What Does a Train Driver Trainee Do?

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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2019
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A train driver trainee often begins the position with nearly a year-long application and testing period before ever being called in for an actual interview. Once the interview is successfully completed and an offer of employment is made, the train driver trainee begins a six-month period of apprentice-like education. Riding with a skilled operator trainer, the train driver trainee learns a route, is educated and tested on the mechanics of the train and learns how to safely operate the train. With periodic testing and interviews, there are many opportunities for the trainee to fail on the way to becoming a certified train driver.

The opportunity to become a train driver does not come around very often and the process is very long and drawn out. Each step along the way is designed to eliminate a large portion of the applicants. Although the requirements to become a train driver trainee do not specify a certain educational background, the interview process is used to eliminate those with a smaller knowledge base. It is recommended that all applicants read up on the rail system and educate themselves as to the requirements of a train driver trainee prior to entering into the interview component of the hiring process.


Once admitted into the actual hands-on component of the hiring process, the train driver trainee is assigned to a certified train operator/trainer. The trainee typically works hand-in-hand with the trainer for half a year. Proper signal identification, speed limits and horn sounding are learned. The trainee driver also studies actual braking, stopping and starting of the train.

Under the watchful eye of the trainer, the trainee is allowed to take control of the train and complete the daily run as scheduled. The trainee is required to operate the train for no less than 250 hours, and with at least 50 of those hours being completed in darkness. This component of training is known as traction training and focuses on the actual driving and mechanical features of the train.

One part of this training section involves the trainee working to rectify problems with the train that could potentially delay its operation. By completing minor repairs and bringing the train back up to operational status, the trainee might be able to eliminate the need for a mechanic having to come out to the train. This not only keeps the train on schedule, but saves money for the train owner. After successful completion of the train driver trainee component, the trainee is given the status of newly qualified train driver for a minimum of two years.


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