Freight Rail Employees Reach New Pay, Compensation Milestones

Arlington, VA (July 1, 2024) – The average employee tenure at America’s largest freight railroads is more than double that of comparable industries and occupations, a reflection of the long, rewarding careers that are commonplace at railroads. And with another annual salary adjustment on July 1, the great pay and benefits that help make railroading a desirable career are increasing even further.


Best-in-Class Wages

Before the 2022 national bargaining agreements, Class I rail employees were among the highest paid workers across U.S. industries. The most recent round of agreements made railroad compensation even stronger with a historic 24% wage increase over five years (2020-2024).

With another annual pay increase effective July 1, 2024, most Class I rail employees will earn between $90,000 to $140,000 in annual wages (depending on their craft), with an average of $111,000. The value of the total Class I railroad employee annual pay and benefit package (accounting for health, welfare and retirement programs) will now range from about $135,000 to almost $190,000, with the average growing to $160,000.

The 2022 agreements with rail unions also delivered an immediate impact to employees with an average $11,000 payout upon ratification and $5,000 in bonuses over the course of the contract. Rail employees are now positioned in the top 6% of the approximately 140 million employees in other reported industries for average annual compensation.

Despite growing medical and pharmacy costs in the United States, rail employees’ out-of-pocket healthcare costs and monthly premiums remain low. Rail employees can cover their entire family for about $300 a month, far less than the almost $550 monthly average cost of employer-provided family coverage reported in the most recent Kaiser Family Foundation employee benefits survey.


Ongoing Collaboration to Advance Employee Interests

The five largest Class I rail carriers that comprise the NCCC have worked closely with rail unions to reach more than 50 new local agreements since the last round of national negotiations concluded – securing more scheduling predictability for conductors and engineers and paid sick leave agreements that now cover over 93% of all craft employees.


Multi-Generational Career Opportunities

Freight railroads also offer hundreds of career paths and opportunities for everyone­­­ – from high school graduates to those with professional degrees. Railroading often runs in the family – many employees have generations of industry veterans in their families and are pursuing their own lifelong railroading careers. Indeed, the average tenure in the industry is at least twice that of comparable industries and occupations, a reflection of the rewarding opportunities railroad careers provide.

With leading compensation, world-class benefits, and a wide range of training and growth opportunities, America’s freight rail industry continues to strengthen rail jobs and ensure that railroading careers remain a top choice for current and future generations.

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