The use of locomotives in transporting goods across the country is a practice that more and more companies are beginning to use. Rather than load goods in the trailer of a diesel-powered truck, companies are realizing that shipping large amounts of raw materials is better done in a rail car.
As locomotives become a larger part of the transportation plans for companies, diesel mechanics that specialize in servicing and repairing locomotives are going to be in high demand.
For those who wish to enter this growing industry, obtaining the proper certifications and formal training provides many employment opportunities in this field.
Most employers who hire diesel mechanics to work on the companies’ growing locomotive fleets are searching for certified candidates who have the proper training and education. This training is typically completed at a technical school, vocational institute, or community college. Before allowing students to enroll, most schools and colleges require applicants to have earned their high school diploma or GED.
For individuals still in high school, it is recommended that students take several courses in work shop and automotive repair. Students should also consider looking for a co-op opportunity with companies in the automotive repair sector through their high school. This will give students the mechanical aptitude they will need to perform effectively as a locomotive diesel mechanic.
High school students need to make sure they successfully complete their core classes in physics, geometry, Algebra, biology, and English. Some colleges require prospective students to have a minimum of two years of high school science and math as well as four years of English before being allowed to enroll. Students who focus on their core classes in high school will be well-rounded employees once they enter the workforce.
Individuals who meet all of the educational prerequisites have a variety of certificate and degree programs to pick from. Students interested in becoming diesel mechanics that work on locomotive trains should look for certificate and degree programs in railroad operations, diesel mechanics, and diesel technology.
Depending on the career goals of aspiring diesel mechanics, the specific programs they choose will decide which careers they will be qualified for once they graduate.
Students should remember that all training programs are not created equal, and they may be surprised to discover that some training programs have existing relationships with major companies that are looking to hire the graduates.
Depending on the arrangement made with the college or institute, some employers may have programs established where they will reimburse the majority of a graduate’s tuition if the student decides to work for them upon graduation. Students looking to enter the workforce straight out of college may discover that company-funded programs will help cover most of their education costs.
Certificate Programs in Diesel Technology
Most certificate programs in diesel technology can be completed in one to two years, depending on the intensity and depth of the program.
Some schools that have relationships with prospective employers may offer a lesser certification halfway through the certificate program to allow students to begin working as technicians while they complete the second half of the program.
Most of the coursework for certificate programs is completed in a garage or lab setting, with subjects covering topics like electrical systems and hydraulics. This allows students to get the hands-on experience they need to ascertain an entry-level position upon graduation.
Locomotive Diesel Mechanic Training Programs
Most locomotive diesel mechanic training programs are offered as a result of an institute or college’s arrangements with a specific employer.
Employers approach schools with a training program that is tailored specifically to the exact positions they need filled. The majority of these programs last from a couple of months to one year, and upon completion of the program, graduates may ascertain a position with the sponsorship company.
The company may also provide continuing education courses for employees through similar programs to remain compliant with the regulations from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
Certificate Programs in Heavy Machinery
Students who enter a heavy machinery program learn how to repair, rebuild, and diagnose heavy machinery, including locomotive trains. While this program is not specific to locomotives, graduates are prepared to work on a variety of large machines.
Because an overwhelming majority of large machines are diesel-powered, many of the principles students learn will translate from one specific vehicle to another. This certificate program typically lasts from one to two years, with some of the coursework covering:
- Air brakes
- Powertrain assemblies
- Electrical systems
Associate’s Degree in Railroad Operations
Students who have earned their certificate in diesel technology or heavy machinery may decide to pursue their associate’s degree in railroad operations.
This program teaches student how to repair and diagnose locomotives, covering the core fundamentals of electrical and braking systems. Additional courses that educate students on the standards and policies of the FRA are also included, preparing students for potential issues they may face as locomotive diesel mechanics.
Associate’s Degree in Diesel Technology
This program provides students with the skills and techniques they need to competently maintain and repair diesel engines. Students dig into the components and functions of diesel engines, helping them to make a more thorough diagnosis when repairing these engines.
Although this program does not cover the specifics of locomotive trains, students will have plenty of hands-on training with diesel engines at their place of employment, training them in locomotive repair and maintenance. Both associate’s degree programs will take students two to three years to complete.
A 2012 report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that locomotive diesel mechanics earn a median annual wage of $43,820. The BLS reports that this industry’s employment outlook is predicting a nine percent increase by 2020, providing an additional 16,200 jobs for potential candidates.
With locomotives becoming a major transportation means for companies across America, individuals who wish to become locomotive diesel mechanics should strongly consider earning a degree or certification in diesel technology or railroad operations.