JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (July 31, 2023) – CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers — Transportation Division (SMART-TD) announced they are partnering to extend CSX’s conductor training program to five weeks from the previous four-week regimen to provide new hires with additional hands-on experience prior to beginning on-the-job training (OJT).

The extra week of training at the CSX Training Center in Atlanta will focus on performing tasks in a field setting to increase trainees’ exposure to railcar switching scenarios, radio communication, securement of equipment, brake tests and other fundamentals of the conductor’s role. Hands-on application of these skills begins in the third week of training, and the additional week will reinforce trainees’ comfort level by providing multiple opportunities to perform the tasks while operating on first and second shifts.

“Training is the foundation of the CSX safety culture, and investing in employees is the most fundamental way we can prepare our train crew members for a safe, successful career on the railroad,” said Jamie Boychuk, executive vice president of Operations. “The additional week of new-hire training in Atlanta will help conductors strengthen their skills in preparation for their on-the-job training assignment.”

CSX developed the extended training program in consultation with the SMART-TD, which represents its train crew employees.

“We’re proud to continue working with CSX to improve the training curriculum for new hire trainmen, in the same spirit as we’ve worked together to increase compensation and expand our mentoring partnerships for trainees,” said Jeremy Ferguson, President of SMART-TD. “More training directly translates to better safety for our members and demonstrates our shared commitment to the CSX safety culture.”

After completing their five weeks at the Atlanta Training Center, new conductors begin up to five months of OJT at their hiring location, where they learn the physical characteristics and job assignments of their designated territory.

About CSX

CSX, based in Jacksonville, Florida, is a premier transportation company. It provides rail, intermodal and rail-to-truck transload services and solutions to customers across a broad array of markets, including energy, industrial, construction, agricultural, and consumer products. For nearly 200 years, CSX has played a critical role in the nation’s economic expansion and industrial development. Its network connects every major metropolitan area in the eastern United States, where nearly two-thirds of the nation’s population resides. It also links more than 240 short-line railroads and more than 70 ocean, river and lake ports with major population centers and farming towns alike.


SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members who work in a variety of different crafts in the transportation industry. These crafts include employees on every Class I railroad, Amtrak, many shortline railroads, bus and mass transit employees and airport personnel. More information about the union is available at www.smart-union.org.

New initiatives will enhance training program and focus on safety

ATLANTA and INDEPENDENCE, OHIO (July 26, 2023) — Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE:NSC) and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers — Transportation Division (SMART-TD) announced Wednesday that they are partnering to launch several new initiatives to further enhance the training program for conductor trainees and increase compensation for conductors who help provide this important training.

“Ensuring that every conductor trainee receives proper training is the foundation of running a safe railroad,” said Jeremy Ferguson, president of SMART-TD. “These changes will deliver even greater quality and consistency for the Norfolk Southern conductor training program and ensure that every trainee will have a positive and comprehensive experience focused on safely performing their important work.”

“Our craft colleagues are the heart of Norfolk Southern,” said Alan H. Shaw, president and CEO of Norfolk Southern. “We have an obligation to make sure our newest employees — our conductor trainees — have the skills and knowledge to get the job done as safely as possible. We committed to partnering with our unions on safety, and our ongoing work with SMART-TD is another step in fulfilling that promise and investing in the future of our people.”

The new agreement underscores NS and SMART-TD’s joint commitment to immediately developing and deploying innovative training initiatives, including:

  • A train-the-trainer program for all conductors and foremen to ensure consistency and quality in the training they provide to new trainees.
  • A standardized process to monitor and report progress on all activities outlined in the existing trainee qualification book.
  • A bilateral rating system to allow conductor trainers and trainees to rate each other’s engagement, professionalism, and commitment to safety.

“With these changes, we are ensuring that the Norfolk Southern conductor trainee program will be the gold standard in the industry for safe and effective training,” said General Chairperson Tommy Gholson (GO 898). “We are committed to working with Norfolk Southern to ensure that our future members have access to the resources and instruction they need to have a safe and rewarding career on the railroad.”

To further recognize the important role that the company’s craft conductors play in training, effective Aug. 1, 2023, Norfolk Southern will increase the training stipend for conductors providing instruction from $10 to $30 for a through-freight-service shift, and $35 for all other service shifts.

“This increase in pay for our craft conductors is an acknowledgement of the key role they play in building a safe and productive workforce,” said General Chairperson James Ball (GCA-687). “I am thrilled we were able to partner with Norfolk Southern to secure this significant increase in compensation for our hardworking members.”

Finally, for those craft employees who step away from their work full-time to offer support and instruction – known as craft mentors – Norfolk Southern will raise their daily pay from $325 to $375, acknowledging the critical impact these railroaders make in our efforts to develop the company’s conductor workforce.

“The collaboration of SMART-TD and Norfolk Southern will vigorously improve the conductor training program,” said General Chairperson David Phillips (GCA-680). “The comprehensive training of new conductors is vital to the future existence of our industry. The new training compensation package places a well-deserved increased value on the conductor craft.”

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About Norfolk Southern
Since 1827, Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE: NSC) and its predecessor companies have safely moved the goods and materials that drive the U.S. economy. Today, it operates a customer-centric and operations-driven freight transportation network. Committed to furthering sustainability, Norfolk Southern helps its customers avoid approximately 15 million tons of yearly carbon emissions by shipping via rail. Its dedicated team members deliver more than 7 million carloads annually, from agriculture to consumer goods, and is the largest rail shipper of auto products and metals in North America. Norfolk Southern also has the most extensive intermodal network in the eastern U.S., serving a majority of the country’s population and manufacturing base, with connections to every major container port on the Atlantic coast as well as the Gulf of Mexico and Great Lakes. Learn more by visiting www.NorfolkSouthern.com.

SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members who work in a variety of different crafts in the transportation industry. These crafts include employees on every Class I railroad, Amtrak, many shortline railroads, bus and mass transit employees and airport personnel. More information about the union is available at www.smart-union.org.

Norfolk Southern is and has been hiring new freight conductors at a noteworthy rate in 2023. As the labor organization that represents newly hired conductors, that is great news to the SMART Transportation Division. But like most pieces of good news that come from the railroad, this one comes with a catch.

In this case, it is a very significant catch. The problem with NS hiring record numbers of new conductors is that this perennial Fortune 500 company has been operating without a Federal Railroad Administration-approved conductor certification training program for 21 months.

The FRA has been questioning NS about its conductor training program since October 2021. Since that time, NS has submitted multiple proposals for training programs to the FRA; however, all of them have fallen short of FRA’s expectations and have been denied.

On Wednesday, June 14, 2023, the clock ran out as FRA served notice to Norfolk Southern’s board of directors that they have 15 days to produce an acceptable plan for a conductor certification training program to them and an additional 30 days (a total of 45 days) to get the plan implemented.

FRA issued three findings it deemed to be unacceptable in the current methodology NS uses to train their new-hire conductors. In the order they sent to NS’s office in Atlanta, it listed each of the three unacceptable issues they found in their safety audit along with FRA-prescribed “corrective actions” that they state NS, “must take” within the 45 days they have been allotted. The findings/actions are as follows:

  1. Increasing the minimum time trainmen can be allotted for On the Job Training (OJT) from the current 13 days.
  2. FRA found a lack of a defined process for OJT, a lack of a process to track the progress of individual trainees, and a lack of on-property training coordinators to lead the OJT programs.
  3. FRA found a pattern of violations on NS’s part involving the company designating employees as “qualified instructors” of trainees without making any attempt to find out if the employees are qualified or willing to act as instructors.

The corrective actions that FRA is mandating NS take to address these issues are broad, potentially expensive and absolutely overdue. It should not be a surprise to a company in the rail industry that 13 days of OJT is not acceptable.

As part of the prescribed corrective action plan from FRA, Norfolk Southern is obligated to consult with “relevant employee labor organizations” as part of developing their plan before they submit it to FRA. SMART-TD has already been working with Norfolk Southern to enhance other quality-of-life issues for our members. NS has already reached out to our union leadership in an effort to include us in the effort to shore up their training program.

This is a responsibility your union takes very seriously. SMART-TD has every intention to work diligently in order to make sure NS’s new training curriculum will be thoughtfully designed and ensures that our new-hire conductors are equipped with the tools they need to be safe and productive members of our railroad family.

WASHINGTON – Responding to petitions for reconsideration to its Nov. 9, 2011, final rule on conductor certification, the FRA has delayed for six months the testing implementation dates and clarified other mandates affecting territorial qualifications and the definition of hostlers.

The FRA, in a Feb. 8 Federal Register notice, said that because its final rule was published Nov. 9, 2011, six months later than contemplated, carriers were not permitted sufficient time to formulate training programs and have them approved by the FRA in time for testing to begin March 1, 2012.


* By Sept. 1, 2012 (rather than March 1, 2012), each railroad (other than Class III) shall designate as “certified conductors” all persons authorized by the railroad to perform the duties of a conductor as of Jan. 1, 2012; and issue them certificates of certification.

* Class I and Class II (regional) railroads, Amtrak and railroads providing commuter services, will have until Sept. 30, 2012, to submit to the FRA for approval their programs for training, testing and evaluation. Class III (shortlines, switching and terminal) railroads will have until Jan. 31, 2013 to do so. The programs submitted by railroads will require collaboration with UTU general chairpersons.

* After Sept. 1, 2012, each railroad (other than Class III) shall designate as a “certified conductor” those authorized by the railroad to perform the duties of a conductor subsequent to Jan. 1, 2012, upon successful completion of testing, training and evaluation.

* After Dec. 1, no Class I or Class II railroad, Amtrak or railroad providing commuter service shall initially certify or recertify a conductor unless that conductor has been tested and evaluated. For Class III railroads, that date is April 1, 2013.

* No later than March 31 of each year (beginning in calendar year 2014), all railroads other than Class III railroads, shall conduct a formal annual review and analysis concerning the administration of its program for responding to detected instances of poor safety conduct by “certified conductors” during the prior calendar year.

* If a conductor lacks territorial qualifications on main track physical characteristics, that conductor shall be assisted by a person who meets the territorial qualification requirements.

* For a conductor who has never been qualified on main track physical characteristics of the territory over which the conductor is to serve, the assistant shall be a “certified conductor” who is not an assigned crew member.

* For a conductor who was previously qualified on main line physical characteristics of the territory over which the conductor is to serve, but whose qualification has expired for one year or less. and who regularly traversed the territory prior to the expiration of the qualification, the assistant may be any person, including an assigned crew member, who meets the territorial qualification requirements for main track physical characteristics.

* For a conductor who previously qualified on main track physical characteristics of the territory over which the conductor is to serve, and whose qualification has been expired for one year or less, but who has not regularly traversed the territory prior to the expiration of the qualification, or a conductor whose territorial qualification on main track has been expired for more than a year, the assistant may be any person, including the assigned crewmember other than the locomotive engineer, so long as the serving assistant would not conflict with that crewmember’s other safety sensitive duties and who meets the territorial qualification requirements for main track physical characteristics.

* As for qualification, and since territories differ in their complexity, railroads will be given discretion to determine how many times a conductor must pass over a territory to be considered to have regularly traversed a territory.

* Each of these territorial qualification issues will be included in each railroad’s plan filed with the FRA and will contain the input from general chairpersons.

Hostler Type Assignments Not Covered

* A person who moves a locomotive or a group of locomotives within the confines of a locomotive repair or servicing area — or moves a locomotive or group of locomotives for distances of less than 100 feet, and this incidental movement of a locomotive or locomotives is for inspection or maintenance purposes — is not subject to conductor certification requirements.

Theproposed new minimum training standards for those in in safety sensitive positions, announced by the FRA in aFeb. 7 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (see link, below), will also apply to conductor certification training programs. “With many thousands of new employee coming on board in the near future, the new training standards will help provide adequate training,” said UTU National Legislative Director James Stem.

Click here to read the changes to conductor certification as published Feb. 8 in the Federal Register.

Click on the following link to read the proposed new minimum training standards for those in safety sensitive positions (that will also apply to conductor certification training):


Click on the following link to read about the Nov. 9, 2011, final rule on conductor certification:


FRA logoWASHINGTON – New minimum training and qualification standards are being proposed by the Federal Railroad Administration for rail workers in safety sensitive positions.

In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published Feb. 7 in the Federal Register, the FRA said affected employees would have to be trained and qualified in federal rail safety laws, regulations and orders. Those affected include train and engine workers, maintenance-of-way employees, and workers who inspect and repair freight and passenger cars and locomotives.

The FRA proposes that each railroad or contractor develop a training program designating the qualifications of each employee and them submit that program for agency approval. The training would consist of proficiency-based, incremental training modules, with workers required to demonstrate proficiency in one area before being permitted to accept additional instruction.

Employers would then be required to conduct periodic oversight of their own employees to determine compliance, and conduct annual written reviews of their training programs to close performance gaps.

The proposed rule is a requirement of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

“Well-designed training programs have the potential to further reduce risk in the railroad environment,” said FRA Administrator Joe Szabo. “Better training can reduce the number of accidents, particularly those caused by human factors, which account for the vast majority of reportable accidents each year.”

The proposed new rule was developed with the input from officials in numerous federal and state government agencies, industry and labor.

UTU National Legislative Director James Stem said, “We need to start at the end of the pipeline. When you have a student, a new employee or an existing employee who is being trained on new equipment or new operating practices, what skills do we expect that employee to possess at the end of the training process? And then we’ll work back from that.”

Stem said many railroads, seeking to reduce training costs, have delivered self-directed, computer-based training, “leaving workers unprepared for the hazards of the job. Where there’s no instructor in the room, and all of the available information for the student is on the screen, if the student doesn’t understand the question, he or she has no one to ask. That student is then sent to the field.”

Stem said the proposed rule would create nationwide uniformity in training.

To read the FRA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, click on the following link:

www.fra.dot.gov/rcc/pages/fp_321.shtml and then click on “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking”.