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Train driver at the control panel of an ICE 1

Train drivers (abbreviated Tf ), also train drivers , are employees of a railway company who operate the traction vehicle of a train or a shunting journey or who accompany these journeys as a pilot or assistant.


The terms locomotive driver or train driver , which are still widely used in colloquial language, were also used in technical terms . The current technical term for train driver training in Germany is Railway Workers in Operations in the field of train drivers and transport, or EiB L / T for short. Recently, a designation was introduced to bring the various designations together in one term: Railway Vehicle Driver (Ef). The Swiss legal language uses the gender-neutral term train driver , the term train driver is still used by the railway companies .

The terms "train driver" and train driver are often confused, although they have very different tasks. However, train drivers are also responsible for their tasks on trains without special drivers; they are then at the same time the driver and train driver.

Task profile of a train driver

Train driver with his electric locomotive ÖBB 1144 084 at St. Pölten main station

Prepare the shift

Personal preparations are made at the beginning of each shift . New instructions and notices are read, official documents and orders, such as the list of slow speed zones , the routes traveled during the shift and other special features, must be supplemented with any new entries. After personal preparation, the driver takes the footpath from the reporting point to the transfer point or parking space. Passenger journeys by train, taxi journeys and self-made journeys with company cars also occur.

The train and shunting services performed within the shifts must also be prepared. The workload when taking over a vehicle is based on its previous use. The easiest way to take over is by replacing another driver, in which the replacing Tf is only informed about special features and irregularities in the vehicles taken over by a replacement interview. The preparation is more extensive when taking over previously parked vehicles if the vehicle or vehicles were out of service (dismantled). Then the traction vehicle assigned to him must be fully put into operation. In addition to inspecting the handover book, this includes checking z. B. the cooling water level in internal combustion vehicles and depending on the individual vehicle type, various technical actions also the testing of technical functions and safety devices. In the case of trains hauled by locomotives, it may also be the task of the driver to carry out functional tests and adjustments to the rolling stock, such as B. the full brake test , as well as putting the train together and writing down its braking data.

Carrying out a shift

When shunting without a shunting route, the driver bears a high degree of joint responsibility for his route. He agrees with the turnout attendant about the goal, purpose and special features of each shunting run and observes the signals that are valid for him and that are given by employees . Knowledge of local features is also important.

Before a train journey is carried out, the train set must be ready for departure. Determination of readiness for departure is primarily the responsibility of the driver, including the operational readiness of the train set, the availability of valid timetable documents, the termination of the change of traveler or the end of the loading business and also the dispatcher's consent to departure, which has been given in various ways. Depending on the type of train and technical equipment, the train driver handles the clearance together with the train attendant (s), the local supervisor or alone. During the journey, the driver controls and monitors the locomotive within the framework of technical and operational limit values. Particular attention is paid to compliance with the maximum permissible speeds, which result from the timetable information, the signaling on the route, sometimes even from the signal designations, the train composition and vehicle restrictions. The driver always has to deduce the lowest permitted maximum speed from this. Again and again, operational peculiarities or failures of technical equipment require conscientious and confident action as well as precise knowledge of the regulations. At Deutsche Bahn, the train driver in regional traffic is also responsible for informing passengers during the train journey, unless this task is facilitated or relieved by the train attendant and / or technical equipment.

The safety driving circuit ("Sifa") monitors the driver's ability to work by releasing a foot switch or a hand switch within a certain period of time (approx. 30 seconds) and then pressing it again permanently.

If malfunctions and / or defects occur in a vehicle, the Tf tries to remedy these within the framework of remedial texts, malfunction lists and also his personal experience and qualifications or to limit their effects in order to be able to carry out the train journey safely and as unimpaired as possible.

Follow up a shift

The follow-up activities are roughly mirror-image of the preparation. The handover of a traction vehicle or a train to the replacement takes place in turn by means of a replacement meeting. However, if there is initially no follow-up service by the locomotive, the driver is responsible for decommissioning and securing the vehicles. If necessary, he supplements operating materials (engine oil, fuel, heating oil, locomotive sand, cooling water, process water ) or arranges for the addition of operating materials and equipment. With some RUs it is also the responsibility of the driver to empty the toilet waste water container. During the decommissioning, the Tf checks and documents the technically perfect condition of the traction vehicle as part of a tour. B. the engine oil level, the wheelset bearings for heating, the bogies or drives for damage as well as the correct functioning of the sand spreader, etc. In the event of safety-relevant damage, the driver leaves the defective vehicle in consultation with the transport management (Tp) and / or the operations center (BZ) take out of service. The dismantling itself varies technically from vehicle to vehicle.

The personal follow-up usually only consists of obtaining information about the next service. Overnight stays away from home also occur in long-distance transport in particular, the start and end of shift are then not in the same place, the next shift then begins where the previous shift ended. Overnight stays are not working hours for most RUs , but accommodation is paid for by most RUs .


Which locomotives a driver is allowed to drive depends on his training. He must acquire the driving license for each type of locomotive and each series separately (see type rating ). For some time now there has been a railway vehicle driving license in the European Union that is valid for all German railway companies.


In Germany, train drivers must be at least 20 years old (according to EU standards) if they are to drive on the open route. If they are not yet 20 years old at the end of their training, they may only be used in shunting and provisioning services. There must be no perception disorders (in particular no color ametropia ), no walking or standing disabilities and no hand amputation. Due to the high level of responsibility and the risk potential, psychological aptitude tests are standard, as are drug tests . The suitability is determined by a doctor approved by the competent authority and checked regularly. Train drivers must have completed schooling. In Switzerland, an apprenticeship or a passed Matura is required to become a train driver.

Changing profession

The job description of the locomotive or train driver has changed significantly in the long history of the railway - starting with William Wilson , the first train driver in Germany. Since the beginning of the railroad in Europe, the railways have been organized as national state enterprises. Each country developed its own operating rules and signaling systems.

So it was normal that train drivers who were assigned to depots near the border (depots) had a "border railway training" which enabled them to drive into the border stations in the neighboring country. The border railway training included all signaling systems and operational situations that could be encountered at the border railway stations in the neighboring country. In some cases, appropriate language skills were also required (e.g. Retz [A] - Znaim [CZ]).

Today the image of the train driver has changed a lot. The national borders are no longer insurmountable technical borders: rail vehicle manufacturers supply interoperable traction vehicles that can run in several countries. As a result, train drivers are now increasingly being trained binationally, i.e. they can drive in two countries. This eliminates the need to change staff at the borders. However, since the operating regulations are sometimes extremely different, the Federal Railway Authority specifies that in addition to the license for the German railway system, there may be a maximum of two other railway licenses. That means a train driver could drive in a maximum of three countries. Of course, language skills are also required. A train driver who drives to France, for example, has to master the French language or a train driver who drives to Switzerland, the three Swiss national languages ​​that are used in the standard-gauge network, provided that he comes to these regions.

Advanced training

Drivers must attend pre-determined training units each year. These include the specialist areas of vehicle technology and rail operations. Train drivers who use the networks of foreign railways must complete additional training units on the regulations of the respective network. Deutsche Bahn AG train drivers visit a realistic simulator every year or every three years , in which operational irregularities are trained. Negative learning success controls or failure to pass the simulator test lead to a temporary loss of driving authorization and follow-up training; the driver is only allowed to drive again after this and a new learning success control. Train drivers in Switzerland have to pass a periodic examination every five years. This test is a complete operational service test which can be repeated once. Failure to pass the repeat test means the loss of the driver's license.

Train driver for the Deutsche Reichsbahn and Bundesbahn

Locomotive driver in the driver's cab of a wet steam narrow gauge

At the Deutsche Bundesbahn , the train driver's career was a civil service career in the middle technical service . Admission requirements were the elementary school or secondary school certificate and a completed apprenticeship in metalworking or electrical engineering, as well as a two-year apprenticeship. The apprenticeship was usually completed in the railway's own workshop. Subsequently, the journeyman had to complete a preparatory service of more than one year as a trainee engine driver, which was concluded with the career test (engine driver examination). During the preparatory service training took place at several locomotive and train drivers - series . The candidate was then appointed to the position of locomotive driver for employment (Lokf z. A., salary group A 5 ) and after the appointment to the reserve locomotive driver . Transport offices were locomotive drivers (Lokf, BesGr. A 6), senior locomotive drivers (Olokf, salary group A 7) and main locomotive drivers (Hlokf, BesGr. A 8). In the 1970s, locomotive operations inspector (Lokbi, BesGr. A 9, {early 1980 A 9 with official allowance}) Lokbi Z was added. This official title already existed in the 1950s and 1960s. At that time it was dropped in favor of the more general official title of Federal Railway Operations Inspector. Until the 1960s, the entrance office was an auxiliary engine driver , which was later referred to as the reserve engine driver (BesGr. A 5). From 1970 reserve engine drivers were fully trained engine drivers. With appropriate vehicle and route knowledge, they drove freight and passenger trains or shunting services.

At the Deutsche Reichsbahn , the training was comparable. The special rank designations in machine service were dropped in 1974, see rank of the Deutsche Reichsbahn . Depending on the position and seniority, train drivers generally held ranks between Reichsbahn secretary and chief inspector. Since around the 1970s, it has been possible to acquire the ability to drive locomotives during the apprenticeship through vocational training as a vehicle fitter, specializing in train drivers. The training usually took place on class 106 locomotives . The apprenticeship lasted two years, but the successful completion of the tenth grade of the general polytechnic high school was a prerequisite for entry and employment.

The official designation of railcar driver (K) (simple service) only existed with the Deutsche Bundesbahn. It was mainly intended for rail bus drivers ; Also called rubber railroaders in DB employee jargon. Railcar driver Twf (K), salary group A 4. Upper railcar driver OTwf (K), salary group A 5 and (later) also OTwf (K) A6, salary group A 6. The (K) stands for motor vehicle service. Twf / Otwf (K) could also be drivers of tractor units. Non-civil servants were given the addition (Arb).

Train driver at Deutsche Bahn


The subsidiaries of Deutsche Bahn and private railway companies now employ trained train drivers as employees after the railway reform. Since 1997 there has been a three-year training course to become a railway worker in operations service , specializing in track and train drivers and transport. For example, since December 14, 2004, DB has required a secondary school diploma to qualify as a train driver. The training for locomotives , only for one series , takes two months longer. At the Austrian Federal Railways, for example, train driver training takes 48 weeks. At the Swiss Federal Railways, the training lasts one year.

The training for the EiB L / T is a dual training course . It is important that the trainee gets to know the railway as a system. In the first two years of the apprenticeship, depending on the location, the training also includes content that is not directly relevant to the later work as a train driver, including workshop and signal box service, escorting trains or working in travel centers. In the third year of training, the actual train driver training takes place.

Deutsche Bahn employs around 18,700 train drivers (as of September 2019) and around 1,400 corresponding trainees. In 2019, around 1,100 train drivers left the DB by September. During the same period, DB train drivers worked an average of around 100 hours of overtime. In 2016, according to DB, 395 young people began training as train drivers.

In addition to the three-year training for the EiB L / T, there is also pure "functional training" as a train driver, in which only the knowledge and skills required for the specific job as a train driver are conveyed (including signals, train protection and communication systems, carrying out train and shunting runs in Regular operation and, in the event of deviations, training on at least one locomotive series). If it is to be completed with a class 3 railroad vehicle driver's license (unrestricted approval for route service), this training will take seven to nine months, and if the training is only for class 1 (limited to shunting service), it will be considerably shorter. Since May 7, 2011, the train driver's license ordinance has been in force.

It is seen as problematic that with this orientation the technical skills of the train drivers are no longer consistently at a high level. However, since malfunctions in modern locomotives can only rarely be remedied with on-board resources, this is less important. On the other hand, the less trained drivers can no longer be easily replaced in the event of a short-term failure, which often leads to delays and train cancellations.

The annual advanced and advanced training (RFU) at DB comprises 18 hours a year (eight compulsory hours and ten hours to be completed as required), which are indispensable in view of the fact that technology is still rapidly developing. The RFU (regular advanced training) is divided into regular lessons and self-paced teaching units carried out using electronic media. In addition, there are two monitoring drives in regular operation and two hours of training in the simulator, one hour of which is used as a monitoring drive, as further annual monitoring instruments of the driver's knowledge.

Areas of responsibility

Due to increasing automation and increasing competitive pressure, train drivers often perform tasks that were previously performed by other categories of personnel. This includes the coupling and uncoupling of locomotives from the train set at terminal stations as well as cleaning the outside of the vehicles during breaks. In many places, the train drivers prepare their trains themselves, which includes, for example, the full brake test, the creation of a wagon list and brake slip as well as the functional test of the technical equipment of the rolling stock.

In regional transport in particular, the train drivers are increasingly taking on the tasks of the former train drivers , as the train staff on these trains now often consists only of customer service representatives in local transport and their task profile, after the abolition of ticket sales on the train, increasingly focuses on service functions and the control of tickets . Where trains are used without a conductor, the driver can be responsible for providing customer information. In some regions, drivers also sell tickets when they are standing still.

In addition, selected workshop personnel, for example foremen or group leaders, have driving authorization for rail vehicles. These are unofficially referred to as workshop drivers or factory drivers. While this was often possible in a simplified manner in the past, today a complete training to become a train driver with a driving license class 1 or A is necessary, which entitles the driver to drive the vehicles in the context of shunting trips. In rare cases, this staff is also authorized to run train journeys on the open route, for example as part of acceptance runs after maintenance work. You will then have a class 2 or 3 or A + B driving license.

Personnel development

At the time of the reunification of Germany in 1990, a total of 40,859 locomotive drivers were working for the two German state railways. As a result of the general downsizing at state-owned companies in the former GDR and the rise of private railway companies, the number of train drivers at the Deutsche Bahn, which has now been established, fell to 19,611 by the end of 2006.

In mid-2012, according to a survey by the Federal Employment Agency, vacant train driver positions could only be filled after 180 days on average. In 2017, a vacancy could only be filled after an average of 200 days. In 2018 there was a shortage of at least 1200 train drivers on the railway. The train drivers were also absent from the other railway companies. At the beginning of 2019, DB had more than 18,000 train drivers. In total, there were around 30,700 train drivers in Germany at the end of 2018.

In 2018, around 1,700 people in Germany took up a subsidized advanced training course to become a “train driver in railway traffic”. This corresponds to an increase of 250 percent compared to 2014.


Train driver in Germany
year For Standard basic salary
(from / to, without allowances)
2006 1970 euros 2142 euros
2008 2016 euros 3199 euros
2010 2056 euros 3263 euros
2013 LF5 2488 euros 3010 euros
2017 LF5 2681 euros 3285 euros
2019 (July) LF5 2950 euros 3453 euros
2020 (July) LF5 3027 euros 3543 euros

In 2007, employed locomotive drivers at Deutsche Bahn AG received a gross wage of a maximum of 2142 euros per month, the starting salary at that time, according to the collective agreement, was 1970 euros.

The union of German locomotive drivers implemented its own collective agreement for train drivers in 2008. Thereafter, Tf received a gross wage of a maximum of EUR 3,199 per month at Deutsche Bahn. The starting salary according to the new collective agreement was 2016 euros. As of January 1, 2010, salaries were raised to between EUR 2056 and EUR 3263. In addition, there were allowances for frequent night and weekend shifts.

As of November 2013, the wage agreement for train drivers includes tariff groups LF7 to LF2. In the lowest group LF7 (starting salary 2202 euros) only lateral entrants to train driver training are classified, a mainline engine driver (LF5) with 15 years of professional experience receives 2881 euros, a team leader in LF2 up to 3537 euros. In addition to the respective basic wages, there are bonuses averaging 300 euros per month.

The civil servant train drivers taken on by the Federal Railroad are paid as civil servants in accordance with the federal pay regulations.

Train drivers in other European countries


In France, the 17,000 train drivers of the SNCF received a basic salary of between EUR 1200 and 2200 in 2007 , supplemented by bonuses of around EUR 400 to 750. Train drivers receive 38 days of leave per year and can retire at the age of 50 if they have been a train driver for at least 15 years and have been employed by the SNCF for 25 years. These early retirement regulations go back to an agreement from the year 1850, with which the additional burdens of the railway professions should be compensated. The length of service to reach the maximum pension is 37.5 years. The working time is 35 hours per week.

The basic TA training , which entitles them to maneuvering and shorter journeys on the open route , can be acquired in four months at a special school. The TB training course , which entitles you to longer journeys on the open route, for example with Corail wagons and night trains , takes eight months. There is a special selection process for high-speed TGV trains .

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom , most drivers worked 35 hours a week in 2007, with an average monthly salary of around EUR 3,500 and EUR 4,000. With 40 hours per week, around 4750 euros per month can be achieved.


In Switzerland, the train drivers work a 41-hour week. Deviations are quite possible because in addition to the SBB, BLS, SOB, there are other smaller EVU (railway transport companies) that can deviate from them. You generally retire at the age of 65. However, many companies allow early retirement, which usually requires around 25 years of service and the funding gap is pre-financed in the previous years of service. Those who want to retire earlier, however, have to expect cuts that they have to compensate for in other ways. As far as salaries are concerned, there are very large differences, depending on the company or even within the same company itself. The reason for this is that new wage systems have been introduced and continuously adapted over the past 20 years. Depending on the company (SBB, BLS), a train driver with 20 years of service experience earns an average of CHF 90,000 gross per year. There are also allowances for night and Sunday work, which vary greatly depending on the railway company.

Consequences of personal accidents

On average, according to information from Deutsche Bahn, train drivers are confronted with a personal accident around two to three times in their professional life . In many cases this results in post- traumatic stress disorder . After such an accident, the train driver involved is no longer allowed to drive and is relieved on site. In train accidents in the area of ​​Deutsche Bahn alone, around 1,300 people are killed each year, including around 1,000 suicides. While the trauma suffered by vehicle drivers was neglected for a long time, there are now special programs and therapies for them.

Web links

Commons : Train Driver  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Train driver  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Jürgen Janicki: System Knowledge Railway . Berlin 2011. ISBN 978-3-9808002-6-6 , p. 42.
  2. This often happens in press reports, but even the German Federal Minister for Transport and Digital Infrastructure , Alexander Dobrindt , does not seem to know the difference (see: press conference after the Bad Aibling railway accident ) (see: here , accessed on 17. February 2016). This conceptual confusion has now also occurred in railway literature (cf.: Tim Parks: Italy to the full . Munich 2014. ISBN 978-3-88897-971-2 , p. 203).
  3. a b German Bundestag (ed.): Answer of the Federal Government to the minor question from the MPs Andreas Wagner, Sabine Leidig, Dr. Gesine Lötzsch, another member of parliament and the DIE LINKE parliamentary group . - Printed matter 19/13663 - . Shortage of train drivers at Deutsche Bahn AG. tape 19 , no. 14950 , November 8, 2019, ISSN  0722-8333 , p. 3 f., 6-9 ( BT-Drs. 19/14950 ).
  4. ↑ The training offensive continues. Deutsche Bahn, December 30, 2016, archived from the original on December 30, 2016 ; accessed on December 30, 2016 .
  5. Traction Vehicle Driver's License Ordinance (TfV) Article 1 of the fifth ordinance on the enactment and amendment of railway regulations of April 29, 2011 ( Federal Law Gazette I, p. 705 )
  6. Manfred Schell : The locomotive pulls the train . Rotbuch-Verlag , Berlin 2009. ISBN 978-3-86789-059-5 , p. 158.
  7. a b Union of German Locomotive Drivers: The driver's collective agreement: figures, facts, background .
  8. Plumbers and train drivers are running out . In: Handelsblatt . No. 7 , January 10, 2013, ISSN  0017-7296 , p. 6 .
  10. 1200 train drivers are missing. GDL warns of massive train cancellations
  11. ↑ Shortage of train drivers on regional railways Brief message from the Bundestag
  12. 3762636
  14. More drivers . In: Eisenbahn-Revue International . No. December 12 , 2019, ISSN  1421-2811 , p. 613 .
  15. a b collective agreement for locomotive drivers of rail transport companies of the Agv MoVe (LfTV) . Valid from February 1, 2009, page 75.
  16. a b Table on the train driver's collective agreement, valid from November 1, 2013 , published by GDL-Kempten
  17. BuRa-LfTV
  19. So the statement of union leader Manfred Schell in the interview rail strike against “starvation wages” . In: Hamburger Abendblatt dated June 25, 2007, source: Train driver salary: What others earn - SpOn, October 19, 2007
  20. This is how much train drivers and pilots actually earn Südkurier from October 16, 2014
  21. a b The colleague in France drives better . In: Frankfurter Rundschau from August 10, 2007
  22. The day of the talented improvisers. In: Spiegel Online , November 14, 2007.
  23. Dream job as a train driver . Spiegel online, November 18, 2007
  24. ^ Mathias Fauth: Special features of the post-traumatic stress reaction in train drivers. In: Manfred Zielke et al. (Ed.): The end of security? The importance of traumatic experiences in different areas of life and events. Pabst, Lengerich 2003, pp. 116-128, ISBN 3899670027
  25. ^ Sabine Groeben: Care after stressful events: The prevention program of the Deutsche Bahn AG. In: Manfred Zielke et al. (Ed.): The end of security? The importance of traumatic experiences in different areas of life and events. Pabst, Lengerich 2003, pp. 85-96, ISBN 3899670027