— by Julie Sneider, assistant editorU.S. freight railroads expect to hire more than 15,000 workers this year to replace retiring workers and fill new positions, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) announced in January. Based on what some Class I execs said during their first-quarter earnings reports, the railroads appear to be well on their way to bringing thousands of new employees on board this year.
For example, CSX Corp. will hire 3,000 employees this year, a trend driven primarily by retirements, CSX Chief Executive Officer Michael Ward said on CNBC's "Squawk Box" after the company released its first-quarter 2012 earnings on April 17.
During Union Pacific Railroad's first-quarter earnings call on April 19, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Rob Knight said the Class I's workforce level increased 4 percent during the first three months of 2012 compared with the same period in 2011.
"In 2012, we still anticipate attrition in the 8 percent to 10 percent range," Knight said. "We'll continue to hire new employees to backfill for attrition and to support volume growth."
Meanwhile, Norfolk Southern Railway has hired more than 800 people since January and anticipates adding 2,000 employees by year's end, NS officials said in an April 4 statement. At an April 12 recruiting session in Harrisburg, Pa., NS recruiters talked with potential candidates for multiple openings that included conductors, signal maintainers, diesel mechanics, electricians, firemen and oilers.
In addition to reaching out to potential applicants via employment fairs on college campuses, military bases (about one in five people freight railroads hire this year will be military veterans) and other public forums, railroad recruiters are relying more on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to promote job openings. In making their pitch, rail representatives are playing up their industry's family-sustaining pay: The average U.S. railroad employee earns about $107,00 in annual wages and benefits, compared with $65,000 in annual wages and benefits earned by the average U.S. non-railroad employee, according to AAR.
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