NJ Transit has needed total of engineers for 1st time in years after latest graduation

For those who are slowly starting to return to work — and need New Jersey Transit to do so —state officials hope the last graduating class of engineers should help for one simple reason: There are now more people available to operate the trains.

On Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy and NJ Transit officials honored a class of 10 engineer trainees who completed a 78-week-long program and passed extensive testing, including a final exam of more than 800 questions.

The class, which complete its field training and begins its final check rides later this month, brings the total number of new engineers that have joined NJ Transit since 2018 to 113, and brings the total active roster of engineers to 398.

The number means the state now has enough engineers to operate NJ Transit on a regular basis — meaning the service will not be slowed by sick days or vacations.

New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, who also serves as the board chair of NJ Transit, said the increased numbers have big impact.

“The addition of this class of locomotive engineers helps us build a better, more dependable and robust NJ Transit,” she said. “Restoring the ranks of locomotive engineers means we can offer the type of service we strive to provide NJ Transit customers; improve customer service; and increase reliability.”

The next class is scheduled to graduate in November. NJ Transit CEO Kevin Corbett said the organization is eager to increase its capacity.

“We may have already achieved a full roster of locomotive engineers, but that doesn’t mean we’re slowing down,” he said. “We must also maintain a full roster by keeping pace with normal retirements and attrition, which is why we’re pleased to be welcoming this new class into our ranks, and why we’re committed to regular classes moving forward.”

Gov. Phil Murphy has long noted that “fixing NJ Transit” is one of his top priorities.

“Since the beginning of our administration, we have made it clear that the days of underinvesting in NJ Transit and hollowing engineer ranks are over,” he said. “As our state is emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic and mass transit demand increases, new and returning commuters will get to experience a more reliable and improved NJ Transit.”

Since Murphy took office in 2018, NJ Transit has graduated 10 classes of locomotive engineers — more classes than have graduated in the previous five years combined, state officials said.