Amtrak OIG Report Seeks Better Workload Management

Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General has recommended that the company save money by adjusting workloads and staffing, and better managing overtime.

The recommendations were made in an audit released earlier this month that estimated that Amtrak could put an estimated $2.3 million to $6.4 million to better use.

The audit focused on 62 locations where Amtrak services and inspects trains.

Those sites include 12 preventative maintenance facilities and 50 smaller outlying sites that service trains between runs.

It is the latter that occupied most of the attention of the recent OIG report because they offer the greatest opportunity for cost cutting.

These sites perform such Federal Railroad Administration-required safety inspections as cab signal tests, brake tests and interior and exterior inspections.

Workers also clean restrooms and café cars, wash windows, vacuum the cars, pump waste from toilets and replenish cars with potable water.

This work is done by Amtrak employees at 16 sites while contract employees work at 34 sites.

The OIG concluded that some work performed at facilities in Michigan and Missouri could be done at Amtrak’s service facilities in Chicago.

The audit found that schedules for several trains that originate or terminate in Chicago find the equipment assigned to them laying over in Chicago every 24 hours.

Chicago maintenance workers are already responsible for cleaning trains and have the capacity to conduct the FRA-mandated safety inspections.

Although the Michigan and Missouri sites may still be needed for train cleaning, the OIG said a minimized workload would enable staffing adjustments for service and inspections.

The OIG also singled out potential savings opportunities at 11 other maintenance facilities that, depending on the amount of additional inspection work that could be performed, could result in a better use of $1.4 million to $3.9 million.

The OIG audit found that employees worked standard eight-hour shifts even though the sites did not have enough service and inspection work to fill a full shift.

The audit quoted Amtrak managers as saying that staffing levels were based on a historical preference to ensure that sites had a full complement of staff to quickly mitigate incidents that might arise at a site or along a train’s route.

This resulted in inefficiencies, the OIG report said.

Likewise, the OIG found that at four of Amtrak’s 16 major service and inspection sites, there is not enough service and inspection work to fill an eight-hour shift.

Overtime payments above base wages ranged from 11 percent to 38 percent per employee at the sites. Managers at some sites did not know why or how much overtime their employees were earning.

Managers were unable to manage employee overtime or ensure that overtime was necessary.

Better management of overtime could result in an estimated $900,000 to $2.4 million being put to better use.

In a statement, Amtrak officials agreed to implement all of the OIG recommendations contained in the audit.

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