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In a clear sign that the U.S. economy is continuing to gain steam, U.S. freight railroads are putting people to work.
According to the Association of American Railroads (AAR), freight railroads have been spending record levels of private capital to improve the rail network and hire workers. Railroad hiring was up 5.2 percent in 2010 compared with the year before, the association reported in its March 2011 report, "Great Expectations: Railroads and Continued U.S. Economic Recovery."
The hiring trend has continued into 2011, with the Class Is' combined workforce growing 4.42 percent to 155,842 employees as of mid-March, according to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.
Class I executives addressed hiring trends during their first-quarter earnings conferences in April. Norfolk Southern Railway officials said they project an increase of more than 1,100 qualified train and engine service employees by the end of 2011; CSX Transportation leaders anticipate adding 1,000 employees this year; and Union Pacific Railroad officials plan to hire about 4,500 workers before year's end.
Meanwhile, Canadian Pacific has plans to hire 1,500 conductors, engineers, rail-car and diesel mechanics and rail traffic controllers across Canada this spring, according to the April 20 edition of The Edmonton Journal.
Railroad executives attributed the hiring trend to increasing business volumes as well as anticipated replacement of workers who are likely to retire this year.
— Julie Sneider