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Western Railroad Discussion > crew van driver?

Date: 07/27/03 20:45
crew van driver?
Author: chabang

i was wondering if anyone on this board is a crew van driver for the railroads? what is this job like? good money? good hours? any company bennifits for this position?
just curious as this sounds like an idel train buffs job.

Date: 07/27/03 21:10
Re: crew van driver?
Author: Gyralite

I'm not a crew van driver but can tell you it's very irregular hours (just like railroading) and they don't pay very well. As you point out, it's a great way to be "around" the railroad but don't expect to get rich.

You may know that Renzenberger Vans drives for UP and Milepost Vans drives for BNSF.

I know Amtrak uses Renzenberger but not sure if they also use Milepost.

Good luck.

Date: 07/27/03 21:34
Re: crew van driver?
Author: supt

The ones Ive talked too are mostly retired people looking for something to do. Minimum wage a litte extra for wait time if over a half hour. Road drivers on call, yard drivers 8 hour shifts.

Date: 07/27/03 21:59
Re: crew van driver?
Author: sigerson

supt wrote:

> The ones Ive talked too are mostly retired people looking for
> something to do. Minimum wage a litte extra for wait time if
> over a half hour. Road drivers on call, yard drivers 8 hour
> shifts.

Yup. A friend was a crew driver for awhile based out of Joplin, Missouri. "On call," as supt said. Irregular hours. No idea where you're going next. He got calls at 3 am to go all the way to Heavener. Some of the crews were sociable, but others could make a long ride even longer.

Steve Holmes

Date: 07/27/03 22:14
Re: crew van driver?
Author: beans

most of our van drivers (renzenburger) are convicts, some with ankle bracelets, child molesters, etc etc. I'm not kidding.
They actually hire at the parole office.
I think the only requirements are no schooling beyond 6th grade, 3 teeth, bad BO, ability to sleep for hours while waiting on a train, then sleep on the hiway too-

we do have some nice retired folk who just wanna be around trains, but they are a minority....

beans, its not an opinion, its reality.

Date: 07/27/03 22:17
Re: crew van driver?
Author: TriangleRoute

The contract van company JRTS carried crews for CSX, at least in the south. The pay was horrible, from all accounts, so was the lifestyle. From what I rememebr, the road drivers were paid .13 cents per mile on the road (you do the math there.....) with some kind of houlry stipend for wait time, etc. Basically came out to just above min wage. Hence, most drivers were either retiree's, who were terrific, or, slugs.....unemployable folks, ex cons, and others from the lower tiers of society. Just my observations from my time on the road with CSX.
El Centro CA

Date: 07/27/03 22:36
Re: crew van driver?
Author: itrr

Wow the drivers here in Vegas seem to be real nice people. Polite to the "known" railfanners and not ex felons. I also thought of driving for them but the pay is/was bad and the hours are terrible. I'll stick to my city bus. (The next time either UP #2001 or #2002 change crews while I drive under them on Charelston Blvd., I'm going to hurt someone!) LOL

Date: 07/27/03 23:26
crew van driver?
Author: santa-fe-steam

As contract for-hire carriers the shuttle companies are required to follow DOT and CAL PUC rules. Drivers have to have a commercial license, random drug testing, and a DMV background check that shows no serious moving violations within the past three years. Driving logs must be maintained, and shown to any peace officer on request. The company hiring the driver would determine their criteria for experience and how many points they might be willing to accept on the DMV for a new hire. Background checks are mandatory in California, and must be documented for the annual CHP inspections.

The van also has to be annually inspected by the CHP, as does the carrier itself. I have seen some pretty bad vans that I would probably red tag, but I suppose they might meet minimum standards. I don't see any excuse for dented up vans, with bad interiors and average tires to be out on the road with railroad workers, but it happens.

Wages border on the minimum, and hours are irregular. I'm sure there would be a lot of enjoyable days if you enjoyed being around the railroads and their employees, but probably a lot of long nights hustling out to outlawed trains to pick up and drop off crews.

The railroads put themselves at risk for liability when they expose their employees to being on duty while riding in these vans, so I would hope that both UP and BNSF would occasionally do their own inspection as to the qualifications of the drivers, and the road worthiness of the vans. As the contracting party, they can legally request to see the drivers log, and most recent vehicle inspection on demand. If the driver fails to provide the log, or does not have a log, or the vehicle has not been written off as no safety defects prior to being put into service, the contractor can immediately put the vehicle out of service.

Due to the low wages I suspect that you won't find the cream of the crop applying for the job, but I would guess that it would be an attractive job for a retiree, in which case you could get some pretty nice people that would handle the vans in a professional manner.

Date: 07/27/03 23:32
Re: crew van driver?
Author: karldotcom

there was a female Milepost driver in Stockton who was caught hooking in the van between runs for BNSF....

Date: 07/27/03 23:33
crew van driver? Don't!
Author: Michael_SD40-2

Beans couldn't have said it better. I could swear I have seen some of these drivers on the Jerry Springer show. There are some real rejects out there. Heck, some of the railroad crews are frightened to even get into some of those vans alone. The pay is low, the skill requirement is low to nothing, the hours are horrible and they aren't even represented by a union although talk was several years back that, the van drivers were trying to get represented by the UTU. There are some very friendly retirees out there who go above and beyond for us and we let them know our appreciation. It's usually the younger people who have the long rap sheets, bad attitudes, and have done some time. We're talking skid row here people. I think a successful scared straight program could be developed by showing potential high school dropouts what they may amount to if they decide to drop out. Live up to your full potential and enjoy watching railroad action another way.

BNSF Southwest Division

Date: 07/28/03 00:11
Re: crew van driver? Don't!
Author: OHRY

Yeah I remember that nice (see: horrifying) ride in the taxi when I was down there in El Paso on that roadswitcher. I don't think I've ever been more scared in my life.
Chris S.

Date: 07/28/03 06:01
Re: crew van driver? Don't!
Author: 458.7

Alex Transportation is the contractor in Oregon (out of Eugene). They hire mainly retirees. There is no commercial ticket needed in Oregon. They also have been advertising for women drivers as well.


Date: 07/28/03 09:34
Author: bn001

In addition to Oregon, Alex's is in Washington, though some of these jobs have been turned back to BNSF.

One word: DON'T. The pay is min wage, the conditions and hours are terrible, the vans are frequently a safety hazard, you can be treated like sh*t by the RR crews, and your fellow drivers are all social rejects that bathe infrequently.

Oh, and the person that said that it doesn't require a CDL-any van that carries more than 15 or 16 requires a CDL. Alex's was in the process of implementing this when they realized that few of their workers could pass the medical screening for a CDL (the only way around it is get an exemption). So they asked workers to forge documentation, which was then sent to the DOT. BAD place to work.

Date: 07/28/03 10:51
Re: I agree with Beans
Author: NORAC

Minus a couple yard and a couple road drivers that I know......most are very scary individuals and one comes to mind that must live in his car or something.....I believe he has yet to bathe this summer.....others require a crewmember to stay awake and keep an eye on them while deadheading.

as far as the ex-cons getting the job from their parole officers......yeah I can see that.

Chabang....if your thinking about this kind of job from a foamers aspect as a way of getting closer to trains....be prepared for a low quality of life and even lower pay.

Good Luck

Date: 07/28/03 12:42
Couldn't disagree more............
Author: LloydWilliams

with some of the above posts. Of course, I'm speaking of Bakersfield, Ca. Other areas around the country might not be as careful as to who they hire.

I worked for Renzenberger for over a year, and at that time, worked with both SP and BNSF. I found the people very stable, with the person in charge extremely conscientious. As for the crews, they were great, but always tired, and would check out your driving for a while before going to sleep.

I did this not for the money, but to be around trains. Yes, the pay and hours aren't great, but I loved it. Many great experiences and stories.

Check with some drivers in your area and see what they think.

This subject has been kicked around before with varied responses. I noted the same variation in opinions from the crews I ferried. Some loved their job, others detested it.

Go for it....you're not locked in permanently. Make your own judgement!


Date: 07/28/03 14:33
I agree with Lloyd Williams
Author: steamjocky

In my time with the railroad, Renzenberger has had the best drivers. At least out of Bakersfield and at Stockton/Lathrop with some exceptions as usual. In fact, I think Mr. Williams has hauled me around quite a bit.

But regardless of what you decide to do, go for what you think you'd like to do. I will not deter you from working as a van driver. But, if you do decide to do this, you must remember a couple of things. First of all, if you don't know where you're going, DO NOT hesitate to tell the crew you don't know where you are going. They will be glad to to you. Here's what happened to me on a deadhead trip from West Colton to Bakersfield.

The driver said he knew how to get from West Colton to Bakersfield. So, after about a 13 or 14 hour trip to West Colton, we (conductor and I) took a little snooze on the way home. A few hours later I woke up and found myself coming into the outskirts of Santa Maria, CA. Needless to say, but I'll say it anyway, my conductor and I were pissed! We had only gone about 100 miles out of our way to get home. I don't think I ever saw that guy again.

So, if you really think you'd like to do this, go for it! But I think you might want to ask some drivers what they think of the job first. Just be sure to ask as many as you can to get a wide spectrum of answers and opinions.

Good luck.


Date: 07/28/03 17:30
Re: I agree with Lloyd Williams
Author: NORAC

Maybe it's region by region then......out this way they will put anything short of a corpse in the seat.

Date: 07/29/03 16:54
Re: crew van driver?
Author: walleye

Most of the ones for Rezenberger around Chicagoland are ex-cons or like someone else said wearing ankle bracklets. As a matter of fact the guy that drove us back to our home terminal yesterday was in Cook County jail over the weekend. The only ones that I enjoy getting a ride from are the older retired people. The pay for the amount of time put in is pathetic.

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