NJ Transit Says An Engineer Shortage Has Added to Recent Cancellations

Aug 9, 2018

Governor Phil Murphy meets with NJ Transit officials in wake of recent spate of cancellations.
Credit Ang Santos / WBGO

New Jersey Transit needs around 290 train engineers on a daily basis to run the operation. Department of Transportation commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti says the state-run agency is short on engineers.

“This is an organization ran on human capitol. I can have all of the brand-new cars I want, but if I don’t have engineers, it does not matter.  The record is very clear.  There was very little done to recruit engineers and train them in a timely fashion.  We are trying to make up for that today.”

Governor Phil Murphy says the previous administration failed to properly train and hire engineers, so there’s a shortage of last minute replacements if one calls out.  He believes some engineers are just being bad actors.  

“The overwhelming majority of engineers and people that wear the NJ Transit uniform or badge are doing everything you’d want them to.  Like everything else, there’s a small population that are spoiling it for the broader population.”

New Jersey Transit’s engineer training program takes roughly 20 months, so there’s no quick fix to the shortage, says Governor Murphy.

“These are highly sophisticated, highly trained jobs.  You can’t just sort of on a dime get somebody in to replace.  This is a period of training that is specific, not just general training but specific to the NJ Transit system.”

NJ Transit executive director Kevin Corbett says the agency as seen a much higher than normal unexcused absence rate in engineers this summer.

“It’s not just one engineer is one train.  One engineer will do four, five, to six trips a day.  We run 700 trains roughly a day.”

State Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti says the agency has a good relationship with NJ Transit’s engineer union and hopes to work through the problem moving forward.