Number of Class 1 employees continues to shrink

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
railroad workers
U.S. railroad employment continues to nosedive

Class 1 railroad companies continue to rely on a leaking talent pool. In fact, not only did employee numbers continue to drop in July, the depth is the shallowest yet in 2019.

The Surface Transportation Board is reporting that in mid-July 140,703 people had jobs with Class 1s, which is 4.6 percent less than the number of workers in July 2018 and a 0.5 percent drop compared to June 2019. Train and engine employees sat at 59,291, a 4.2 percent decline from July 2018 and just a 0.1 percent dip compared to a month ago. The data for both categories is at a low for the year.

U.S. rail volumes continue to drop, and that could mean the headcount could get lower as the third quarter of 2019 approaches. Many blame the rail volume crisis on the tariff tension with China, and Class 1s usually try to match resources with anticipated capacity needs. The move to precision scheduled railroading also calls for a smaller workforce.

What could help is if more states require two-man crews to operate a freight locomotive. The state of Illinois became the latest to sign the requirement into law last week, even though the Federal Railroad Administration indicated earlier in the year that it will not hold Class 1s responsible for carrying two workers.

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