How your rail operation can make light work of staff rostering

Creating a railway staff roster is rather like solving a huge and complex puzzle, with pieces which move around when you least expect it. The pressure is on, because solving the puzzle has a far-reaching impact on your train running operations.

When you click together the pieces of the rostering puzzle, you influence the safety of passengers and crew, your legal compliance and the financial health of your business.

It can be even more challenging to manage staff scheduling if you’re having to rely on paper-based methods or spreadsheets. Your rosters might work well enough, but planning them eats up valuable time – and even then, can you be sure those rosters provide the best solution for your staff and your operation?

Technology can lighten the load for your resource managers by helping them optimise staff rosters, quickly and easily, so your operation can run safely.

A digital rostering tool will allow you to:

  1. Save time on planning and allocation

Planning your weekly schedule takes up time and energy, but technology can help you avoid reinventing the wheel every week.

With a dedicated rostering solution, you can create a base roster for all your depots, teams or business units.  Once you have created the base roster and saved it in your system, you can use it to generate your weekly schedules without it taking up too much valuable time.

  1. Share schedules with teams and employees

Everyone needs information on their shifts as early as possible, but trusting a paper-based system to communicate staff shift patterns runs the risk of essential information going astray.

An online rostering tool gives you the option to share schedules with regional managers, depot managers and employees electronically, via an app on their smartphone. Digital communication helps to cut down on missing messages, no shows and incorrect booking times.

If there are short notice changes to a diagram – the list of activities which a staff member needs to follow on their shift – you can let people know instantly.

  1. Manage fatigue and risk

Tracking fatigue and risk levels can be complex, but by digitising the process it becomes much easier to create schedules which prioritise the safety and wellbeing of train crews – and their passengers.

Having all the data on staff working patterns including night shifts, early starts and breaks all in one place makes it easier to identify potential hazards and spot when a driver is likely to be too tired to perform their role.

  1. Comply with regulatory requirements

With so many parameters to consider when building a roster, such as labour laws, overtime rates and employee contracts, it’s becoming harder to manage the process using a notepad or spreadsheet.

A digital rostering solution allows you to define all these rules as they apply to your operation, so when you build a roster, it is automatically validated when it meets the regulations. Alternatively, the system will flag up an issue – such as a driver who has worked for more hours than their contract allows – so you can go in and resolve it.

  1. Keep your operation working efficiently

Technology can help you optimise your rosters so your operation can drive down costs and work more efficiently.

An online solution makes it easier to keep track of which staff members are working on which routes, giving you clearer visibility of your staffing costs. You can spot if there are particular routes where you’ve had to pay for extra staff at short notice, or spend more than usual on staff overtime.

If you have a rostering system which integrates with your employee development and competency management solution, you can instantly see whether a driver has the skills you need for a shift. The system will tell you the driver is competent to work on a particular route or to drive a specific locomotive so you don’t have to sift through copious personnel files to check their competency records.

As the world of rail continues to evolve, managing rosters will only get more complex. However, if you have the technology to help you match the best people to the routes and trains you run, you can bring all the puzzle pieces together to create the perfect roster.

To find out more about our online rostering system, RailSmart ORS, visit or request a demo.

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