Rep. Troy Balderson (R-Ohio-12) on July 29 introduced the Rail Employee Training Modernization Act, which would allow railroads to utilize virtual instruction modules to speed the process of moving new hires through training into the field.
The new legislation is “aimed at eliminating cumbersome red tape by allowing aspiring freight rail employees to complete certain training requirements virtually,” reported Rep. Balderson, who noted that “[m]odernizing these requirements should be a no-brainer.”
According to Rep. Balderson, classroom-based instruction is only made available when a large enough cohort of new hires is available to fill a classroom. This model, he said, contributes to delayed entry into the workforce and ultimately contributes to the shortage of available workers, which is worsening the ongoing supply chain crisis.
Existing regulations require applicants to enroll in centralized classroom instruction, often far from their homes and employers. “This outdated requirement presents a significant barrier to entry into the freight rail industry, which is already experiencing severe labor shortages,” Rep. Balderson said.
“Typically, it can take up to six months for a newly hired conductor to complete the classroom, simulator and on-the-job training before they can then begin work in the field,” said Association of American Railroads (AAR) President and CEO Ian Jefferies, in response to Rep. Balderson’s proposed legislation.
“Rep. Balderson’s commonsense legislation will help accelerate the process by allowing the classroom session to go virtual,” Jefferies added. “At a time when railroads are doing everything possible to get new railroaders safely into the field, this smart solution would go a long way to helping the industry reach that goal without compromising safety.”