Career Profile: Shunter

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Steer your career towards the rail industry with one of these rewarding possibilities.

You can become a shunter following completion of secondary school. Once employed, you will have formal training, both on and off the job.

Knowledge of signalling equipment would be an advantage, and you’ll need to be willing to upgrade your skills as technology and rolling stock change.

Some Australian organisations offer a traineeship in driver shunting, ground shunting, lead shunting or rail yard coordination.

A Certificate II in Shunting is a qualification for those engaged in basic operations within the rail yard or terminal environment, undertaking a range of tasks involving known routines and procedures and taking some responsibility for the quality of work outcomes.

What is shunting?

Shunting is the job of safely moving trains between yards and platforms. Shunters marshal trains, hook on locomotives and detach defective carriages. They also direct and move freight trains, organise rail freight and conduct safety checks.

What might a shunter do?

  • Assisting with coupling and uncoupling trains / locomotives / rollingstock
  • Direct train drivers around the rail yard
  • Direct train drivers when coupling carriages and engines
  • Note and report vehicle or infrastructure irregularities to Supervisor
  • Work under the direction of the Leading Shunter and Yard Master in undertaking vehicle movements
  • Apply/release vehicle handbrakes as required
  • Observe safety requirements and procedures when shunting trains
  • Safely working and operating in a rail site
  • Conduct safety checks on trains
  • Place wagons into sidings (railway parking tracks)

Who might it suit?

As the work can be dangerous, shunters must be extremely safety conscious and have good common sense.

Shunters need good communication, teamwork and time management skills, with the ability to work well under pressure.

Where and when is the work?

Shunting work is often hectic and most time is spent outdoors, on the track and moving between stationary trains.

Shifts are generally on a rotating roster, including working on evenings, weekends and public holidays.

What is the pay?

In 2019, the shunter salary can vary between $70,000 to approx $88,000.


Career development is the ongoing process of managing your life, learning and work. It involves developing the skills and knowledge that enable you to plan and make informed decisions about your education, training and career choices.

Typically, a shunter will progress from an entry level role to supervising, depending on the size of the organisation.

You may become Lead Shunter, Yard Master or Coordinator – or with training and experience, Operations Manager. Shunters may even retrain to become train drivers.

Contact us

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