How Can I Become a Railroad Inspector?

Research what it takes to become a railroad inspector. Learn about potential salary, job duties and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Industrial Automation Engineering Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Railroad Inspector?

Railroad inspectors make sure that railroads are safe and in compliance with federal laws. This involves examining trains and other railroad equipment, where they check for mechanical malfunctions, environmental damage and abuse such as graffiti. They may also run tests on the emissions systems in order to make sure that trains remain in compliance with environmental regulatory standards. In addition to regular inspections, these professionals are called in when modifications are made to the train's engine or fuel system so that they can evaluate the impact and verify the safety and legality of the change.

The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Training Required On-the-job training
Key Responsibilities Inspecting for safety and compliance; investigating accidents; writing reports
Job Growth (2014-2024) -1% to 1% (for transportation vehicle, equipment and systems inspectors)**
Average Salary (2015) $72,220 (for transportation inspectors)*

Source: *U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net OnLine

What Are the Job Duties of a Railroad Inspector?

As a railroad inspector, you would work for the FRA, inspecting and reporting on railroad compliance with federal regulations. It would be your job to maintain safe operating conditions on the railways. You'd also investigate accidents and write reports on the findings. You might have to be an expert witness in accident cases that go before the court.

You must be able to evaluate situations, write comprehensive reports, uncover facts, apply regulations, work with railroad crews and understand how rail equipment works. You must be able to clearly communicate in a way that helps to reduce risk and maintain a high level of safety on the railroad. You also need to be able to discover the cause of problems and clearly advise others how to fix such situations.

Working with others is another aspect of the job because you must be able to work with various organizations, unions and representatives of the railroad who may not agree with your findings. It would be your job to gather the facts and create a report that gives a clear and concise picture of the violations or safety issues you have discovered.

What Are the Job Requirements?

To meet FRA requirements to become a railroad inspector you must possess a valid driver's license, obtain a government contractor-issued travel card, pass a drug test and have experience in the railroad industry. You must continue to hold a valid driver's license, travel card and to be able to pass random drug tests throughout your employment as a railroad inspector (

Your railroad experience is based upon an evaluation of your past work experience, education and training. You are given a rating based on the information you provide in the supplemental qualifications statement. Experience must include knowledge of the industry, operations and equipment; safety and health knowledge; knowledge of accident investigations and written and oral communication skills.

You must be competent in five main areas. These areas include hazardous materials, operating practices, motive power and equipment, track and signals and train control. Technical knowledge is also required. You must know about train and railroad equipment and technology and be able to pinpoint problems and point out solutions.

What Can I Expect to Earn?

The salary for a railroad inspector is set based on the General Schedule, which sets pay rates for federal employees. A railroad inspector's pay is a Grade 12 and is also based upon your duty station location. As of May 2015, according to the BLS, the annual average pay for transportation inspectors was $72,220.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Another inspection job that you might be interested in is a position as a fire inspector. These professionals evaluate buildings in order to make sure that they follow governmental fire codes. The minimum educational requirement is a high school diploma. Alternatively, if you are looking to get a job in the railroad industry, you could consider becoming a locomotive engineer. Locomotive engineers drive trains that carry cargo and passenger for long distances. They need to have at least a high school diploma as well.

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