Short staffing leading to cuts? (RPA Article)

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Amtrakfflyer

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Typical RPA, “ we can’t do this, we can’t do that, etc etc”.


Well what we can and should be doing is demand competent management.

Unfortunately I see the cuts coming and I take this blurb from RPA as Amtrak’s way to leak the information.
 
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neroden

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While there may be an actual shortage of workers, and it takes time to hire new ones, I know that Amtrak can reassign employees all over the country.

Therefore a competent management faced with a shortage will retain daily service on the National Network trains, whose revenue has held up, and if necessary reduce service on the NEC, whose revenue has collapsed.

However, Amtrak's management is famous for its shooting-self-in-foot incompetence. RPA's role is partly to showcase that to Congress and force Amtrak management to stop shooting itself in the foot.
 

danasgoodstuff

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Typical RPA, “ we can’t do this, we can’t do that, etc etc”.


Well what we can and should be doing is demand competent management.

Unfortunately I see the cuts coming and I take this blurb from RPA as Amtrak’s way to leak the infot
I'm not getting what your beef with RPA is here, as I see it the're just reporting info of interest to their members. Perhaps there's some history here that I'm missing?
 

lordsigma

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I’m not going to bash RPA. They have worked hard to get some very favorable language into recent legislation which is their main purpose - and they have been effective in that purpose. They have zero control over Amtrak management. All they can do is advocate. The labor shortage is real and the main thing threatening the cuts is the coming vaccine mandate deadline in November. Some employees are refusing particularly on the T&E side of things.
 

20th Century Rider

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Very complex issues for sure!

Staffing is effected by funding and covid mandate to get vaccinated or be terminated. Both funding and staffing issues are causing great pain for pax. Where is management on this page??? Everyone asks... Huh? What? We need a unified force [management agreeing with governing agencies willing to fund what needs to be funded] that's headed in a positive direction regarding employee work loads, service priorities, and comprehensive structured planning.

Um... and what are we going to do about the vaccination issue coming due Nov 22???
 

Trogdor

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All I can say is, It's not that simple this time around.
Exactly. If you want to lose even more employees, all you have to do is take a bunch from Washington or New York and tell them they have to move to Minot, ND, next week.

There’s a federal mandate that will require transportation workers to be vaccinated. This is going to hit all forms of public transportation very hard over the coming weeks and months; and it will affect some more than others.

I’ll leave it to others to speculate what parts of the country may be home to the most vaccine-hesitant (to put it mildly) staff, and what trains operate through those areas.
 

cirdan

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The whole thing seems pretty crazy to me . In all likelihood anti passenger rail people will be growing their stranglehold on Congress come the mid terms next year . If we want to do something good for Amtrak it’s now or never . With Amtrak joe in charge and a workable majority , what else do we need ?

instead Amtrak is being train wrecked into a situation that will make it vulnerable , under performing and easy to stick a dagger into its back .

what are they thinking ?
 

Just-Thinking-51

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Had a friend apply for extra board position at Amtrak. Radio silence from Amtrak. Ok pretty sure it was a recall position and not a outside application position at that time. But good paying union work is still in demand.

The whole application for jobs thing sucks pond scum. This apply to Amtrak and private companies too.

If you haven’t try to get hired recently before the Pandemic it was very frustrating. Just last spring I was poking around and it was just as frustrating. (Might be a age thing now that I am over 50.)

Maybe today it different with these vaccine requirements but I doubt it.
 

City of Miami

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Charlottesville Area Transit used to be a very good local transit agency. No longer. Everyday they tweet out 4 or 5 holes in the schedule for the day that they cannot maintain for some reason - I honestly don't know if it's lack of drivers or equipment, management never gives an explanation, just feeble insincere apologies. Unlike Amtrak even with, or perhaps due to, fare free they have lost all their ridership except those of us who have no alternative except walking which I resort to as much as possible.
 

Willbridge

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Charlottesville Area Transit used to be a very good local transit agency. No longer. Everyday they tweet out 4 or 5 holes in the schedule for the day that they cannot maintain for some reason - I honestly don't know if it's lack of drivers or equipment, management never gives an explanation, just feeble insincere apologies. Unlike Amtrak even with, or perhaps due to, fare free they have lost all their ridership except those of us who have no alternative except walking which I resort to as much as possible.
Transit systems in diverse parts of the country are having trouble staffing operator positions. School districts have been cutting routes. Management employees have been taking turns in the dining room of the retirement facility that I live in as lower paid employees are lured away.
 

neroden

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Had a friend apply for extra board position at Amtrak. Radio silence from Amtrak. Ok pretty sure it was a recall position and not a outside application position at that time. But good paying union work is still in demand.
Poor hiring practices sure aren't gonna help Amtrak fill those jobs, are they.

(And I am reading about how spectacularly incompetent many companies' hiring practices are on a daily basis; at least Amtrak doesn't use automated keyword filtering or arbitrary credentialism to filter out qualifed, competent workers, which is apparently common!)
 

OBS

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First of all, the bottom-seniority Extra Board employees are used to it. While Amtrak may not be able to do this to everyone, Amtrak certainly has some flexibility in moving people.



Fine. I'll speculate. The vast majority of crew bases are in major cities. These, uniformly, have fewer antivaxxers than rural areas. However, I went ahead and checked the actual vaccination rates by county. There should particularly be no problems in the cities of the Northeast, the West Coast, or in Chicago. Unless Amtrak has a particularly skewed population of engineers and conductors.

I don't know if Amtrak's crew districts have changed since 2006, but...


- I cannot see any plausible problem on the Lake Shore Limited. The bases are Albany, Buffalo, and Toledo (this is the county with the lowest vaccination rate among these), and if necessary it's not that much of a stretch to ask someone from New York City or Chicago to work in one of those locations for a while. Or reverse the home/away direction of the crew districts if Toledo's a problem.

- Likewise I see no plausible problems with the Capitol Limited (Toledo, Pittsburgh, DC).

- I also cannot imagine any problems on the Coast Starlight (Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, LA).

So there might be some problems on the other trains. Since the Sunset and the Cardinal are already three-a-week, I will ignore them.

- For the Empire Builder, Seattle, Portland, Spokane (possible problem), Shelby (likely problem), St Cloud (likely problem), Milwaukee, Chicago.
- The California Zephyr uses Chicago, Ottumwa (possible problem), Denver, Salt Lake, Reno. It would be odd if anything other than Ottumwa was a problem.
- The Southwest Chief has Chicago, Kansas City, La Junta (possible problem), Albuquerque, LA. Again it would be odd if anything other than La Junta were a problem.
- The Texas Eagle uses Chicago, Little Rock (possible problem), Fort Worth (conceivable problem), San Antonio (conceivable problem).
- The CONO uses Chicago, Carbondale (possible problem), Memphis (likely problem), New Orleans.
- The Crescent uses New Orleans, Meridian (possible problem), Charlotte (conceivable problem), Raleigh, Richmond (likely problem), and the NEC.
- Silver Service uses Miami, Jacksonville (possible problem), Florence SC (likely problem), Raleigh, and the NEC.

Unless Amtrak has an exceptionally large number of antivaxxer idiots as engineers and conductors, and they're willing to accept being fired for cause without unemployment compensation (when they're informed that this is how it works, most of the antivaxxers just get vaccinated), most of these should be manageable. Asking a few NEC people to work out of Richmond for a while isn't going to cause mass resignations. La Junta or Shelby, yeah, maybe.

From comments I've read Amtrak is currently not managing its system for vaccine verification properly, and employees are having trouble getting their vaccine cards registered, so there are probably a lot of vaccinated employees who Amtrak management hasn't figured out are vaccinated. Hopefully Amtrak will get that straightened out ASAP.
You live in a dream world...Even if you do get T&E employees to transfer to a new base, They have to get qualified on operating rules and physical characteristics of their new route, which takes several weeks if not months.

Also, to clarify, Amtrak does not transfer "employees " all over the country, they transfer the jobs. Whether they can get employees to move to take these positions is another matter.....
 

Just-Thinking-51

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Poor hiring practices sure aren't gonna help Amtrak fill those jobs, are they.

(And I am reading about how spectacularly incompetent many companies' hiring practices are on a daily basis; at least Amtrak doesn't use automated keyword filtering or arbitrary credentialism to filter out qualifed, competent workers, which is apparently common!)
I am not sure they don’t use those systems. I suspect many of the job I have applied in the past use those systems. It seem very common. So why would Amtrak not use these systems.
 

neroden

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You live in a dream world...Even if you do get T&E employees to transfer to a new base, They have to get qualified on operating rules and physical characteristics of their new route, which takes several weeks if not months.

Also, to clarify, Amtrak does not transfer "employees " all over the country, they transfer the jobs. Whether they can get employees to move to take these positions is another matter.....
Well, if employees prefer to not have work than to have work, then yes, not much to be done...

...which I understand completely when it's really-badly-paid extremely-bad-working-conditions work like low-paid retail or high patient-to-staff-ratio nursing. But this seems frankly unlikely for Amtrak Engineers, which has always been a coveted position and is quite well-paid.

Amtrak HAD plenty of weeks and months to retrain employees before the vaccination mandate became enforced, at least if Amtrak management started early enough, which being Amtrak management, perhaps they didn't.

Here's two more reasons why three-a-week would be unjustifiable management idiocy:

-- a minor shortage of conductors doesn't require reducing the number of days a train operates. Most trains operate with several assistant conductors. Assistant conductors can be qualified and promoted to conductor pretty quickly, certainly within the time span which Amtrak *has had* (mind you, management may have been wasting that time, as noted previously). In this case, the train might need to run shorter due to a lack of ACs, but it wouldn't need to run less than daily. I am reading the SMART agreement right now; there would have to be some really severe shortages to run out of conductors, far more than seem plausible.

-- if there really is a shortage of engineers meaning the train can't run every day, the first thing to try would, obviously, be to run *6* days a week. Going to 3 immediately smacks of a hostile agenda; it has nothing to do with staff shortages.

I certainly wouldn't put it past Amtrak management to have sat on their hands, failed to hire people, failed to promote people, failed to plan for the long-in-the-works vaccine mandate, and wasted the time they needed to get people qualified. I still don't think that would be excusable in any way, and even if they have a shortage due to their own incompetence, mindless three-a-weekery is not the solution.

Let me put this another way. If the rumor was "Nearly all the engineers out of Shelby, Spokane, and St. Cloud have refused to get vaccinated, we may have to suspend the Empire Builder", that would sound entirely plausible and reasonable to me. "Three a week all over the country" isn't a plausible response to regionally-distributed vaccine refusal -- it doesn't pass the smell test.
 
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OBS

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Well, if employees prefer to not have work than to have work, then yes, not much to be done...

...which I understand completely when it's really-badly-paid extremely-bad-working-conditions work like low-paid retail or high patient-to-staff-ratio nursing. But this seems frankly unlikely for Amtrak Engineers, which has always been a coveted position and is quite well-paid.

Amtrak HAD plenty of weeks and months to retrain employees before the vaccination mandate became enforced, at least if Amtrak management started early enough, which being Amtrak management, perhaps they didn't.

Here's two more reasons why three-a-week would be unjustifiable management idiocy:

-- a minor shortage of conductors doesn't require reducing the number of days a train operates. Most trains operate with several assistant conductors. Assistant conductors can be qualified and promoted to conductor pretty quickly, certainly within the time span which Amtrak *has had* (mind you, management may have been wasting that time, as noted previously). In this case, the train might need to run shorter due to a lack of ACs, but it wouldn't need to run less than daily. I am reading the SMART agreement right now; there would have to be some really severe shortages to run out of conductors, far more than seem plausible.

-- if there really is a shortage of engineers meaning the train can't run every day, the first thing to try would, obviously, be to run *6* days a week. Going to 3 immediately smacks of a hostile agenda; it has nothing to do with staff shortages.

I certainly wouldn't put it past Amtrak management to have sat on their hands, failed to hire people, failed to promote people, failed to plan for the long-in-the-works vaccine mandate, and wasted the time they needed to get people qualified. I still don't think that would be excusable in any way, and even if they have a shortage due to their own incompetence, mindless three-a-weekery is not the solution.

Let me put this another way. If the rumor was "Nearly all the engineers out of Shelby, Spokane, and St. Cloud have refused to get vaccinated, we may have to suspend the Empire Builder", that would sound entirely plausible and reasonable to me. "Three a week all over the country" isn't a plausible response to regionally-distributed vaccine refusal -- it doesn't pass the smell test.
One minor correction to what you have posted. There are ZERO Amtrak trains that operate with several assistant Conductors. All LD trains operate with One Conductor and One Asst. Conductor. There may be a few NEC trains that have a second asst. Conductor, but are usually regionals with 8 or more cars, or a strategy move to get the person in place to work a different train on the return
 

jis

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One minor correction to what you have posted. There are ZERO Amtrak trains that operate with several assistant Conductors. All LD trains operate with One Conductor and One Asst. Conductor. There may be a few NEC trains that have a second asst. Conductor, but are usually regionals with 8 or more cars, or a strategy move to get the person in place to work a different train on the return
Indeed! It is also another way of stating that none of the LD trains have enough cars to justify a second Assistant Conductor,whcih in itself is a sorry state of affairs that have devolved to over the years. The incredible shrinking LD trains of Amtrak! Maybe someone can write a fairy tale about it :D
 

neroden

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One minor correction to what you have posted. There are ZERO Amtrak trains that operate with several assistant Conductors. All LD trains operate with One Conductor and One Asst. Conductor. There may be a few NEC trains that have a second asst. Conductor, but are usually regionals with 8 or more cars, or a strategy move to get the person in place to work a different train on the return
"The understaffing dates back longer than I realized!"
 

Acela150

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One minor correction to what you have posted. There are ZERO Amtrak trains that operate with several assistant Conductors. All LD trains operate with One Conductor and One Asst. Conductor. There may be a few NEC trains that have a second asst. Conductor, but are usually regionals with 8 or more cars, or a strategy move to get the person in place to work a different train on the return
IIRC, and I'll have to do some digging.. The Corridor trains with the exception of Acela trains are supposed to have 2 AC's as per the Contract. I believe that any train 7 cars or more requires a 2nd AC. I do have to look into that though.
 

cirdan

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-- if there really is a shortage of engineers meaning the train can't run every day, the first thing to try would, obviously, be to run *6* days a week. Going to 3 immediately smacks of a hostile agenda; it has nothing to do with staff shortages.

I certainly wouldn't put it past Amtrak management to have sat on their hands, failed to hire people, failed to promote people, failed to plan for the long-in-the-works vaccine mandate, and wasted the time they needed to get people qualified. I still don't think that would be excusable in any way, and even if they have a shortage due to their own incompetence, mindless three-a-weekery is not the solution.
If Amtrak management has been sitting on its hands and failed to realize the gravity of the situation or was hoping the problem would fix itself, maybe they should be pushing for an extension of the deadline rather than wrecking their product and hence only making their own failings obvious for all to see and giving their detractors and haters the ammunition to use against them.

Amtrak is otherwise so good at thinking up excuses. So why not think one up now and use it to lobby for a deadline extension or at least a transitional phase.
 

MARC Rider

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I will note for the record that the Lake Shore Limited traditionally had 8 or more cars.
The Lake Shore Limited I rode last week had 2 sleepers, 2 coaches, a diner and the baggage car in the New York Section, and 1 sleeper, the business class/cafe and 2 coaches in the Boston section, for a total of 10 cars.
 
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OBS

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The LD trains operate under different Union Contracted rules than the NEC. All LD trains can operate with one Cdr and one Asst Cdr per the Union agreement. This was negotiated approx. 10 years ago, and a portion of the cost savings is distributed to crew to compensate for the extra work required.
 

neroden

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The LD trains operate under different Union Contracted rules than the NEC. All LD trains can operate with one Cdr and one Asst Cdr per the Union agreement. This was negotiated approx. 10 years ago, and a portion of the cost savings is distributed to crew to compensate for the extra work required.
This does seem like understaffing for a train which -- in the case of the Lake Shore Limited -- has occasionally had five coaches, three sleepers, and a business class car. While it may be allowed by union contract (which is fine) at some point it starts to seem inadvisable from a business-sense perspective.
 
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