WASHINGTON — Amtrak’s Human Resources department does not have sufficient staff to handle the company’s plans to add up to 3,500 employees this fiscal year, the Amtrak Office of the Inspector General says in a report issued Thursday.
In another report, the Office of Inspector General said Amtrak should become more involved in local efforts to address land-erosion issues along the route of its Pacific Surfliners.
Amtrak plans to increase its workforce by up to 21% this year, after pandemic-related layoffs and service reductions. But as of October 2021, the HR department responsible for recruiting and hiring management and employees, had vacancies in 28 of 64 positions, leading to workloads that are causing burnout and have some managers saying they or colleagues will condsider leaving if the workload conditions do not improve.
Three of five leadership positions in that department were also vacant, the report says, as Amtrak faces difficulty competing for highly qualified candidates. While Amtrak is considering options to address compensation issues, it has not addressed other competitive issues, the report says.
The Office of Inspector General also said other issues include a “time-consuming and error-prone” process to handle requests for new positions, which HR officials estimate result in errors in 60% to 70% of position requests by the time they reach the recruiting group. Amtrak said new technology to address that issue should be deployed in a few months.
The report recommends that Amtrak should explore and develop “meaningful solutions” to address the problems in competing for qualified candidates, and that it fill the position responsible for overseeing third-party recruiting contracts.
More engagement needed on Surfliner route
The report on the Surfliner issues, released Wednesday, found that Amtrak is meeting regulatory requirements in responding to failures along the Del Mar Bluffs in San Diego County that have disrupted rail service and led to ongoing bluff-stabilization efforts. As an example, it notes that after part of the bluffs collapsed in 2019, the California State Transportation Agency organized a year-long effort to examine bluff stabilization effort. While that process included more than 70 participants, Amtrak — the leading passenger carrier on the route — did not participate.
Participation in such efforts, the report says, would increase the company’s awareness of operational risks in an area that has, since 2018, seen at least six bluff failures that halted operations or required speed restrictions.
That portion of the Surfliner route is owned by the San Diego-ara North County Transit Authority. The authority’s effort to stabilize the bluffs, as well as building a safety fence to prevent trespasser fatalities, is the subject of a case before the Surface Transportation Board [see “San Diego transit district to revive STB petition,” Trains News Wire, Nov. 22, 2021].