Amtrak Training:

Improvements Needed for Employees Who Inspect and Maintain Rail Equipment

RCED-93-68: Published: Dec 8, 1992. Publicly Released: Dec 10, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated Amtrak's training programs for new locomotive engineers, assistant conductors, signal maintainers, and mechanics (carmen) and foremen in the Amtrak Mechanical Department.

GAO found that: (1) the engineer training program is centrally designed and managed, mandatory for all new engineers, and designed to be consistently delivered to all trainees; (2) the assistant conductor training is centrally developed and mandatory for all new assistant conductors; (3) Amtrak promotes trainees to positions as signal maintainers without ensuring that they complete important classroom training; (4) Amtrak's training programs for most of its carmen and mechanical foremen are not centrally designed and managed or consistently applied; (5) Amtrak does not routinely train its foremen in the multiple crafts they supervise; and (6) foremen are expected to decide whether carman trainees have the skills to become fully qualified carmen when they may not have the technical skills to make this determination.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Amtrak's Communication and Signal Training Advisory Committee has completed its evaluation of all existing C&S training, issuing course updates that ensure that necessary skills are being taught. It is now developing a new advanced C&S training course. Amtrak determined that it would need an additional $310,000 to provide the training to all eligible employees. A training schedule was established in 1993. Over 90 percent of employees have Part 3 training, nearly 80 percent have completed Part 4 training, and all training will be complete by December 1994.

    Recommendation: The President, Amtrak, should direct the Vice President for Engineering and the Director of the Human Resources Division to: (1) assess the signal maintainer training program to determine what mix of training is needed; (2) determine what resources are needed to provide the training; and (3) establish controls and time frames to ensure that all signal maintainers receive this training.

    Agency Affected: National Railroad Passenger Corporation (AMTRAK)

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Amtrak has completed its review of training needs for setup carmen and developed course materials for 23 training modules requiring 15 to 20 days of classroom training. Each module includes a written test. Amtrak has 100 carmen in various divisions that have competed the training. In addition, Amtrak has hired a consultant to evaluate skills needed for Amtrak's 3 other mechanical crafts. This effort will be completed in September 1994.

    Recommendation: To close the gaps in training for carmen and mechanical foremen, the President, Amtrak, should direct the Vice President for Engineering, the Chief Mechanical Officer, and the Director of the Human Resources Division to cooperate to identify which basic carman skills are needed throughout Amtrak's divisions, assess the current set-up training programs to determine how those needs are being met, and develop a single set-up training program that ensure that all carmen possess the knowledge and skills necessary to do the job.

    Agency Affected: National Railroad Passenger Corporation (AMTRAK)

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Amtrak has reviewed its mechanical foreman training and developed a new training course to ensure foremen have adequate knowledge of the crafts they supervise. A pilot of the 120-hour program was given to 15 foremen at Beech Grove, completed August 26, 1994. All Amtrak foremen and general foremen will receive this training no later than 1998.

    Recommendation: To close the gaps in training for carmen and mechanical foremen, the President, Amtrak, should direct the Vice President for Engineering, the Chief Mechanical Officer, and the Director of the Human Resources Division to cooperate to develop and provide training to ensure that all mechanical foremen possess at least minimal technical skill in safety sensitive tasks performed by the four crafts they supervise.

    Agency Affected: National Railroad Passenger Corporation (AMTRAK)

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Amtrak made some preliminary estimates of the costs involved in developing a comprehensive training program. However, due to its desperate financial situation and its major service and personnel reductions, its attention has been focused on how to sustain operations.

    Recommendation: As part of the effort to identify training needs and establish training programs, Amtrak officials should determine what costs would be associated with the training. If adequate funding is not available within Amtrak, requests for such funding should be included in Amtrak's next budget request to Congress.

    Agency Affected: National Railroad Passenger Corporation (AMTRAK)

 

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