How To Become A Train Driver In Australia: Explained

Students want to know how they can become train drivers in Australia.


Are you comfortable working with machines and tools in a confined space for a prolonged duration?

A train driver in Australia operates a train, a locomotive, or multiple units. They are responsible to drive a passenger or freight train and handle its entire mechanical operation.

You need a Certificate IV in train driving and passing necessary medical and pre-employment checks to assess your suitability for the role.

If you enjoy serving others and are interested in visiting different local places on a train, then here is a complete guide on how to enter a role as a train driver in Australia.


1. Who Is A Train Driver?

A train driver also called an engine driver, train operator, railroad engineer, locomotive driver, motorman, or an engineman who drives trains carrying freight or passengers.

He is in complete charge of the mechanical operation of the train including speed regulation, maneuvering, and handling of the train.


A train driver can choose to work for either a local or a regional railroad.


2. What Are The Duties Of A Train Driver?

A train driver should ensure team participation, effective communication, and quality of service that are compliant with organizational and legislation policies throughout their work activities.


A typical day of a train driver comprises the following duties:


  • Prepare, operate, and manage a train in accordance with the established safe-working standards and operational procedures 

  • Open and close the door before and after passengers get in or get off the train.

  • Achieve set corridor goals, implement fuel-saving strategies based on the train’s performance, and utilize the engine fuel-saving features.

  • Manage train movements as per the needs of customers and the business 

  • Set train speed by road/rail conditions, train signals and indicator gauges, and surrounding traffic, to ensure the safety of passengers and cargo.

  • Examine and ensure that braking systems are in proper working condition and accordance with established procedures and standards

  • Identify and rectify minor failures and faults and communicate them with the concerned team to meet operational standards.

  • Monitors any changes in electric supply, traffic, and mechanical control units and reports any type of irregularities in the operation of the train.

  • Check and test motor, fueling, rolling systems, etc. for proper functioning and maintain them as per specifications and operational procedures.

  • Offer advice to passengers to help them reach their destination.

  • Ensure the safe, affordable, timely, and well-organized operation of the train by applying the most suitable train management techniques

  • Prepare, clean, start, operate, examine, shut down, and stabilize the motive power units as per the operational procedures.

  • Ensure the economical and safe movement of freight between different locations by validation and observation to the required standards

  • Identify, respond, and take corrective action to hazardous emergencies and maintain vigilance throughout their duties


3. Skills For A Train Driver

To become and succeed as a train driver, you will require the following skillset:


  • Familiarity and experience with machinery

  • Basic literacy in mathematics and simple calculation

  • Ability to learn and follow guidelines and procedures

  • Enjoy doing practical, and hands-on work

  • Responsible for the safety and health of people

  • Eye-hand coordination

  • Comfortable working in a closed cabin for several hours

  • Like to work in solitary

  • Able to make quick and logical decisions to deal with emergencies

  • Excellent communication skills

  • Punctuality

  • Quick reflex action

  • Reliability

  • High precision

  • Able to form independent decisions

  • Results-oriented

  • Comfortable working with wood, machinery, and tools

  • Strong leadership, and organizational skills

  • Administrative abilities

  • Analytical skills

  • Helping/serving attitude


4. Qualifications for Train Driver In Australia

If you are interested in becoming a train driver, then you must fulfill the following qualifications:


  • 18 years or above. 

  • Complete a traineeship and similar vet qualification. A Certificate IV in train driving TLI42615 is an ideal course to get the basic knowledge and skills to work in this role. 

  • Pass a category 1 medical and specific pre-employment checks for rail and operator roles. Candidates may need to undergo vision and hearing assessments, showcase physical capability, and pass periodic drug and breath screenings.

  • Attend a traineeship program to gain experience as a train driver

  • A valid driver’s license.



5. Steps To Become A Train Driver In Australia


The exact pathway to becoming a train driver in Australia varies based on the specific requirements of the rail transport operators.


Here are the basic steps to enter a role in Australia:


Step 1: Get Qualified

The first step for aspiring train drivers is to complete a Certificate IV in train driving in Australia.


This is a nationally recognized qualification that comprises elective subjects such as Freight, Country Passenger, or Urban Electric to let students specialize in their area of interest.


Smart And Skilled is a nationally recognized institute to undertake a train driver course in NSW.


Step 2: Complete Track Safety Awareness Course

Aspiring train drivers who want to work within the rail corridors in Australia should complete the Safely Access the Rail Corridor program.


This 1-day course is the minimum industry standard prescribed for such contractors and employees.


Step 3: Undertake a Safe Working Theory Program

The next step to becoming a qualified train driver is to complete a 3-weeks rules course.


The course teaches you several safe driving practices such as signaling, safe operating procedures, train working procedures, and more.


Many students take this course along with a 2-weeks traction course that trains a student about air, engine, and braking systems. By taking these courses, you can improve your employability and job prospects in the industry.


Step 4: Pass the Train Driving Assessment

Once you have undertaken the above qualifications, the last step is to take and pass a simple mechanical aptitude test.


Here, the qualified train driver will have to drive the train on various routes in varying conditions to demonstrate the practical train driving skills.

The exact parameters of assessment can differ from one rail operator to another. Once you successfully pass the assessment, you are ready to apply for jobs in the rail industry.

Here are a few helpful rail operator links that can help you in your career research:



6. Relevant Certifications For Train Drivers In Australia

The Certificate IV in Train Driving TLI42615 in Australia is the basic qualification to engage in train driving activities.


The qualification helps trainee train drivers develop practical skills and knowledge to carry out specialized tasks within a train driving environment.

Presently, the certification course is offered at the following training institutions in Australia: 



7. How Long Does It Take To Become A Train Driver?

Each state in Australia operates distinct safe working systems. The exact duration to become a qualified train driver in the Australian Rail industry depends on your training pathway and rail industry-specific requirements.

The basic qualification required for this profession is Certificate IV in train driving which takes up to 2 years to complete.


You may even require to take a Safely Access the Rail Corridor program and Safe Working Theory course and pass a final assessment to become a fully qualified train driver in Australia.

So, in all, you can expect to start working in this role in about 2 to 3 years.


8. What Is The Cost To Become A Train Driver In Australia?

The approximate cost of “Certificate IV in train driving” qualification is $2000 (inclusive of GST) 


9. Work Environment For Train Drivers



This is an outdoor and hands-on job that requires a train driver to work in a closed vehicle with a public/ private local rail network.


Furthermore, they must work under pressure to meet strict deadlines.


Nature of Employment

A whopping 94% of train drivers work full-time compared to the industry’s average of 66%.


This shows that the occupation is ideal for aspiring train drivers who seek a full-time position.


Work Hours

Full-time workers generally work for 46 hours which is more than the industry’s average of 44 hours per week.


Safety Accessories

A train driver is exposed to extreme weather conditions and a variety of harmful elements including dirt, pollutants, odors, and gases.


External sounds and noises can be discomforting and distracting. The job requires working near risky equipment such as saws, machines with movable components, or moving traffic.

For safety and protection against these hazards, a train driver has to mandatorily wear protective gear such as safety shoes, hand gloves, glasses, life jackets, and hard hats.



The average age of the employed workforce is 48 years, out of which 61% are 45 years and above.



Looking at a mere 8% contribution of female workers, the sector is most suited for male candidates.


10. Employment Opportunities For Train Drivers In Australia

A career as a train driver offers job stability and a steady flow of work in all regions of Australia.

Completing a Certificate IV qualification can open the following career avenues:


  • Electric passenger train driver

  • Heavy haul train driver

  • Freight train driver

  • Locomotive driver

  • Train driver

Available Specialization Options for experienced train drivers include:


  • Electric Train Driver

  • Locomotive Observer

  • Rail Car Driver

  • Fireperson (Railway)

  • Steam Train Driver


11. Job prospects For Train Drivers In Australia

Based on Job Outlook 2022 data, this is a medium-sized occupation with around 10,000 workers employed as of date. The sector expects moderate growth in the next five years. Most of the employed workforce work in Queensland.

The top industries that recruit train drivers are Transport, Mining, Manufacturing, Postal, and Warehousing.

Percentage breakup of job opportunities for train drivers in different Australian states:


  • New South Wales: 33.4%

  • Victoria: 16.0%

  • Queensland: 29.9%

  • South Australia: 5.7%

  • Western Australia: 14.1%

  • Tasmania: 0.7%

  • Northern Territory: 0.3%


Around 42.7% of employed workers hold a Certificate III/IV as their highest education. 6.1% hold a Diploma/ Advanced Diploma and 4.6% workers hold a bachelor’s degree.


This shows that a certification course is a great way to enter and sustain a train driver role in Australia.


12. How Much Do Train Drivers Get Paid In Australia?

Based on Seek data, the Train Driver jobs are generally advertised between $100k and $170k in Australia.

As per the Jobted data 2022, the average salary of a train driver is AU$117,750 per year, or an equivalent of AU$9,810 per month and $2,304 per week.


Annual Salary Based On Experience


  • Entry-level train driver salary (< 1-year experience): AU$85,760

  • Qualified train driver salary with less than 3 years of experience: AU$89,000 

  • Mid-level train driver salary (4 to 9 years of experience): AU$114,000

  • Senior-level train driver salary (10 to 20 years of experience): AU$114,000


Annual Salary Based on Role


  • Australian Train Drivers, who are in their early career, employed as a Trainee Locomotive Driver and possess a Certificate IV in Train Driving earn the lowest salary.


  • Experienced Train Drivers who work overtime, Coal Train Driver and Freight Train Driver earn the highest salaries.



Annual Salary Based on Area Of Employment

According to Jora, the average train driver salary in Sydney is between $80,000 and $110,000. Other top-paying Australian cities are:


  • Melbourne: $90,000 to $150,000

  • Perth: $120,000 to $170,000


13. Conclusion

Job security, good pay, pension, minimal qualifications, travel opportunities are a few reasons that make it a rewarding and fulfilling career. A Certificate IV qualification allows you to work in many roles in different settings.


So, if you aim for a job that gives you steady employment prospects, becoming a train driver is a great way to fulfil your dream.


Useful Links to Explore:

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