  • Operations Monitoring
  • Active Listening
Knowledge Areas
  • Transportation
  • Public Safety and Security
  • Education and Training
Core tasks
  • Interpret train orders, signals, or railroad rules and regulations that govern the operation of locomotives.
  • Confer with conductors or traffic control center personnel via radiophones to issue or receive information concerning stops, delays, or oncoming trains.
  • Receive starting signals from conductors and use controls such as throttles or air brakes to drive electric, diesel-electric, steam, or gas turbine-electric locomotives.
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What does a Locomotive Engineer do?

Locomotive Engineers drive electric, diesel-electric, steam, or gas-turbine-electric locomotives to transport passengers or freight.

In addition, Locomotive Engineers interpret train orders, electronic or manual signals, and railroad rules and regulations.

What kind of tasks does a Locomotive Engineer perform regularly?

Locomotive Engineers are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Interpret train orders, signals, or railroad rules and regulations that govern the operation of locomotives.
  • Confer with conductors or traffic control center personnel via radiophones to issue or receive information concerning stops, delays, or oncoming trains.
  • Receive starting signals from conductors and use controls such as throttles or air brakes to drive electric, diesel-electric, steam, or gas turbine-electric locomotives.
  • Monitor gauges or meters that measure speed, amperage, battery charge, or air pressure in brake lines or in main reservoirs.
  • Observe tracks to detect obstructions.
  • Call out train signals to assistants to verify meanings.
  • Operate locomotives to transport freight or passengers between stations or to assemble or disassemble trains within rail yards.
  • Check to ensure that brake examination tests are conducted at shunting stations.
  • Respond to emergency conditions or breakdowns, following applicable safety procedures and rules.
  • Inspect locomotives to verify adequate fuel, sand, water, or other supplies before each run or to check for mechanical problems.
  • Inspect locomotives after runs to detect damaged or defective equipment.
  • Prepare reports regarding any problems encountered, such as accidents, signaling problems, unscheduled stops, or delays.
  • Check to ensure that documentation, such as procedure manuals or logbooks, are in the driver's cab and available for staff use.

The above responsibilities are specific to Locomotive Engineers. More generally, Locomotive Engineers are involved in several broader types of activities:

Controlling Machines and Processes
Using either control mechanisms or direct physical activity to operate machines or processes (not including computers or vehicles).
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Materials
Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices, or Equipment
Running, maneuvering, navigating, or driving vehicles or mechanized equipment, such as forklifts, passenger vehicles, aircraft, or watercraft.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.

What is a Locomotive Engineer salary?

The median salary for a Locomotive Engineer is $71,870, and the average salary is $70,660. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Locomotive Engineer salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Locomotive Engineers earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Locomotive Engineers earn less than $43,580 per year, 25% earn less than $55,960, 75% earn less than $84,720, and 90% earn less than $97,430.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Locomotive Engineers is expected to change by 5.3%, and there should be roughly 2,500 open positions for Locomotive Engineers every year.

Median annual salary
$71,870
Typical salary range
$43,580 - $97,430
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)
5.3%

What personality traits are common among Locomotive Engineers?

Interests

Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Locomotive Engineer are usually higher in their Realistic and Conventional interests.

Locomotive Engineers typically have very strong Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Also, Locomotive Engineers typically have moderate Conventional interests. Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.

Values

People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Locomotive Engineer tend to value Support, Working Conditions, and Relationships.

Most importantly, Locomotive Engineers very strongly value Support. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees.

Second, Locomotive Engineers moderately value Working Conditions. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions.

Lastly, Locomotive Engineers moderately value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Locomotive Engineers must consistently demonstrate qualities such as attention to detail, dependability, and self-control.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Locomotive Engineers, ranked by importance:

Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Dependability
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Self-Control
Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
Integrity
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Cooperation
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.

What education and training do Locomotive Engineers need?

Working as a Locomotive Engineer usually requires a high school diploma.

Locomotive Engineers need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with this occupation.

Educational degrees among Locomotive Engineers

  • 1.6% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 37.6% completed high school or secondary school
  • 36.5% completed some college coursework
  • 10.3% earned a Associate's degree
  • 11.8% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 1.8% earned a Master's degree
  • 0.3% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Locomotive Engineers

Locomotive Engineers may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as transportation, public safety and security, or education and training knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Locomotive Engineers might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Transportation
Knowledge of principles and methods for moving people or goods by air, rail, sea, or road, including the relative costs and benefits.
Public Safety and Security
Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Mechanical
Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.

Important Abilities needed by Locomotive Engineers

Locomotive Engineers must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Locomotive Engineers need abilities such as far vision, selective attention, and control precision in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Locomotive Engineers, ranked by their relative importance.

Far Vision
The ability to see details at a distance.
Selective Attention
The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
Control Precision
The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
Response Orientation
The ability to choose quickly between two or more movements in response to two or more different signals (lights, sounds, pictures). It includes the speed with which the correct response is started with the hand, foot, or other body part.
Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.

Critical Skills needed by Locomotive Engineers

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Locomotive Engineers frequently use skills like operation and control, operations monitoring, and active listening to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Locomotive Engineers, ranked by their relative importance.

Operation and Control
Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
Operations Monitoring
Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Speaking
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

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