I want to be a diesel locomotive driver

 
  n459L1150 Train Controller

Location: at sunbury on a V/line service into melbourne, waiting for thousands of impatient people to get on
How do I do it?

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  seb2351 Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney
How do I do it?
"n459L1150"


We really need to get a sticky on the top of this forum. Has to be the most asked question here....

Ok, before you dash off and set your heart on becoming a driver there are a few things to consider.

Stage one
a) Where abouts do I want to work? Are you willing to travel interstate for a position? Is it full time employment your seeking, or are you happy being a casual on the books with mobs like skilled.

Different states have different application and training processes. The common theme is however that it will take time, and more then likely you will need to apply more then once for a position. 
Once you have your state and area picked out that your happy with, research the companies you want to work for. It is not all lollypops and puppy dogs out there: All companies have some pretty poor jobs. Your best friend to read would be the companies EA, which can be found here: http://locoexpress.com.au/your-ea
Critical things to consider are hours of work, duty cycle, leave provisions and rostering. Do not get hung up about pay: Pointless earning $150,000 if you hate the working conditions. 

b) What are the impacts going to be on my life?

Becoming a train driver requires you to make some pretty drastic changes to the way you live. You will be operating on a 24/7 roster system, with start times all across the clock. Your sleep patterns are going to be irregular, and that Friday night beer at the pub with your mates might not be happening so often. HOWEVER, if you can adapt to the way of life of a shiftworker, it can work well in your favor. If you have a wife/gf/partner, make sure you talk to them about it before committing to this lifestyle: I have seen many relationships struggle and break under the strain.
Personally, I could not live a 9-5 type job, but I still get grumpy about the 6am starts. You can't win them all.
Remember, that all drivers have to be alcohol and drug free when on shift, so it will have a significant impact on your life if these are important to you. If your taking drugs like cannabis, it will take 3 months before you will pass a drug test if your a heavy user.


Stage 2

Ok, you have made the big choices and looked up the information, and your still set on it. Lets move onto the next big step: Applying for the jobs.

In this industry, its "safety, safety, safety!". Managers have safety KPI's as part of their employment contracts, and so will be hiring people that make them achieve those KPI's.
When you apply for a job, get a decent cover letter and cover the following:
a) Commitment, understanding and application of OHS
B) Ability to work as a shift worker, including travelling away from home
c) Clear communication and leadership skills
d) Sound mechanical aptitude.

If you can incorporate these values into a cover letter, then your resume will at least get read. In the resume, put down the activities that sell these 4 key areas. Remember, your trying to get a job against hundreds, possibly thousands of applicants. You need to stand out, and the way to do this is by selling yourself. It may be a good idea to get it written professionally.

There is some talk that doing course in your own time, such as safeworking, will give you a leg up. Yes, while a hiring manager will acknowledge your motivation and capability to apply safeworking, it is not the golden goose for landing that job. Indeed, some managers see it as a way of identifying possible hardcore gunzels. If you choose to do so, it certainly won't harm your chances. But remember, you will be doing the training again and managers understand this. They understand that we all come off the street and can only bring life experiences. Its these experiences and skills that will land a job.


Stage 3

Ok, the next step will be the interview. Some key pointers here:
a) Don't say your a gunzel- it will work against you. Simply say that you have a interest in the railways and leave it that. Running to the windows when 3801 comes past and drooling is also not encouraged.
b) Remain calm, and speak confidently. The point behind these interview is to gauge your communication skills and how you bring yourself across. 
c) Think carefully about your answers, not what they want to hear. Hiring managers will see straight through it, and you will find your application is promptly dropped.

Once you complete your interview, you will then do a testing phase. These often include:
a) Comprehension- simple reading
b) Mechanical reasoning- pull this lever does what?
c) Maths- simple stuff, wont need a calculator.
d) Psyc test- to make sure you have the aptitude for the job 

Assuming you pass all these, you will then progress to a Cat 1 medical. This is a full medical that seeks to prevent  people with key medical issues that could affect train running from progressing into the job. 
More information on the standards for a train driver can be found here http://www.ntc.gov.au/filemedia/Publications/NatStandardRailVolume2.pdf

Once your criminal check and references pass, you should be waiting for an acceptance letter. Until you get this letter YOU DO NOT HAVE THE JOB. Do not quit your current one until you have this paper.
For criminal checks, automatic red flags will pop up for:

- Drink driving and alcohol/drug offences
- Any offence that has a custodial sentence of more then 12 months
- Any public order or violence offence.

Stage 4

Well done, you have the job. The next phases will be:
* Training to be a second person
* Training in engine and air (Block school)
* Road knowledge and train handling practical training.

All up, around 18 months to 2 years depending on who you work for and your location, and you will be a mainline qualified driver. However, you will still be driving (under supervision) before this time.


Hope this answers your questions. Please read the rest of this forum for more helpful hints and for state/company specific information.
 







  sam74 Station Master



Seb on behalf of all newcomers and wanna be Train drivers thankyou for a well thought out and informative response to n459L1150 's
question. Hopefully this will aid many people.
  ThaneIrwin Station Master

+1 to a great post. Basically apply what was said above and apply for everything. IF you can get a cleaners job to get in the door thats also an option. Otherwise I've heard PN, possibly QR and within the next 6 months maybe Rio will be looking for trainees. Best of luck there's not many of us that actually want the job for the job but if your one of them I hope you get in. 
  Johnmc Moderator

Location: Cloncurry, Queensland

We really need to get a sticky on the top of this forum. Has to be the most asked question here....
"seb2351"


Good idea.  Done.  I much prefer doing "helpful" mod things rather than kicking heads...
  Typhon Assistant Commissioner

Location: I'm that freight train tearing through the sky in the clouds.
 They understand that we all come off the street and can only bring life experiences. Its these experiences and skills that will land a job.
"seb2351"


I certainly think this is the most important aspect. Dont bother with a third party SW course, because if you have relevant life experiences and can show examples of how you're committed to a) safety, b) teamwork, c) showing initiative and d) customer service, this counts for so much more and if you can consistently hit those points in an interview you'll probably rate fairly well. 

The company will train you in Safeworking, it isn't difficult and they'll make sure you pass to their standards.

Are you willing to travel interstate for a position?


Be careful with this. Depot managers like guys who can stick around and for around $30000 (oh yes) spent on you, they want to see a return on their investment. 

Just quietly, if you're over 30, wife, kids and a big smeg mortgage to pay off, you're in the box seat Only joking...just Wink

It is not all lollypops and puppy dogs out there


Just because you're at the wrong depot, our fortnightly puppy dog parties are a hit!  8)
  seb2351 Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney
Lol, only for another 11 days but! Then I have seen the light and moving to intermodal!

Which, on topic, is another point. Try and stick with your employer untill you have your drivers quals and at least 1 mainline under your belt. Future transfers will be much easier to get as the market for qualified drivers is very competitive. This is not expected to change any time soon as more and more guys retire.
  rook Locomotive Driver

Seb2351 has done a great job, but I see one potential major omission in his Stages, which I believe will often arise in a trainee intake. 

(I realise Seb2351 touches on the topic in his Stage 3 discussion.  But for some employers at least, there's a huge emphasis on Standardised Testing, that comes before interviews, and deserves a Stage of its own.)

Stage 2.5 - Standardised Testing

In-depth, in-person interviews are expensive.  For the employer, in my experience, they typically involve tying up a panel of 3:   someone from HR (who may not know much about driving a train, but will usually be a professional interviewer with a practised BS detector), a traincrew supervisor/manager, and "somebody else" as a tie-breaker.  One or more of the panel will likely be travelling on expenses, and the non-HR types will have been taken away from a day-job.  In all, a half-hour candidate interview will cost the employer several hundred dollars.  The cost of a trainee slot is in the $250K range, so the interview expense is justified, but an employer will typically want to interview at most 3 viable candidates for each available position.

Meanwhile, the initial applicant-to-trainee-position ratio is usually in the 100:1 range.  Many of these will be obvious no-hopers (at least from the employer's perspective), and will be culled by HR during information sessions, or by simple online tests of literacy and numeracy.  Resume-based culling will eliminate another healthy percentage, as Seb2351 has outlined.

Standardised testing is used (again in my experience, which may well differ from Seb2351's) to pare down the candidate pool further, before the in-depth interview stage.  It's cheaper than an interview, and has a veneer of scientific objectivity, which can be useful if a rejected candidate--particularly an internal one--challenges the overall process.  Such testing will usually be at a central testing facility, with ID verification of candidates to prevent someone else from sitting in.

The testing I've experienced has covered:
- Literacy
- Numeracy
- Coordination
- Spatial reasoning
- Instantaneous analysis and short-term memory
- Stress response & recovery
- Concentration
- Personal values (concentrating on risk-taking behaviour and "honesty")

(Note that many existing, top-notch drivers would not necessarily "pass" such a test today; that is only one of many legitimate grounds to question the objectivity and value of the testing process.  But for a trainee applicant, that doesn't matter--for the employers that use such tests, the trainee has to pass, or there won't be an in-depth interview.)

HR will tell you that the tests are designed to defeat study.  That's a crock: within limits, experience of the test itself will allow a determined candidate to improve from one test to another. 

If you fail to pass one of these tests, my critical piece of advice is this:  make *considerable* effort to find out *exactly* how you scored, i.e. what your strengths and weaknesses were, and how far you missed out passing by.  HR will often tell you upfront that such feedback will be available, but in practice it may take persistent calling before you really get it.  Once you have that feedback, either work on your weaknesses for the next intake, or cross that employer off your list.

One other note:  the tests I've experienced are designed to put you through your paces: if you answer a question correctly, you'll be given a harder one, then another even harder one, until you get as many wrong answers as you get right.  (That balance point actually determines your score in each sub-test.) 

In my trainee school, a couple of the guys commented that they almost gave up and walked out on the overall test because they were sure they were failing at one point or another.  In reality, they were probably the brightest of all of us, as they made the grade despite that crisis of confidence.  But the lesson to remember is, don't give up in mid-test; just a few more right answers could be the difference between scoring an interview, or not...
  rook Locomotive Driver

Some other minor points of difference with seb2351's main post.  Again I emphasise that this is not criticism of an excellent post, but probably just represents the different employers and/or paths into the industry that he and I have been involved with.  I've underlined my parts for clarity.

Stage one
a) Where abouts do I want to work...

Always read the EBA, and then do your best to find someone who is actually working it, to find out what the effective rate of pay really is, and--especially--how the roster is structured, for both standard hours and available overtime.

That doesn't mean you can be choosy as a potential trainee--go for any intake that even remotely makes sense for you, financially and geographically.  But have your eyes open as you do.


Stage 2

d) Sound mechanical aptitude.

I agree with all the rest, especially the safety awareness.  But demonstrated mechanical aptitude is not necessarily a prerequisite, based on my trainee class.  However, you'll probably need to be perceived as a quick study if you don't have it up front.

Stage 3

Ok, the next step will be the interview. Some key pointers here:

Always be prepared to talk about examples of having dealt with 1) Safety 2) Communication 3) Teamwork 4) Customer Service, from your recent employment background, whatever it is.

[/quote]
  seb2351 Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney
Some other minor points of difference with seb2351's main post.  Again I emphasise that this is not criticism of an excellent post, but probably justs represents the different employers and/or paths into the industry that he and I have been involved with.  I've underlined my parts for clarity.


"rook"
[/quote]


Shocked I didn't expect my post to the be sticky worthy Shocked
To back up rook's point,  there is so much variability between employers that it is difficult to give a one book approach to how you would get a job. You can use this to your advantage really because eventually, you will find employer who wants your skills.

Just to clarify a point about mechanical aptitude-I am not referring to something complex, merely the ability to work in an environment that is not desk bound. I have seen some people come through, who wouldn't even  know how to put oil in their car. A bit of ability in this regard is what I meant, not something special like being able to build your own engine out of paper clips if you break down. 8)

By all means, don't only take what I have written as gospel. The best resource for information is first hand from people working the job, with the employer your investigating.
  rook Locomotive Driver


Just to clarify a point about mechanical aptitude-I am not referring to something complex, merely the ability to work in an environment that is not desk bound. I have seen some people come through, who wouldn't even  know how to put oil in their car.
"seb2351"


Heh, heh, heh, I (almost) resemble that remark...  Very Happy


A bit of ability in this regard is what I meant, not something special like being able to build your own engine out of paper clips if you break down.
"seb2351"


I could probably build a desk job out of paper clips.  Smile  Or a software project, in a previous life.

But in train-world, "RDC" insists on managing care of any mechanical problems I encounter, whether I know the solution or not.  All I need to be is an intelligent pair of hands attached to a radio...
  davis Beginner

Location: Port Augusta
Hi
Just curious if any guys out there in their mid 40s have had success gaining employment as a trainee with GWA or PN.
Cheers   Very Happy
  fzr560 Chief Train Controller

Hi Just curious if any guys out there in their mid 40s have had success gaining employment as a trainee with GWA or PN. Cheers Very Happy
"davis"

    
                      Sebs class had everything from the boy geniuses, to the sixty-somethings, and everything in between. The young whipper-snappers eventually got use to the slippers and blankets that appeared  around siesta time. 


  seb2351 Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney
Hi Just curious if any guys out there in their mid 40s have had success gaining employment as a trainee with GWA or PN. Cheers Very Happy
"davis"


Yes, they have. The defining barrier that might stop older people (I'm in my 20's so at this stage thats everyone above 25! Razz) would be passing the medicals. As you get older, the interval between medicals gets harder.

That's about it, as long as you can walk on ballast and not going to be collasping behind the controls, you shouldn't have problem. The classes that I have seen go through typically have a young faction, and an older faction who are looking for a career change.



  davis Beginner

Location: Port Augusta
Hi Just curious if any guys out there in their mid 40s have had success gaining employment as a trainee with GWA or PN. Cheers Very Happy
"davis"


Yes, they have. The defining barrier that might stop older people (I'm in my 20's so at this stage thats everyone above 25! Razz) would be passing the medicals. As you get older, the interval between medicals gets harder.

That's about it, as long as you can walk on ballast and not going to be collasping behind the controls, you shouldn't have problem. The classes that I have seen go through typically have a young faction, and an older faction who are looking for a career change.


"seb2351"


Thanks fellas
Recently sat an aptitude test for GWA in Port Augusta and noticed mostly young fellas in our group.
(Didnt pass by the way although i thought i did alright) currently work for BHP olympic dam operating undergroung electric ore trains for last 12yrs.
Probably have another crack if any more come up anyway before i get too old  Laughing
  craig_us Station Master


+1 to a great post. Basically apply what was said above and apply for everything. IF you can get a cleaners job to get in the door thats also an option. Otherwise I've heard PN, possibly QR and within the next 6 months maybe Rio will be looking for trainees. Best of luck there's not many of us that actually want the job for the job but if your one of them I hope you get in.
"ThaneIrwin"


 

Hi Thanelrwin

 

Just wondering where you heard that QR may be looking for trainees within the next 6 months??  I only ask as I have applied for a trainee driver position with them the begining of this year (around March).  I have passed all the testing and had the interview but have been put on hold because of their restructuring.  I have been told by their HR dept that my next step is a reference check.  I would dearly love to get a position with them so any infor you can give me in regards to them starting recruitment again would be great!

  ThaneIrwin Station Master

Townsville is in need of some drivers soon. I believe other places need drivers too with some leaving for the mines, many of them being lazy on false stress leave. Cairns here definately needs them but they are throwing away contracts left right and centre which is totally killing the depo. Lazy drivers are hindering the system. QRN are always looking for drivers and with them starting to really scrape the bottom of the barrel they're trying to train people. The problem of course is very few people have the trainer and assessor qualifications. So exact places i'm not sure but setting up the notifications or checking the QRN and QR sites vacancies positions will help. Also Operational maintainer is a position which is the entry level "car knocker" spot which you should also keep an eye out for. 
  craig_us Station Master


Townsville is in need of some drivers soon. I believe other places need drivers too with some leaving for the mines, many of them being lazy on false stress leave. Cairns here definately needs them but they are throwing away contracts left right and centre which is totally killing the depo. Lazy drivers are hindering the system. QRN are always looking for drivers and with them starting to really scrape the bottom of the barrel they're trying to train people. The problem of course is very few people have the trainer and assessor qualifications. So exact places i'm not sure but setting up the notifications or checking the QRN and QR sites vacancies positions will help. Also Operational maintainer is a position which is the entry level "car knocker" spot which you should also keep an eye out for.
"ThaneIrwin"


 

Oh wow that sounds good, I am really hoping to hear something positive from them by the end of the year at least.  But it is a waiting game right now.  I have a stable job now but I would love to get into the industry as it is a career I can see myself flourishing in, and just being happy doing.  I spoke to HR about 3 weeks ago and was told they have just about finished the restructing that QR has been doing, so they hoped to start looking at applications which were on hold soon.  Fingers crossed I guess, thanks for the feedback.

  ThaneIrwin Station Master

Yea good luck. Their a fairly good employer. If you do get in doing that extra training for trainer and assessor to become a tutor driver is a great thing to do. Pretty much means that you go to the top of the employment pool and can get hired anywhere. As usual just keep spamming those applications and we may one day get an answer.
  craig_us Station Master

Yea good luck. Their a fairly good employer. If you do get in doing that extra training for trainer and assessor to become a tutor driver is a great thing to do. Pretty much means that you go to the top of the employment pool and can get hired anywhere. As usual just keep spamming those applications and we may one day get an answer.
"ThaneIrwin"


Yeah I call QR's HR department every 4-6 weeks to get an update.  I want to look interested without being annoying if you know what I mean.  It's funny you mention getting the skills as a trainer and assessor.  They spoke about those roles in the information session I attended and I thought at the time I would be interested in doing. 

Thanks for the feed back Smile
  Onelongwhistle Junior Train Controller

I would give HR a breather at the moment we had a big meeting with out Regional GM during the week with the
HR person there aswell and she said if any potential new starters were to call more than once a quarter
there application would not be considered even if they were atop the merit list, she said she gets about five calls a day in general.
We know this because a trainee with us has a brother who has applied and is in the same situation.
But what we found interesting from them is that both PN and QR are in a personnel vacuum at present.
Alot of people that wanted to retire (age, jack of it, Pilbarra) can't because of current world financial situation
and are staying on and they know they will retire as soon as things come good but it is almost impossible to get
approval to recruit newstarts. So a massive vacuum is looming when I don't think anyone knows.
The best they can offer at present is to steal quals from other operators. The never ending circle.
  ThaneIrwin Station Master

Trainer and Assessor is a cert 4 I think in training basically. Enables you to create training programs and basically train up to 10 people at a time from what my father can do. Basically its something which makes you stand out from the crowd, gives you more management based opportunities and a payrise usually. On the upside if your a woman give Rio a call and you should get a job quick smart. All their women only do it mostly to get perth office jobs as it's the easiest was in for them. I think soon though there will be a skill shortage of sorts and alot will depend on how companies are going financially. Hopefully everything starts going good again and people start looking at training a bit more. 
  craig_us Station Master


I would give HR a breather at the moment we had a big meeting with out Regional GM during the week with the
HR person there aswell and she said if any potential new starters were to call more than once a quarter
there application would not be considered even if they were atop the merit list, she said she gets about five calls a day in general.
We know this because a trainee with us has a brother who has applied and is in the same situation.
But what we found interesting from them is that both PN and QR are in a personnel vacuum at present.
Alot of people that wanted to retire (age, jack of it, Pilbarra) can't because of current world financial situation
and are staying on and they know they will retire as soon as things come good but it is almost impossible to get
approval to recruit newstarts. So a massive vacuum is looming when I don't think anyone knows.
The best they can offer at present is to steal quals from other operators. The never ending circle.

"Onelongwhistle"



Oh thats disapointing to hear, the QR HR person told me to call back in two weeks the last time i called, hope that it hasn't been taken the wrong way because I called them after 3 weeks......

You don't happen to know how long an application stays valid for do you?  I have passed everything and even had my interview.  It would be heart breaking to get this close and be dropped.
  TheSneakiness Beginner

Location: Brisbane
I just want to say this thread has been great for info.

I've been wanting to drive trains on and off for the last 4 years and it's only recently I've decided I'm tired of being stuck behind a PC for 40 hours a week going nowhere and want to be a train driver more than anything.

I suppose the trip out to the Railway museum at Ipswich didn't help either Wink
  Typhon Assistant Commissioner

Location: I'm that freight train tearing through the sky in the clouds.
 it's only recently I've decided I'm tired of being stuck behind a PC for 40 hours a week going nowhere
"TheSneakiness"


You'll still be stuck behind a PC (of sorts) for 40 hours a week and still be going nowhere!  Razz


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