Rising railroad shipments signal a
growing economy - and job for veterans.
by Dan Fazio
doubts the American economy is recovering should talk to a railroad executive.
The demand-driven freight railroad industry is considered an accurate gauge of
the economy, and Class I railroads – North America’s largest carriers – are
reporting a steady uptick in railroad shipments, a sure sign the U.S. economy
is back on track.
Association of American Railroads (AAR) tracks the amount of freight moved by
railroads on a weekly basis. It reported a 7.3-percent increase in railroad
shipments in 2010. Rail traffic continued to rise through the first quarter of
2011, according to the AAR.
railroads are considered good barometers of general economic activity because
of the variety of goods they ship and the wide geographic reach of their
transportation networks,” said Cindy Earhart, vice president of human resources
for Norfolk Southern Corporation, which operates 20,000 miles of track in 22
states and the District of Columbia, primarily in the eastern United States.
That Means Jobs!
67,000 baby boomers will be eligible to retire from the railroads over the next
five years, according to the AAR. Combined with the rebound in rail traffic,
that means tens of thousands of good jobs will be available with companies that
boast a long track record of hiring military veterans.
combination of attrition, driven largely by baby boomer retirements, and our
growth projections translate into job opportunities for America’s veterans at
Union Pacific in 2011 and beyond,” said Barb Schaefer, senior vice president of
human resources for Union Pacific. The railroad predicts it will hire 4,200
employees in 2011 alone.
Southern, which reported a 14-percent increase in volume in 2010, hired 1,900
conductors last year and expects to hire 2,500 new employees this year –
including 1,500 conductors. Norfolk Southern also plans to hire maintenance and
mechanical employees. With nearly 3,500 veterans already in its ranks, the
railroad will be looking for transitioning veterans to recruit, Earhart said.
Southern is poised for growth in 2011,” she said. “We believe the rail industry
has good jobs — potentially lifelong careers — for military veterans.”
average full-time rail worker earned $81,563 in 2009, according to U.S.
government data, plus benefits worth $25,522 for a total average compensation
of $107,085. That’s about 60 percent more than the average U.S. employee, whose
total compensation averaged $64,552 in 2009.
Right on Track
veterans with training in aviation electronics and diesel engine mechanics can
easily transfer their skills to Union Pacific’s diesel electrician, diesel
mechanic and work equipment mechanic positions. Other railroad jobs ideal for
veterans include signal maintainers and positions within the company’s
Operating Management Training (OMT) program.
career track is working out well for Mark Major, a former Navy deep sea diver
who joined Union Pacific after running a start-up business with his wife for
five years when he left the military. Major is training to become a manager of
yard operations – moving trains – for Union Pacific’s Portland Service Unit.
“Being in the
management of transportation operations side of the railroad, my leadership and
decision-making experience has paid dividends on the railroad,” said Major, a
former petty officer second class who went from Sailor to land lubber when he
joined the Army National Guard in 2002. “Another advantage to my military
training is understanding the importance of safety. Safety is my first
responsibility at Union Pacific.”
34, is an operations supervisor trainee at Norfolk Southern. The former Navy
field medic followed up his naval career with four years in the Marine Corps as
a mortarman before pursuing a civilian career in the railroad industry in 2006.
Brown’s military training and experience prepared him well for railroading.
“I often work
different hours, without direct supervision, and in less than desirable weather
conditions, all of which are second nature due to my military experience,” said
Brown, a sergeant who still serves his country as a combat medic in the Army
National Guard. “I also use the leadership abilities I acquired in the
across all branches are trained to operate safely in harsh environments, an
advantage that makes veterans attractive to railroad hiring managers. The focus
on safety helped Scott Dean quickly launch a civilian career as a freight
conductor with CSX when he left the Marine Corps in 2007.
Marine Corps we focused on safety every day, we practiced safety in everything
from physical training to the qualifying on the rifle range,” Dean said.
“Safety was of the utmost importance in the USMC. So transitioning from the
military to CSX was not difficult for me because of the USMC focus on safety
and leadership skills.”
corporal met a CSX recruiter at his Transition Assistance Program (TAP)
workshop and was hired a month after finishing active duty in April 2007. He
felt at home right away.
are very similar to those of the military, with emphasis on safety, teamwork
and communication,” Dean said. “Knowing how to work safely, operate within a
team environment and have superior communication are ways of getting the job
done correctly and bringing everyone home safely.”
‘We Clicked Immediately!’
Richardson’s transition from the Marine Corps to the railroads took a little
longer. With children at home to support, she worked as a self-employed hair
stylist while earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at the
University of Texas at San Antonio. In October 2009, Richardson met a Union
Pacific recruiter who is a fellow veteran. “We clicked immediately!” Richardson
said. She began training as an engineering associate in January 2010 and will
be promoted this summer to assistant manager of signal maintenance.
34, said her military experience helps her fit well into the fast-paced
environment of the railroad industry, where change is constant.
“We are able
to distinguish which tasks are most pertinent and complete them in a logical
manner,” said Richardson, who separated in 2002 as a corporal. “Additionally,
in the event of an emergency, we are also able to make sound decisions under
fatigue and pressure. A common saying that we all learned in the Marine Corps
is to ‘lead, follow, or get out of the way!’ ”
prices rise, America’s railroads have a clear advantage over other modes of
transportation: A train can move a ton of freight nearly 500 miles on one
gallon of diesel fuel. Higher oil prices may hurt consumers at the gas pump,
but it could help railroads continue to grow. Growth means jobs, so if you’re
getting ready to transition from the military consider a high-paying civilian
career where you won’t grow bored. Richardson hasn’t.
“I love the
fact that every day is different!” Richardson said. “Every day presents a new
challenge and a new possibility!”
Veterans working on the railroads
give you their best transition tips
Operations Management Associate
U.S. Navy (1993-2002)
U.S. Army National Guard (2002-Present)
If you are transitioning from active
duty, start planning 18 months out. Create a master résumé and then tailor
job-specific résumés from the master. Don’t undersell yourself! Military
members have lots of intangible attributes that many civilian sector training
neglects, for instance loyalty, “can-do” attitude, “soldiers first, mission
always” (employees safety first, customers always), discipline, respect and a
great work ethic.
U.S. Marine Corps (1997-2002)
Learn to be called by your first name
again! My rank was my first name for so many years, and I didn’t answer to
Natasha for several months after separating. Learn to relax, not every moment
at work is rigid. One thing that the military trains us in is how to remain
calm under pressure. This will set you apart from everyone else. There may be a
time, in your personal life or at work, where things seem hectic and out of
control, a time where a lot of tasks need to be completed at one time. Choose
the most important task and start there. I carry this into my own personal
Scott Hilton Dean
U.S. Marine Corps (2003-2007)
The best advice I could give would be
to make sure you have a plan. If you’re open to relocation, be prepared to move
and know where you want to relocate; and know what kind of employment you want.
Don’t wait until the last minute to try to figure it all out.
Operations Supervisor Trainee
Norfolk Southern Corporation
U.S. Navy (1994-2002)
U.S. Marine Corps (2002-2006)
U.S. Army National Guard
Have a good plan, and put an
application in with Norfolk Southern.
Norfolk Southern Corporation
HQ: Norfolk, Va.
Veteran Employees: 12%
2010 Revenue: $9.5 billion
HQ: Omaha, Neb.
Veteran Employees: 24%
2010 Revenue: $17 billion
HQ: Jacksonville, Fla.
Veteran Employees: 22.5% (including 18% of new hires in 2010)
2010 Revenue: More than $10 billion