Locomotive Engineers

risk level
Based on 143 votes
by year 2032
or $35.94 per hour
as of 2023

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Automation risk

79% (High Risk)

High Risk (61-80%): Jobs in this category face a significant threat from automation, as many of their tasks can be easily automated using current or near-future technologies.

More information on what this score is, and how it is calculated is available here.

Some quite important qualities of the job are difficult to automate:

  • Cramped Work Space, Awkward Positions

  • Manual Dexterity

  • Finger Dexterity

User poll

58% chance of full automation within the next two decades

Our visitors have voted they are unsure if this occupation will be automated. However, the automation risk level we have generated suggests a much higher chance of automation: 79% chance of automation.

What do you think the risk of automation is?

What is the likelihood that Locomotive Engineers will be replaced by robots or artificial intelligence within the next 20 years?


The following graph(s) are included wherever there is a substantial amount of votes to render meaningful data. These visual representations display user poll results over time, providing a significant indication of sentiment trends.

Sentiment over time (yearly)


Moderate growth relative to other professions

The number of 'Locomotive Engineers' job openings is expected to rise 4.7% by 2032

Total employment, and estimated job openings

* Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the period between 2021 and 2031
Updated projections are due 09-2023.


High paid relative to other professions

In 2023, the median annual wage for 'Locomotive Engineers' was $74,770, or $35 per hour

'Locomotive Engineers' were paid 55.6% higher than the national median wage, which stood at $48,060

Wages over time

* Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics


Lower range of job opportunities compared to other professions

As of 2023 there were 32,390 people employed as 'Locomotive Engineers' within the United States.

This represents around < 0.001% of the employed workforce across the country

Put another way, around 1 in 4 thousand people are employed as 'Locomotive Engineers'.

Job description

Drive electric, diesel-electric, steam, or gas-turbine-electric locomotives to transport passengers or freight. Interpret train orders, electronic or manual signals, and railroad rules and regulations.

SOC Code: 53-4011.00


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Darius says
There's too much money at stake for the railroad companies that they *will* try to make robo-locos work. Full-authority digital [computer] engine control ("FADEC") is already in use in helicopters and jet airliners because of the money they save on fuel.

I live in a major metropolitan area, and there's a train/road crossing with signs warning of automated trains being in use there. Computers won't have to "learn" the different types of signals and rules, as they will be programmed in by (fallible) humans.

There is/has been a lawsuit by a bunch of families of British servicemen and servicewomen who were killed in CH-47 helicopter crashes in which those helos had been converted to FADEC (they still had human pilots). The lawsuit blames the crashes on failure of the computerized throttle controls. (With FADEC, by design, the computer overrules the pilots' inputs to the throttle controls.)

So, with money as the driving force, *some* sort of computerized trains will be deployed. And likely, there will be some failures in which people die, because the computerized systems are created by fallible humans.
Nov 26, 2023 at 11:27 PM
Jaakko (Low) says
In some parts of Europe, signaling and railway management systems are not developed enough to supports automatic trains. On top of that, we have huge variations of weather that makes it even more difficult for a machine to get enough reliable data to operate. I´m certain that in some future trains will be fully automated, but not likely within 20 years.
Sep 26, 2023 at 07:34 PM
levi (Low) says
Legal issues are heavy and one accident can cause millions in damages and hundreds of deaths. There is also the issue of a train being multiple kilometres long. You will always need someone to oversee and deal with issues as they arise. I can see it but not within 20 years
May 23, 2023 at 08:18 AM
Hayden Reininga says
Honestly I think that trains and railroads are too complex for robots to understand and there could be times where they have to go against what they were programmed to do in a scenario if it’s the best option which it won’t be able to do look at autonomous cars they’re not fully safe so why should we put them on trains it’s too dangerous for the time being
May 11, 2023 at 03:21 PM
Ricky (Highly likely) says
With railroad companies leaning towards autonomous technology such as PTC, one man crew, and the invention of the autonomous freight train in Australia, locomotive engineering is possible to be seized. However, such doubts of how safe autonomous trains can be (especially moving hazardous loads), little evidence support the idea to become the next industry standard.
Apr 06, 2023 at 06:16 AM
Isaac says
The robots could experience a failure, similar to what occurred on the DC Metro. They also wouldn't be capable of managing switching or local freight, as most of the switches are manual.
Jul 15, 2022 at 05:16 PM
Ali says
Yes DLR Northern line are already automated a person is onboard only as a fail safe operative to keep on eye nothing goes wrong
Jun 04, 2021 at 01:37 AM
J (No chance) says
How? There is no way they will learn all the rules and all the different types of signals.
Nov 25, 2020 at 05:16 PM
richard connelly says
you said it yourself, rules, it's not a dynamic process but a set of rules. and rules can be written rules can be coded.
Dec 07, 2022 at 04:22 AM
a (Low) says
Robots will make the train crash!
Jan 01, 2020 at 02:56 AM
Jarhead says
Union Pacific is already trying to find ways to use those robots. Worker unions are trying to stop them.
Jun 14, 2021 at 03:09 PM

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