New Jersey lawmakers question NJ Transit’s engineer shortage

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NEWARK, N.J. — New Jersey lawmakers want to know why NJ Transit is losing locomotive engineers after a newspaper revealed a staffing shortfall, reports.

The Record, a northern New Jersey newspaper, reports that NJ Transit has lost about one engineer per month to New York’s Metro-North Railroad since March 2017. The newspaper cross-referenced engineer rosters on Metro-North’s current engineer list with matching names of engineers who were previously employed by NJ Transit.

NJ Transit’ annual engineer roster published earlier this year also reveals that dozens of engineers are eligible for retirement.

State lawmakers called on NJ Transit Executive Director Steve Santoro to address the engineer shortage, but the transit leader was unable to provide specifics on why engineers are leaving.

The issue led to several train delays earlier this year while New York Penn Station track closures had many trains running on modified schedules. Agency managers were forced to deal with crew shortages in July that caused train delays for Northeast Corridor, North Jersey coast, and Princeton Shuttle trains.

At the time, a union representative spoke on behalf of NJ Transit engineers, saying the shortage was due to the Penn Station track project. The union leader alleged that modified schedules were keeping engineers from operating trains back-to-back in a round-trip rotation and that it was relying more on its extra board crews.

Those track repairs have ended and trains have reverted to their original schedules, but the agency is still working with engineer shortages.

The agency has about 370 active engineers on its roster and fewer than 20 engineers in its training program. The report notes that while Metro-North has hired nearly 100 engineers since the beginning of 2015, NJ Transit has hired only four.

Critics point to funding issues and mismanagement as culprits for NJ Transit’s dwindling engineer roster, while the newspaper highlights pay scale differences as another possible factor. Metro-North engineers make $46 an hour, while NJ Transit engineers typically make $32 an hour, according to public data.

Neither transit agency, nor the labor groups representing the engineers commented on the newspaper’s report.

See the original story online.
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