Yard hostlers are responsible for examining, sanitizing, and maintaining vehicles and large containers. They position such equipment in anticipation of scheduled shipments and transport materials to the weighing platform. They also maneuver vehicles and containers between areas of the facility and sanitize the latter before and after every shipment. Yard hostlers earn a median sum of $17 per hour, which amounts to $36,000 per year.
Yard hostlers help position the vehicles and containers within the yard. They conduct and oversee vehicle maintenance, unveil appropriate equipment placements, and steer vehicles and containers to identified spots. They inspect vehicles to discern potential maintenance needs and stow equipment away after their use. Part of their duties also includes maintaining orderliness, communication, and safety in the yard.
Yard hostlers typically hold a high school diploma or its equivalent from an accredited university. Some employers prefer candidates who have completed an apprenticeship program as yard hostlers and, as such, possess on-the-job experience. They are expected to have the ability to perform rudimentary vehicle maintenance and top-notch coordination techniques.
Workers in railroad occupations ensure that passenger and freight trains run on time and travel safely. Some workers drive trains, some coordinate the activities of the trains, and others operate signals and switches in the rail yard.
Workers in railroad occupations generally need a high school diploma and several months of on-the-job training.Education
Rail companies typically require a high school diploma or equivalent, especially for locomotive engineers and conductors.Training
Locomotive engineers generally receive 2 to 3 months of on-the-job training before they can operate a train on their own. Typically, this training involves riding with an experienced engineer who teaches them the characteristics of that particular train route.
During training, an engineer learns the track length, where the switches are, and any unusual features of the track. An experienced engineer who switches to a new route also has to spend a few months in training to learn the route with an engineer who is familiar with it. In addition, railroad companies provide continuing education so that engineers can maintain their skills.
Most railroad companies have 1 to 3 months of on-the-job training for conductors and yardmasters. Amtrak (the passenger train company) and some of the larger freight railroad companies operate their own training programs. Smaller and regional railroads may send conductors to a central training facility or a community college.
Yardmasters may be sent to training programs or may be trained by an experienced yardmaster. They learn how to operate remote locomotive technology and how to manage railcars in the yard.
Conductors and yardmasters working for freight railroads also learn the proper procedures for loading and unloading different types of cargo. Conductors on passenger trains learn ticketing procedures and how to handle passengers.
Rail yard engineers and signal and switch operators also receive on-the-job training, generally through a company training program. This program may last a few weeks to a few months, depending on the company and the complexity of the job. The program may include some time in a classroom and some hands-on experience under the direction of an experienced employee.Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Most locomotive engineers first work as conductors for several years.Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Locomotive engineers must be certified by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The certification, conducted by the railroad that employs them, involves a written knowledge test, a skills test, and a supervisor determining that the engineer understands all physical aspects of the particular route on which he or she will be operating.
An experienced engineer who changes routes must be recertified for the new route. Even engineers who do not switch routes must be recertified every few years.
At the end of the certification process, the engineer must pass a vision and hearing test.
Conductors who operate on national, regional, or commuter railroads are also required to become certified. To receive certification, new conductors must pass a test that has been designed and administered by the railroad and approved by the FRA.Advancement
Rail yard engineers, switch operators, and signal operators can advance to become conductors or yardmasters. Some conductors or yardmasters advance to become locomotive engineers.Important Qualities
Communication skills. All rail employees have to be able to communicate effectively with other crewmembers and passengers to keep the trains on schedule.
Customer-service skills. Conductors on passenger trains ensure customers’ comfort, make announcements, and answer any questions a passenger has. They must be courteous and patient. They may have to deal with unruly or upset passengers.
Decisionmaking skills. When operating a locomotive, engineers must plan ahead and make decisions minutes or even hours in advance.
Hand-eye coordination. Locomotive engineers have to operate various controls while staying aware of their surroundings.
Hearing ability. To show that they can hear warning signals and communicate with other employees, locomotive engineers have to pass a hearing test conducted by their rail company.
Leadership skills. On some trains, a conductor directs a crew. In rail yards, yardmasters oversee other workers.
Mechanical skills. All rail employees work with complex machines. Most have to be able to adjust equipment when it does not work properly. Some rail yard engineers spend most of their time fixing broken equipment or conducting daily mechanical inspections.
Physical strength. Some rail yard engineers have to lift heavy equipment.
Visual ability. To drive a train, locomotive engineers have to pass a vision test conducted by their rail company. Eyesight, peripheral vision, and color vision may be tested.
In addition, locomotive operators must be at least 21 years of age and pass a background test. They must also pass random drug and alcohol screenings over the course of their employment.
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As you move along in your career, you may start taking on more responsibilities or notice that you've taken on a leadership role. Using our career map, a Yard Hostler can determine their career goals through the career progression. For example, they could start out with a role such as Yard Jockey, progress to a title such as Route Driver and then eventually end up with the title Lead Driver.
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The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 35.0% of Yard Hostlers listed CDL on their resume, but soft skills such as Mechanical skills and Communication skills are important as well.
Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a Yard Hostler. The best states for people in this position are Wisconsin, Maine, New York, and Indiana. Yard Hostlers make the most in Wisconsin with an average salary of $41,668. Whereas in Maine and New York, they would average $39,622 and $37,735, respectively. While Yard Hostlers would only make an average of $37,595 in Indiana, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.