Discussion paper: Training and Qualification Regulation

Prepared by Rail Safety – Safety and Security

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Transport Canada (TC) is responsible for promoting safe, secure, efficient and environmentally responsible transportation. As part of this mandate, TC is responsible for regulating training and qualifications for employees of federally-regulated railway companies under the Railway Employee Qualification Standards Regulation, 1987 (REQSR). The purpose of railway employee training is to ensure that workers are competent and qualified to perform the duties of their position.

The purpose of this discussion paper is to gather feedback from stakeholders on TC’s proposed approach to updating the training and qualification regime under the REQSR. This paper is the first step in a process that seeks to engage stakeholders and members of the public on regulations. Following these consultations, TC will further engage stakeholders on any specific changes to the regulatory regime.

All feedback received during this consultation will be taken into consideration to inform TC’s approach to updating the training and qualification regime under the REQSR. This process would also feed into the consultation process during which the proposed regulations would be pre-published in Canada Gazette, Part I for public consultation.


Changes to the existing regulatory regime are needed to reflect operational experience gained by the rail industry and TC. The REQSR came into force in 1987 and has not been amended since that time. Under its mandate to advance safety in rail transportation in Canada, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) identified gaps in the REQSR with respect to qualification standards, graduated qualification, conductor training, management crew training and experience and regulatory oversight. In their recommendation, the TSB advanced that if gaps in training are not addressed, railway employees in safety critical positions may not be sufficiently trained or experienced to perform their duties safely.

In its opinion, there are significant changes in rail operations which require the REQSR to be updated. Under the REQSR, TC is responsible for regulating training and qualification requirements for employees of federally-regulated railway companies. However, TC does not have authority under the Railway Safety Act to approve training programs. The onus to ensure railway employees are trained and qualified rests with the railway companies. Railway companies are also responsible for qualifying persons as instructors, coaches, trainers and evaluators to deliver training and evaluate employees.

Regulatory Approach

The intent of the proposed changes is to strengthen the regulatory requirements which must be met by railway companies to train and qualify railway employees. The proposed regulatory approach considers:

  • Outlining who the regulation would apply to, including conductors, locomotive engineers, hostlers, yard persons, remote control locomotive operators and rail traffic controllers
  • Outlining the requirements and guidance for training, examinations and evaluations
  • Adding a means to evaluate the effectiveness of the training program

Scope of Training and Qualification Requirements

TC is proposing to remove the term “occupational category” used in the existing REQSR. Regulatory requirements respecting training and qualification would instead apply to the following:

  • Persons in safety critical positions that work in and around rail, mainline and/or yard; and
  • Rail traffic controllers who are responsible for the safe movement of trains and engines.

Many of these positions align with the existing REQSR, which prescribes training requirements for employees in the following occupational categories: locomotive engineer, conductor, transfer hostler and yard person. Through the proposed regulatory approach, regulatory requirements respecting training and qualification could apply to new positions, such as remote control locomotive operators (RCLOs) and rail traffic controllers (RTCs).

Training Requirements and Guidance

TC is considering changing the structure of the existing REQSR by outlining new requirements and guidance for training. As much as possible, the training requirements from the existing REQSR would be carried over to any new regulation.

Initial Training

This training would continue to be established and approved by the railway company to address initial qualification requirements. Initial training considerations would include:

  • knowledge-based and performance-based training requirements with a formal evaluation process, including the minimum pass mark for required subjects;
  • a requirement for newly qualified railway employees to work under the supervision of experienced employees during their first two years of qualifying in a position; and
  • Crew Resource Management (CRM) training. CRM is a set of procedures that focuses on threat and error management, communication, situational awareness, decision-making and leadership skills in environments where human error can impact on safety.

Simulator Training

This training would use software systems that represent the work environment. TC is considering prescribing that simulator training be part of the training and qualification of railway employees that would include exercises that represent normal, abnormal, malfunctions and emergency and accident operations.

On-the-job Training

The REQSR already requires on-the-job training. TC is considering prescribing other on-the-job training requirements that would include:

  • a requirement for a railway employee to work under the direct supervision of a qualified coach with a formal performance evaluation; and
  • additional training in areas such as train handling methods and CRM competencies.

Territory Familiarization Training

The objective of territory familiarization training is to provide a person the knowledge and skills relating to a particular territory. TC is considering prescribing territory familiarization training that would include a requirement for:

  • a railway employee to work under the direct supervision of a qualified coach or trainer with a formal performance evaluation;
  • a railway employee to have familiarization with the topographic features of the territory; and
  • a railway employee that has not worked in a specific territory within a one year period may be required to complete territory familiarization training.

Continuing Training

In addition to meeting initial training requirements, TC is considering prescribing that railway employees update their knowledge and skills through continuing training. This training would include:

  • ongoing training on a periodic basis to update knowledge, skills and qualifications of railway employees; and
  • continuing training programs consisting of classroom training, on-the-job training and simulator training.

Recertification of Training and Qualifications

Recertification training is training that is repeated at specified intervals. The REQSR currently defines this at intervals of not more than three years. Recertification training requirements would include topics from the initial training program, procedures that are not maintained through daily operations (e.g. abnormal conditions), and training CRM competencies. In addition, the training could include on-the-job and territory familiarization training.

Return-to-Duty Training

TC is considering introducing requirements respecting return-to-duty training. A railway employee could be required to update their training if they have been absent from their duties for more than one year due to a leave of absence (e.g. sickness, injury, maternity or paternity leave, family-related, educational or temporary layoffs).

Examinations and Evaluations

TC is considering prescribing requirements for both a knowledge-based examination and a performance-based evaluation respecting the training and qualification of persons subject to the regulations.

TC is considering requiring that only qualified and currently or previously certified instructors, coaches or evaluators conduct a knowledge-based or performance-based evaluation.

Annual Review and Audit

TC is considering prescribing requirements respecting annual review and audits. The effectiveness of training programs could be formally evaluated by railway companies through an annual review, to address changes to regulatory and operational requirements. As well, an action plan could be developed to address the deficiencies or challenges identified during the annual review. An audit, completed every three years, could be completed to evaluate the extent to which training programs have been effectively implemented.

Other Legislative Authorities

The existing REQSR is supported by other railway safety regulations and rules that include a component of training. Of particular importance are:

Requires companies to identify positions responsible for performing duties essential to safe rail operations, as well as the skills, knowledge and qualifications required to perform those duties safely.

The SMS Regulations requires railway companies to have a process for managing knowledge and a plan for ensuring that an employee has the skills, qualifications and knowledge. However, the SMS Regulations does not define or prescribe the requirements for training programs that railway companies should develop and implement in order for a railway employee to be considered trained and qualified. TC is proposing that the amendments to the REQSR complement the process for managing knowledge outlined in the SMS Regulations.

Requires that every employee in any service connected with movements, handling of main track switches, and protection of track work and track units shall pass the required examination at prescribed intervals, not to exceed three years.

Public input

TC intends to use the feedback received on this discussion paper to inform its approach to regulating training and qualification of railway employees.


  • a) What are your views, positive or negative, on our proposed approach to training requirements and guidance?
  • b) Are there key issues impacting training and qualifications of railway employees that you would like to propose for consideration that were not included in this paper?