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Today’s freight rail employees are highly skilled professionals who are among the best compensated workers in the nation. The industry pulls from a wide range of backgrounds — from high school graduates to those holding master’s degrees — to help safely transport the raw materials, products and finished goods that sustain the nation’s economy and people. Railroads provide the opportunity to build lifelong careers in fields such as engineering and dispatching to law enforcement, information technology and industrial development. And with a legacy of hiring America’s veterans, rail companies are military-friendly employers.
Railroad employees are part of a nationwide workforce. In 2015, freight railroads had more than 169,000 employees.
Railroad employees are well-compensated. In 2015, freight rail employee compensation, including benefits, averaged $121,000 per year. By contrast, the average full-time employee in the U.S. in 2015 was paid $73,300, including benefits.
The railroad industry is military-friendly. Nearly a quarter of current employees are
veterans, and one in five of the new employees freight railroads expected to hire in 2015 have served in the military.
Railroad employees receive excellent retirement benefits. Railroad retirees are covered by the Railroad Retirement System instead of Social Security. On average, over 550,000 beneficiaries receive over $11 billion in benefits from Railroad Retirement annually.
Railroad employees have union representation. Approximately 84 percent of Class I rail employees and more than half of non-Class I rail employees are unionized. Rail employees are represented by one or more of a dozen different labor unions and the Railway Labor Act governs collective bargaining between freight railroads and their employees.
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Ensuring the health and welfare of its more than 150,000 employees is a top priority for railroads. From comprehensive health care coverage to on-site fitness classes, railroads are committed to helping employees lead active and healthy lifestyles.
Railroad Health Insurance and Wellness ProgramsClass I railroad workers and their families receive company sponsored health insurance coverage. For union employees, insurance benefits are determined through collective bargaining agreements. Railroad health care packages for unionized workers are generally regarded as the gold
standard, significantly surpassing coverage provided by other U.S. industries. Today, railroads pay approximately 80 percent of the total cost of health benefits compared with 65 percent for employers in other industries.
In addition to insurance coverage, America’s Class I railroads offer voluntary health and wellness programs to help their employees lead healthy lifestyles. These benefits range from tobacco cessation programs and cooking demonstrations to gym memberships and lifestyle coaching. Individual railroads have also been recognized as some of the nation’s top employers for heathy lifestyles.
Fighting FatigueRailroad crews must be properly rested to safely fulfill their job responsibilities. As such, the on-duty time of employees involved in train operations, signaling, and dispatching is governed by federally-mandated Hours of Service laws. These laws dictate how many hours employees can work, how much rest they must have before going back on duty and caps the number of hours that can be worked per month. Railroads recognize that a variety of factors can lead to fatigue among their employees and have implemented various policies and initiatives to help combat fatigue-related issues, including confidential sleep disorder screening and treatment, fatigue education programs, and returning crews home rather than lodging them away from home.
Fitness-for-DutyBecause of potential public safety impacts, the health and wellness of employees with jobs related to the operation of locomotives is of paramount importance. Train accidents stemming from undiagnosed and untreated medical conditions in employees is an issue both railroads and the National Transportation Safety Board have identified as a high priority.
Faces of Freight Rail showcases the dedicated men and women who work behind the scenes to ensure freight rail continues to deliver for America. In 2015, freight railroads employed more than 169,000 Americans with an average compensation of $121,000. Rail industry employees are skilled, highly-trained and among the nation's highest paid workers. Spend some time getting to know the many hardworking men and women that are the Faces of Freight Rail.