High gas prices keep NJ Transit engineers busy
From left: BLET members John Snogan, Tom Donovan and Garry Tyo.
While record-high gas prices are huring the wallets of most Americans, they are having an unexpected positive impact for BLET members at New Jersey Transit.
According to BLET General Chairman Robert Vallochi, ridership is up and the railroad is expanding to keep up with increasing demand.
"We really have no complaints over here," Chairman Vallochi said. "Things are going really well for us and they should continue to go well for us, especially with the increasing price of gasoline.
In response to rising gas prices and growing congestion in the North East, NJT is expanding operations. According to Brother Vallochi, the carrier is hiring new locomotive engineers, the locomotive fleet is expanding by leaps and bounds and ridership is up.
"New Jersey Transit is expanding like crazy," he said. "There is construction everywhere, new stations are opening, yards are expanding. This growth is good for our future."
In response to increasing ridership and demand, New Jersey Transit is expanding its operations and increasing its fleet of cars and locomotives. In order to keep up with this expansion, the carrier is hiring over 100 new locomotive engineers this year and - unlike some railroads - New Jersey Transit has given the BLET the authority to train engineers on the new diesels that are being added to the fleet.
"Two of our members created the training program," Chairman Vallochi said. "We have a lot of talented people on our property and the carrier allowed us to not only assemble the training manual, but also to take over the training."
In addition to the new engineers, Chairman Vallochi is anticipating a lot of retirements in the next several years.
"We have over 400 engineers on the property and 85 percent of these have 10 years or less of experience. The other 15 percent are nearing retirement," Vallochi said. "This will give us more opportunity for training of new hires and growing the BLET membership on the property."
The BLET also has the distinction of being the only union on the property to have a contract. The current contract runs through 2008.
"Everyone else is two years behind," Chairman Vallochi said. "We were very fortunate this time.
"This was the quickest we had ever been able to come to an agreement, and it gave us the opportunity to set the pattern, as opposed to having to follow a pattern that was set by another organization," he said.
© 2006 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen