What Is a Loco Pilot? A Complete Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Locomotive pilots perform a crucial role in the Indian railway system by undertaking the task of maintaining and operating train engines. Since the railway is in the public sector, loco pilots have good job prospects and earning potential. Knowing more about this profession can help you decide if this career path is right for you. In this article, we discuss what a loco pilot is, what their duties are and what skills and qualifications they require to perform their job well.

What is a loco pilot?

A loco pilot is a professional who is in charge of operating and driving trains and ensuring that they are properly maintained throughout the whole journey. Aspiring loco pilots enter the railway workforce as assistants and get promoted to senior posts with time and experience. A loco pilot follows railway guidelines, instructions and adheres to regulations that govern the locomotive operation.

What does a loco pilot do?

In general, a loco pilot performs a variety of tasks to ensure the safety and security of passengers and goods. Assistant loco pilots help senior pilots in performing their duties. Loco pilots typically work in tandem with train and station managers. They check the train route, maximum train speed, appropriate braking power, safety parameters and assess risks. They also undertake the task of repairing and maintaining the basic engine hardware in an emergency situation. Other responsibilities of loco pilots are as follows:

Operating the train

Loco pilots are in charge of supervising the mechanical operation of a train engine. They may take readings and perform tasks to maintain adherence to temperature, performance and safety parameters. Their primary duty is to drive the train. Loco pilots must adhere to specific instructions regarding speed and route in order to avoid mishaps and accidents.

Preparing reports

Loco pilots may have to record details of their journeys and prepare reports that are assessed by other professionals in the railways. These details may include journey time, wait time, delays, route specifics, average speed or records of other important parameters. They may even make recommendations to improve the performance of engines and give suggestions regarding their maintenance.

Monitoring

Loco pilots often perform holistic evaluations of the engine they drive, including its electrical components and mechanics. They also monitor risks associated with journeys and the security of their passengers. They prepare and discuss route plans and use information from reliable sources to calculate journey durations.

Repairing and maintenance

Loco pilots should be well-versed in machine maintenance. They are responsible for performing regular assessment, analysis, replacement and adjustment of machinery components. This includes tasks like changing engine oil, lubricating moving components and dusting or cleaning bearings and links. These pilots may also monitor the deterioration of machinery and equipment and make records.

Related careers

These job roles are similar to loco pilots:

Yardmaster

Yardmasters, also known as railroad operators, are in charge of directing train operations and assisting with the transport and logistics of various goods. One of their major responsibilities is to complete rail switching procedures on schedule. Yardmasters aim to make sure that all goods and train vehicles arrive at their destinations on schedule. They address issues during journeys and reroute trains during emergencies.

Locomotive engineer

Locomotive engineers or railway engineers coordinate various aspects of train services that transport people and goods. To make sure that trains run smoothly and on time, they familiarise themselves with trains, timetables, protocols and routes. Sensors and metres in power lines and generators are monitored by locomotive engineers to control parameters like voltage, temperature and amperage.

Mechanical engineer

A mechanical engineer's role is more technical than that of a railway engineer. Mechanical engineers are required for a variety of industries, including the railways. They are in charge of managing the production of components, overseeing their installation and training other technical staff. They may also be involved in the development, design and manufacture of gadgets, machines, equipment and tools. Mechanical engineers also aid in the setup and upkeep of mechanical systems and railway infrastructure.

Related: How To Become a Mechanical Engineer

Skills required to be a loco pilot

Consider developing these skills if you want to become a loco pilot:

  • Critical thinking skills: Critical thinking is crucial for loco pilots because it enables them to assess situations objectively and consider solutions that may not be obvious. Critical thinking allows them to overcome challenges in their job on a day-to-day basis and saves them a lot of time and effort in the long run.

  • Technical skills: Technical skills enable pilots to troubleshoot, repair and maintain engine systems. In-depth knowledge of mechanical tools and equipment is also beneficial in this line of work.

  • Physical fitness and stamina: Loco pilots often work for extended periods of time at a stretch, and occasionally move heavy machinery and work with equipment. Aspirants may consider developing physical fitness and stamina to handle their mechanical duties with ease.

  • Communication skills: Locomotive pilots should have good communication skills in order to promptly convey information that is crucial to the operation of trains. If a malfunction or disturbance arises, they may have to contact the authorities concerned, explain the problem and suggest a course of action.

  • Analytical skills: Loco pilots should have the necessary analytical skills to assess the data associated with train operation and to perform some maintenance tasks like routine checks and safety drills. In case of emergencies, they may also have to analyse situations accurately to take the best measures.

Read more: Analytical Skills: Definition, Tips and Examples

How to become a loco pilot

Follow these steps to become a loco pilot:

1. Complete secondary school education

To apply for assistant loco pilot positions, you need a matriculation certificate. The certificate corresponds to the candidate's performance in the 10th standard board exam. Most technical courses after Class 10 or 10 + 2 require at least 50% aggregate marks in board exams. It is beneficial to have science and mathematics as core subjects in school.

2. Get a diploma

The next step in becoming a loco pilot is to get an associate degree or diploma. A diploma in engineering, specialising in the fields like automobile engineering, electronics and communication engineering or electrical engineering can help you become a loco pilot. A diploma in railway engineering would be another appropriate choice for aspirants. A railway engineering course could enhance your knowledge of the rules, regulations, operation and history of the railways.

3. Pursue a vocational course

This is an alternate option to pursuing a diploma. Aspirants could either go for a diploma in engineering or pursue an ITI (Industrial Training Institute) programme approved by the NCVT (National Council for Vocational Training) or SCVT (State Council of Vocational Training). Vocational courses are offered by many institutes across the country. Certifications from competent bodies hold value in the field and function as a verifiable record of your professional capabilities.

Read more: Vocational Training: Definition, Types and Examples

4. Clear the entrance exam

The final and perhaps the most important step toward becoming a loco pilot is to clear the entrance exam conducted by the RRB (Railway Recruitment Board). This is a computer-based entrance test with a total of 120 questions. If you qualify, after appropriate training, you will join as an assistant loco pilot under the supervision of a senior loco pilot. After gaining work experience of five to 10 years, assistant loco pilots may be promoted to the role of the senior loco pilot.

How much do loco pilots make?

The salary of a loco pilot may vary according to their seniority and experience in the profession. Loco pilots enter the railway workforce as assistants to senior loco pilots and get promoted once they complete five to 10 years of work. The average base salary of a locomotive engineer is ₹6,00,000 per year.

What is the difference between a loco pilot and a train driver?

The term "loco pilot" is synonymous with "train driver" and the two are often used interchangeably. The duties of an assistant loco pilot and a senior loco pilot are not the same. Senior loco pilots make decisions related to the operation of the train and hence may be considered train drivers. Assistants are usually tasked with taking readings, monitoring vital indicators, passive communication, record-making and other peripheral tasks. So assistant loco pilots technically do not drive trains by themselves until they are promoted. They may, however, take on additional responsibilities related to driving a train if required by senior officials.

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Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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