The route to becoming a rail driver is heavily regulated but it is transparent and at its most basic, fairly straightforward.
In short, drivers must be calm in difficult situations, be able to make decisions, have a high degree of safety awareness and be well organised and reliable. They must also be medically fit to drive a machine.
The process to screen applicants is designed to determine whether applicants are psychologically and physically suited to the job and whether they can meet all the regulatory requirements. Failing any one of these regulatory requirements (for example, the medical exam which is carried out by an independent medical professional) means you cannot legally drive on the network.
Rhomberg Sersa recently began recruiting Fitter Driver Operators (FDOs) for the On Track Machines (OTMs). OTM is a broad term to describe a number of different machines which operate on the rail network to repair and improve the lines. These machines include tampers and ballast cleaners.
The Fitter Driver Operators (FDOs) drive the OTMs on the rail network and operate them as part of a team. When the machine suffers a fault, the FDO repair it.
The following article details the recruitment process and the reasons behind each step when we are recruiting for Fitter Driver Operators. The screening steps are a legal requirement.
The rail industry across Europe is governed by the European Rail Agency (ERA) which comes under the European Commission.
Under an EU Directive it has laid out the European Train Driver Licensing common minimum requirements which must be met to qualify to drive a train anywhere in the EU.
This means that in Ireland the Commission for Railway Regulation (CRR) is the authority for the actual Licencing of Train Drivers, and for the Recognition of Training Centres and Examination Centres in the State.
The Driver Training School is operated by Iarnród Éireann (IÉ) and all trainee drivers, whether working for IÉ or another company such as Rhomberg Sersa, must attend that school. A member of the public cannot apply to attend the school as places are only assigned to companies, such as Rhomberg Sersa, which are permitted to operate on the railways. Those companies then assign staff to attend the school.
Once the train driver has undergone their training and passed the necessary general professional competence, medical and occupational psychological fitness examinations, the train driving licence is issued by the CRR to the train driver.
Train and OTM drivers are required to have a minimum of 9 years of education and must provide evidence of this. Nine years of education means studying up to Junior Cert level.
For the FDO role, the applicants are required to hold a recognised apprenticeship in either Mechanical or Electrical discipline, preferably as a Construction Plant Fitter.
Applicants are also required to hold a full clean road vehicle driving license.
Applicants are not required to have any previous experience on the railways.
Rhomberg Seras operates an online application system. This system outlines the job specification and requirements as well as additional details such as salary, benefits and location.
When the closing date has been reached, applications are reviewed and the most suitable applicants are shortlisted.
Those who are shortlisted based on their written application are invited to go through the following stages. Further details and support are given to the invited candidates to ensure they are fully briefed and prepared for each step of the required process.
The online Stage 1 Psychometric Sift is undertaken by the candidates at home. It is broken down into several segments which can be sat at times suitable for the candidate.
Next is a one-hour interview with our team on site in Kildare, followed by the Stage 2 Psychometric Test. This consists of three separate tests and two online interviews with an external company.
Upon successful completion there is a Stage 3 Psychometric Test in Kildare which is conducted by the same external company. This test can take three to four hours.
A final Culture Fit interview takes place in Kildare for approximately an hour, followed by a Driver Medical in Clonsilla, Dublin. It is the only approved location for the railway driver medical.
Upon successful completion of the above steps, a letter of offer is issued to the successful candidate(s).
Although the list may seem a little long, from the closing date for applications this process takes just five weeks from start to finish. A number of the stages are online and are undertaken at the applicant's home at a time that suits them.
Interviews take place in person with all COVID safety measures adhered to.
The various stages take place in this order because this is the order of probability in which candidates are likely to pass or fail. Therefore, if candidates do not pass the required online psychometric test, they do not have to devote any time to attending an interview.
What is a Psychometric Sift?
A psychometric sift is a "sifting test” at the start of the recruitment process rather than at the end.
The test is an initial indicator of who is likely to meet the requirements to drive a train.
This interview takes place face-to-face (with strict adherence to COVID guidelines). This interview covers past experience and competencies and gives the candidate the opportunity to ask questions about the company and role.
What is the Psychometric Test - Stage 2?
This test consists of three online tests (Visual Search Exercise, SCAAT and IR-LD-SJT) and an online face to face interview (16PF Interview).
What is the Psychometric Test - Stage 3?
Stage 3 of the testing cycle takes place face-to-face and is conducted by a psychologist. It consists of TRP2, TRFS and rWce.
What is involved in the Culture Fit Interview?
This is the final interview for candidates who have passed all the other stages. It is to ensure the candidate is a good culture fit for Rhomberg Sersa and the existing team and to answer any outstanding questions about the role.
Why do candidates have to undergo a medical?
As outlined above, train driving is a heavily regulated industry. One of the reasons for this is because of the potential risk of serious injury or death if safety rules are not strictly adhered to. Therefore, staff on the line must be medically fit to adhere to these rules.
For example, drivers must be able to see and recognise the traffic signals. For this reason, anyone who is colour blind would fail the driver medical. Similarly, anyone with a serious sight or hearing impairment would be unlikely to pass the medical.
Can I study for the psychometric test?
Like aptitude tests, it is difficult to study for the psychometric test but using practice tests which are available online will help you become more familiar and at ease with the process. The names of the tests are outlined above.
What is involved in the medical exam?
It is a non-invasive medical which involves standard checks including your heart rate, weight hearing and eyesight. A urine test to test for drugs is also carried out.
What is involved in the Driver Training?
Train driving consists of four main components: Knowledge of Rule and Regulations; Knowledge of Traction; Train Handling; Route Knowledge. These topics are covered in the Driving School over the course of 8 weeks.
The training consists of a mix of classroom-based study and on-the-job training on the rail network with the candidates out on the machines for route and signals familiarisation every three weeks.
On completion of the course at the Driving School, the candidates go out on the network with Trainer Drivers. There are several OTM machine types and the drivers must be familiar with each machine type and have a ticket (training) for each.
When training is completed, the FDO will be working on the machine with another team member.
Where does the driver training take place?
The Driver Training School is in Inchicore in Dublin and the Rhomberg Sersa Depot is in Kildare. When training is completed, shifts can take place anywhere on the rail network.
Is further training required and provided?
Yes and yes. There is ongoing training which is provided by Rhomberg Sersa. There is also a requirement to keep knowledge, such as Route Knowledge, up to date. Full support is given to staff to ensure they meet all training requirements and continue to learn.