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Before a train can safely operate on any railroad system, a railroad inspector will need to ensure all equipment is working properly, all tracks are clear, all communications devices are being used effectively, and all other operations are within safety guidelines or regulations. The railroad inspector must have a thorough knowledge and understanding of railroad procedures, as well as any applicable laws. This employee is generally employed by a government agency that regulates transportation, though in some countries such agencies may not exist.
More than one type of railroad inspector may exist. A power and equipment inspector, for example, may focus exclusively on inspecting train engines and equipment on locomotives for compliance with local laws and regulations. A track inspector, on the other hand, will be responsible for ensuring the proper working order of all tracks, signals, transfer devices, and other components along a railroad line. Both railroad inspector positions focus on the safe operation of trains, but each inspector may be trained in different areas to ensure a thorough understanding of that specific task.
In many cases, no specific level of education is necessary to become a railroad inspector, but candidates with at least a high school education are generally preferred. Higher-level positions will require a candidate to possess a college degree or some post-secondary training, and a job candidate can make himself a more valuable option if he or she has a background in some kind of engineering. The job will often focus on mechanical processes and components, so a basic knowledge of how such systems work can prove to be especially valuable. Certification may be necessary in order to become a railroad inspector, though the specific requirements a candidate will have to meet will vary by region.
When accidents do occur, a railroad inspector is likely to be responsible for investigating the accident and writing up a report that summarizes any changes that need to be made. The inspector should be prepared to travel often and sometimes quite far to inspect tracks and address any issues along a railroad system. This means the inspector must have a valid driver's license, as well as a clean driving record. In some cases, the inspector may be subject to credit score inquiries, as he or she will likely be entrusted with a company credit card intended for travel expenses. If the inspector works for a federal agency, he or she may have to meet other requirements that qualify him or her for federal employment.
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