Rail Traffic Controller

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Rail Traffic Controller


American railways are comprised of thousands of miles of tracks. Criss-crossing across the states and through the mountains, it makes one wonder how they keep track of them all. With trains running freight and passengers 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, there are a lot of trains to keep on track. This is the reason we have railway traffic controllers.

Railway traffic controllers are responsible for coordinating passenger and freight train traffic on railways. They operate and monitor a centralized traffic control system to coordinate rail traffic. These workers are skilled on computerized systems and they also need a good grasp of numbers to enable them to calculate arrival and departure times of the trains.

It is vital that railway traffic controllers are systematic and detail oriented when coordinating trains' movements. They must have the computer skills to use the centralized traffic control system to move trains across the country on specific routes. This is extremely important as people depend on controllers to get them to and from their destinations safely.
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  Average Earnings  
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  Interests and Skills  
Railway control operators are interested in coordinating the movement of freight and passenger trains. People in this field have a general interest in rail systems. They enjoy communicating and are able to effectively receive, record and relay orders to train crews. Railway control operators also have good verbal and writing skills to give directions, relay information and read manuals and interpret the panel displays of the traffic control system.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Operate and monitor centralized traffic control systems to coordinate and follow railway traffic
  • Charts train movements, calculate arrival and departure times and record rail traffic information
  • Issue train orders to control the movement of passenger and freight train traffic and on-track mobile maintenance equipment
  • Record and relay train orders to train crew by hand or radio telephone
  • May supervise and train other railway traffic controllers
  • Railway traffic controllers generally work shift work days, evenings, or nights. A regular shift may be assigned to a controller with seniority but for the most part the shifts rotate. They work inside for the most part, and spend a lot of time operating and monitoring the centralized traffic control system (CTC). These workers have the tough job of making sure all the trains carrying passengers and freight arrive at the right destination at the right time.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Rail traffic controllers are employed by rail transport companies and railways.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Due to the specific nature and training required for railway employees most opportunities are limited to work within the rail line. With experience they may move into supervisory positions.

  Educational Paths  
Completion of secondary school is usually required for employment with a railway company. They may have a trade certificate or diploma but most training is done by the employer. Train crew operating occupations are organized in a career ladder so, several years of experience in the railway industry is required to become a rail traffic controller. They also take up to six weeks of classroom work and on-the-job training. There are educational institutions that offer training in this area, check the information for your particular region for more details.

Depending on the position they are seeking a rail traffic controller would obtain one of the following certificates.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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