Did you know?

Rail moves one billion tonnes of freight each year, rail and freight will double between 2013 and 2020, and triple by 2050. That’s a lot of drivers, shunters and controllers that will need to be employed to keep the trains moving!

Occupation description

Shunters safely move trains between the yards and platforms – they marshal the trains, hook on locomotives and detach defective carriages. They also direct and move freight trains, organise rail freight and conduct safety checks.

Knowledge, skills and attributes

Because the work can be dangerous, they need to be extremely safety conscious and have common sense. They also need good communication, teamwork, time management skills and the ability to work under pressure.

Working conditions

Shunting work is often hectic and most time is spent outdoors on the track and moving between stationary trains.  

Entry requirements and ongoing training and development

You can become a shunter without formal qualifications, but employers usually require completion of relevant secondary school qualifications. Once you are employed, you will receive intensive formal training, both on and off the job. You need to be willing to upgrade your skills as technology and rolling stock change. Knowledge of signalling equipment would be an advantage in this role. Some Australian organisations may offer a traineeship in: driver shunting, ground shunting, lead shunting or rail yard coordination.

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The value of a career in the rail industry

For even more details on what you might earn, the diversity of companies you could work for and the career opportunities available, visit the following careers and training websites. Careers in Rail by the Australasian Railway Association, About the Rail Industry by Rail Skills Australasia and Rail Training by the Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council (TLISC).

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Career paths

Typically, you will progress from an entry level role through to more senior or supervisory roles depending on the size of the organisation. You may become yard master/yard controller, or with training and experience even an operations manager. Some shunters may retrain to become a train driver. In Australia, there are rail-related vocational qualifications in safety management and operations that may help you in your career.

This information is generic. Job titles and the experience and qualifications needed to move into other jobs may vary depending on the structure and needs of your organisation and government rules and regulations.

Related Jobs

The jobs below may require additional qualifications as well as experience.

Career Path Flowchart

Typical career path for a shunter