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Train conductors bear significant responsibility for managing traffic on railroads. Amtrak conductors, in particular, also have the task of taking care of their passengers, conforming to tight timetables and ensuring high standards of safety. After completing a high school diploma, train workers are usually employed as assistant conductors, break operators or laborers before starting a job as an Amtrak conductor.
Conductors are some of the better paid employees working in railroads, outside of management. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, railroad conductors and yardmasters earn an mean annual wage of $52,370, with a median of $49,770. This figures to mean and median hourly wages of $25.18 and $23.93, respectively, as of May 2010. Wages vary slightly according to location, with conductors and yardmen in Wisconsin commanding the highest wages, with an annual wage of $69,520.
Union Rates of Pay
Amtrak conductors are represented by the United Transportation Union, which negotiates rates of pay and raises in a collective bargaining agreement. In the 2010 National Rail Contract, which determined rates of pay for both passenger and freight conductors, the UTU negotiated a cost of living wage increase of 3 percent. According to the UTU, the base rate of pay for Amtrak conductors is $184 per day, which annualizes to an average salary of $47,840. Assistant conductors are compensated at a base rate of $174 per day, which results in an annual salary of $45,240.
In addition to salaries, many union-represented workers -- like Amtrak conductors -- receive significant compensation in health benefits. Amtrak conductors are enrolled in the union's Managed Medical Care Program, which provides health benefits for doctor and dentist visits as well as catastrophic care. The MMCP contracts with several health insurance providers, including Aetna and United Healthcare, to provide conductors' health benefits. The terms of the MMCP are negotiated between the UTU and Amtrak.
Health Plan Terms
According to the UTU's Health and Welfare Plan documentation, the MMCP has a maximum lifetime benefit of $1 million, as of 2008, with an annual deductible of $300 per individual and $900 per family. The maximum out-of-pocket costs for health care expenses under the MMCP is $2,000 per individual and $4,000 per family, and most doctor's visits have a $20 co-pay. In-network health care providers for the UTU Health and Welfare plan generally do not apply toward the annual deductible.
- College Board: Railroad Conductors; 2011
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Rail Transportation Occupations; 2011
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Railroad Conductors and Yardmasters; 2010
- United Transportation Union: Standard Daily and Mileage Rates of Pay; 2011
- United Transportation Union: Amtrak/Commuter; 2011
- United Transportation Union: NRC/UTU Health and Welfare Plan; 2008
- Tim Boyle/Getty Images News/Getty Images