Newspaper: NJ Transit slower to train engineers

RELATED TOPICS: EAST | NORTHEAST | LABOR RELATIONS | PASSENGER
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NEWARK, N.J. — New Jersey’s citizens and public officials are questioning why NJ Transit takes almost two years to train new engineers even as staff shortages plague the agency’s operation.

NJ Transit takes up to 20 months to train locomotive operators, far longer than the 12 to 18-month programs typical of other agencies such as Amtrak or Metro-North. Those agencies also have an edge in regards to hiring: NJ transit has hired only four new engineers since 2015, compared to almost 100 for Metro-North and more than 50 for Amtrak’s route between New York City and Washington, D.C.

"Why do we need 20 months to teach somebody to run a train?" asked state Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Cresskill. "That seems like a long time."

Critics have called for relaxing the training for schedule new employees that have been previously employed at other transportation agencies or freight railroads, but NJ Transit says that their safety standards might suffer as a result, according to the North Jersey Record newspaper.

NJ Transit is facing a shortage of locomotive engineers as a slew of employees near retirement age. The agency also pays less than other East Coast transportation operators, resulting in a high rate of turnover to other agencies. NJ Transit says that by January 2018, seven newly trained locomotive engineers will enter regular service.

In early October, NJ Transit had to cancel 35 trains as a result of 20 engineers unexpectedly calling in absent. In recent months, the agency has logged its lowest ridership since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

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