• BNSF Conductor Trainee Barstow, CA Hiring Question

  • General discussion about working in the railroad industry. Industry employers are welcome to post openings here.
General discussion about working in the railroad industry. Industry employers are welcome to post openings here.

Moderator: thebigc

  by thehawkens
Hi all,

My husband and I have been reading these posts for a while, but first time posting. My husband, Rich, is currently in the process of being hired on as a conductor trainee in Barstow, CA. We've already received the conditional offer, passed the medical requirements, and yesterday (1/7/13) received a copy of his background check from LexisNexis. I believe training is scheduled to begin 2/11/13. On the background check there are some areas on his previous employment (3 previous employers) where is says "Pass", "Eligible", and "Decisional" and we're confused on what that means. Rich is originally from the U.K. and came to the U.S. as a Legal Permanent Resident in October 2012. He has a green card and SSN and is legal to work in the states, but obviously all his previous employment was in the U.K. It appears from the details on the background check that they took a little longer than usual to get the verifications because of the holiday period, time difference from US to UK, etc. Anyway, we were just wondering if anyone knew what it meant by "Pass" for the first employer, "Eligible" for the second, and "Decisional" for the third? We think the reason the third employer was marked as "Decisional" is because Rich was an independent sub-contractor for the company in the UK and was not officially on their payroll, but the company did verify he worked for them as a sub-contractor. He did mention this during his interview, so hopefully it won't be a problem!

Any ideas when the final offer decision will come? Thanks in advance for your advice!
  by jz441
Nothing to worry about... As long as the dates match up and there was no "funny business" he will be ok. I also came from the EU and had to go through the same process 15 years ago. Companies that do these background checks are well aware of the time difference. Tell your hubby that there are already 2 Brits working in LA. With his arrival, the Germans will be outnumbered :)... He may very likely end up in LA with current manpower situation.
Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions.

Best regards,
  by Firstout
jz441 wrote:He may very likely end up in LA with current manpower situation.
Gotta get that TWIC ;)
  by simpleman
New to forum and wasn't sure how to post question. But here it goes hopefully someone can help. I have received a conductor trainee conditional offer at BNSF. I have completed all the discussed items and passed background check, medical exam, etc. etc. I am waiting to receive the final letter officially offering me the position as some of you have said. I have some questions Im sure alot of you may feel are important. I am concerned about being furloughed. Currently I am working but have been reduced from full time to on call and would hate to find myself in the same circumstances at BNSF. If furloughed does BNSF give a $2000 a month salary like I have read on this site before to sit at home and wait to be called in? Is being furloughed just the same as being laid off? Is BNSF furloughing as we speak in Jan 2013. If you decide to chase your seniority does BNSF really give you some money to head out and monthly living expenses as well as money to return to your original yard? I read someones post stating that BNSF will give you $2000 when chasing your seniority about $850 monthly for living expenses and $8000 when you return to your primary yard. What does mark up mean? After the 13 week training is over and I pass the final exam is there a high probability that I will be furloughed? It just doesn't make sense. Why would BNSF hire all these people just to furlough them? Please help. I have a family and want to make sure I make the right decisions. I have already lost alot with being on call I can't afford to loose more. The yard I have a conditional offer for is in California. I hear California is busy will I avoid furloughs?
  by jz441
There are no certainties with railroads. First of all, where are you hiring out at? Coal routes tend to stay more consistent throughout the year, compared to mixed traffic or grain that sees a sharp decline at the beginning of the year.

No, they don't pay you to chase your seniority, nor do they pay for your living expenses. What you mentioned was going to a different region as a temp while they hire enough locals. We call it a "Mercenary Work."

$2000/month to sit at home is called the Retention Board. Yes, they still have them, but it is up to the local management weather they want to implement it or to furlough the extra labor.

@Why would BNSF hire all these people just to furlough them?

You have to come to the railroad with understanding that they are hiring you for their convenience, and not because they like you, or in any way care about you. You are just a number filling the the vacancies based on traffic projections and attrition. We all took the risk, and some were never furloughed, while others struggled to make the ends meet. There are no certainties on what will happen in the spring when you finish the training.
  by Firstout
simpleman wrote:The yard I have a conditional offer for is in California. I hear California is busy will I avoid furloughs?
Richmond, Stockton, Riverbank (Modesto), Fresno, Bakersfield, Barstow, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Needles are the BNSF bases in California. All either have guys on the furlough board or no vacancies (with a new hire not even being close to holding.)

Of course, no retention boards were put up this year, and the majority of engineers are also set back. That, coupled with the fact that this time of year is historically slow may mean that by the time you get out of training (May?) you might be able to scrape a spot in a lower seniority terminal (LA, Barstow, Richmond, etc.)

Be forewarned though, there are whole classes with a year or so of seniority that cannot hold anywhere in California.
  by simpleman
What does it mean when you comment "cannot hold anywhere in california". Does this mean hold a permanent route or does it mean work at all? You mentioned whole classes that have a year under their belt and are you saying they are not working at all? I guess Im asking will work a few days a week or none at all? Considering I am on call now working 2 to 3 days a week living with in-laws because I lost everything I would be making a career change hoping that in the long run I will better off. I can afford to work a few days with the hopes that after a few years I can work my 40 hours. Am I being unrealistic? These guys you mentioned not holding a year out of training are they just not working at all? I don't have a problem chasing the work? Im willing to leave and work where there is work? So you mentioned the retention board. You are saying there is no guarantee that we will get $2000 if furloughed? Just seems tough to make a decision to go work for the railroads when the possibility is high that I will get laid off right out of training. Doesn't make sense. It's a gamble. Please help. I take everyones input seriously and into consideration when I make my decision.
  by jz441
Here is the reality...

"Can't hold anywhere in California" means that there are no vacancies, and people a are temporarily laid off until the traffic pics back up. Every year after Christmas, traffic volumes drop off by approximately 20-30%, causing the reduction in labor. By March, volumes pick up and generally everyone is back to work.

There are no words on retention boards yet... In my opinion, they will have to put them back up if too many are furloughed (laid off).
I understand your concerns... If you can tough out your first 3 years in this work environment, you will be set for life. I started at age 22 and getting furloughed meant party time. It's much tougher once you have a family and bills, or as I call it "the ball and chain" :)

Feel free to PM me if you have any questions. I work in So Cal.
  by DMFH83
There are people furloughed all over the system right now. I hired out in march 2012 and worked through September steadily. I was then put on the retention board til november and then furloughed for about two weeks and worked all the way through Christmas. I was furloughed again December 28th and got recalled 4 days ago and will most likely go back to the retention board on Friday.

Ok let me explain the retention board before I go any further. The old retention board agreement ended in the summer/fall of last year...the one that gave $2000/month and not having to protect any days at all. There is a new retention board agreement that was proposed saying in a nutshell that we had to protect 2 days a week for a little more than the $2000/month. Each terminal had to vote on it and many voted against it. Those terminals that voted against it don't have a retention board at all. If there are no vacancies...employees are furloughed...with no pay! My terminal was one that voted for it. Let me be clear though...I am 100% against the new retention board and we are voting next month on whether we are going to keep it or cancel it. The reason I don't like it is because we now have to protect 2 days a week and they can use it as a cheap extra board. Say they put 30 people on the retention board. They could technically have 4 people protecting every day of the week. With that many, they could go MONTHS without recalling people to active duty because they will never need them. Oh and if you're on the retention board, if you miss one call, you lose the entire guarantee for that half. The second missed call will get you removed from the retention board for 120 days. So before you start to think it's a good deal making $2000+/month, it's really not all that great.

So yeah...if youre furloughed...you won't get paid at all. During your first few years, you have to expect to get furloughed during the slow season. It's just part of the business. The reason they hire so many people every year is because of the projections not only for business needs, but also projections for people that can retire. Sometimes both backfire. Business won't be as good as they planned and not as many people will retire as projected, leading to over hiring. You have to look at the big picture though. Like it's already been said, you'll be set in 3 or 4 years. I left a very good paying job to come to the railroad last year and it's been difficult at times, but I just look at the long haul. You have to prepare your family for the worst. Honestly in my opinion, if you get out of class in the spring, you'll more than likely be good working through the winter til business slows down, but that's not a guarantee.

Chasing work isn't as easy as it seems either. Some terminals won't pay to familiarize at their yard while others will. My terminal, for example doesn't. The reason many don't is because of that reason. They don't want people from all over the country coming in and taking jobs away from their own locals unless theyre willing to go a month or so without getting paid while they familiarize.

Don't get scared of everything everyone is telling you. The positives far outweigh the negatives. This job will pay you probably more than you've ever made in your life for very, very, very minimal manual labor. They pay for the sacrifices you're making of being at work so much, and they pay very well for those sacrifices. I made almost as much money in 13 weeks of training and working pretty much from July-September and a month in the winter as I did all of last year at my last job. Trust me...it's worth it.
  by Firstout
Santa Fe will pay familiarization trips at brakeman's rate if coming from another Santa Fe terminal (or if it slips through the system)

My advice to you:
Hire on, learn the trade, hang on, DON'T get overwhelmed by the amount of material and the away from home time. I guarantee that you'll be okay. Just don't make any snap decisions
  by matmn06
to give you a little perspective i hired on as a conductor approx 2 years ago it was busier than heck working every 12 hours however not in the yard just wasnt for me and not in cali as far as retention bboards go at my location and some surrouding they do have those here if you do hire on do not go buy a bunch of stuff it can be very tempting with the money you will be making i paid more in taxes this year than my wife made however when january hit business droped i was down to the last spot on the switchman extraboard which really sucks when your used to the road however it was slow for about two weeks now im back to working the road every 12 hours i guess what im trying to say is take the job if you can while you may get furloughed for january theough march you can make enough in those other months to get you and your family through it and then some as long as you dont buy big ticket items and when things change out here they change very quickly. however this life is definetly not for everyone good luck