Salary Survey 1997: How Ya Doin?

Results of our latest salary survey show fleet managers' paychecks are holding steady from two years agoCompensation is a lot like politics and religion. Even though it's more polite to inquire about the weather, most people can't help wanting to know where others stand on these matters.But when it comes to questions of pay, not only curiosity is at stake. How much we make -- or deserve to make --

Results of our latest salary survey show fleet managers' paychecks are holding steady from two years ago

Compensation is a lot like politics and religion. Even though it's more polite to inquire about the weather, most people can't help wanting to know where others stand on these matters.

But when it comes to questions of pay, not only curiosity is at stake. How much we make -- or deserve to make -- is at heart an issue of both personal pride and economic necessity.

Recognizing that FLEET OWNER readers have this need to know who makes what, earlier this year we launched our second comprehensive salary survey. Our goal once again is to give you an adequate measure for comparing management pay levels among different types and sizes of fleets across the country.

The results of our maiden voyage into these statistical waters appeared two years ago, in our December 1995 issue. As we did then, this year surveys were mailed out to 3,000 randomly selected subscribers. Just as before, almost 500 returned completed forms, which provide the basis for this 1997 report.

Once we tabulated the responses, it was clear the results again mirrored our total subscriber base by fleet type, location, and size. The upshot is that we are confident our latest information on salaries is also a solid reflection of trucking's overall pay practices toward its managers.

The results of this survey indicate the level of pay across the board has held firm over the last two years. That motor carriers have weathered tough times recently may have resulted in little salary growth. If that's the reason, then the good news may be that pay levels didn't go the other way.

Chart 1: A pattern repeats This time out, we dropped the lowest salary category (less than $20,000) used in our 1995 survey. For this survey, we added a category (more than $125,000) at the high end.

In general, the salary distribution among our readers seems to follow a pattern similar to that set down by the results seen in '95.

This year, 22% of the respondents earned salaries in the $20,000 to $35,999 range, compared to 18% two years ago; 39% reported earnings in the $36,000 to $50,999 range, versus 37% last time; 26% fell into the $51,000 to $70,999 range, compared to 27% in '95; and 12% were in the $71,000 to $90,999 range, compared to 9% in the last survey.

The one major difference between the surveys shows up in the top end of the salary range. And the news is not good. In 1995, 8% of the respondents reported earning salaries above $90,000. This year, we had two categories to cover that side of the salary scale: $91,000 to $125,000, and more than $125,000. The number of respondents who reported salaries climbing to those heights totaled just 1%.

Chart 2: Size counts Analysis of this year's data indicates that as fleet size increases, so do salaries. For example, in fleets with 500 or more vehicles, more than half of the managers reported salaries greater than $51,000. By the same token, only 30% of the managers in fleets of 5 to 9 vehicles were in this salary range.

Conversely, only 11% of the managers of fleets with more than 500 vehicles earned salaries less than $36,000. And 30% of the managers of the smallest fleets also fell into this pay range.

One seeming anomaly in the relationship between salary and fleet size occurs in the two highest salary ranges: $91,000 to $125,000, and more than $125,000. All of the respondents fitting into these categories are employed by fleets typically categorized as small to midsize: 10 to 24 vehicles and 25 to 99 vehicles. But with so few respondents reporting such high-flying salaries, it is difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions.

Chart 3: Bonus questions Although our survey results suggest fleet size can predict salary levels, this is not the case when bonuses are awarded. The distribution of bonuses is fairly equal across fleet-size categories, with the percentage of managers receiving bonuses ranging from 37% to 43%.

With approximately 40% of this year's respondents reporting they received a bonus, the prevalence of this part of the compensation package is down somewhat from our first survey.

Back in '95, nearly half the respondents said they'd received bonuses. Chances are, if fleet owners have become more tightfisted on bonuses, it may reflect the belt-tightening needed to stay competitive while skating on thin margins in a crowded marketplace.

This year's survey shows that by far the majority of the bonuses were paid in cash (90%), with only 9% as stock.

Chart 4: No typecasting Breaking out the data by fleet vocational type reveals no relationship between this factor and salary. Adding up results for private vs. for-hire fleets shows that the distribution of salaries for these major wings of trucking roughly parallel each other.

A description of survey participants by fleet type is represented in Chart 5. This year's pie chart not only closely resembles the '95 version, it again reflects the overall makeup of FLEET OWNER subscribers.

Chart 6: 'Where' not the issue Judging by our survey, differences between the states are less than anytime since Lee and Grant ended hostilities back at Appomattox.

Region by region, there is little distinction among most pay levels for fleet managers. A careful reading reveals two regions-- the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Central states-- that most closely follow the overall pattern for salary distribution.

At higher pay levels, however, the South Central and Mountain regions pull ahead. Together these two areas boast the greatest percentage of managers making over $51,000.

Chart 7: A matter of degree Despite trucking's hands-on image, academic education is a factor that affects salary level dramatically. We can see that approximately 81% of the respondents holding a college degree make at least $51,000 a year-- compared to only 26% of those whose formal education ended with a high-school diploma. Having even "some college" raises the prospects for higher pay, demonstrated by the 41% of respondents in this category earning $51,000 or more. And everyone who was not a high-school grad fell into the lowest salary category, $20,000 to $35,999.

Chart 8: The more you do... The responsibilities of the fleet manager vary widely from one company to another, but can generally be classified as either administrative, maintenance, or operations. And sometimes, they may overlap in two or more of these areas.

Respondents to this year's survey reported their job responsibilities as follows: administrative only, 28%; maintenance only, 29%; operations only, 15%; multiple, 28%.

Job functions do correlate with salary level. Managers who listed their primary responsibilities as administrative landed in the top three salary categories more frequently than managers having other duties alone. Of managers with administrative duties, 58% reported salaries of $51,000 or more. That compares to just 25% of those with a maintenance focus, and 30% of those in the operational end.

Wearing more than one hat is also lucrative. Of those reporting multiple job responsibilities, 39% earned $51,000 or more. To review the findings on job responsibilities in more detail, refer to the data presented as a grid in Chart 8.

Keep an eye on this space come next December. In that issue, our salary survey will return as an annual FLEET OWNER feature.

(Footnote: For additional information on charts and tables referenced in story, see pages 85-90 of Fleet Owner's December 1997 issue.)

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