When it comes to pay, things seem to be looking up for FLEET OWNER readers. This year, for the first time, we asked respondents how their salary had changed over last year. And the good news is that more than half (58%) reported an increase.

Further data analysis shows that fleet size plays a role in whether or not someone is likely to see a salary increase. For example, those who work for larger fleets (100 or more vehicles) are more likely to receive increases in salary than are those who work for fleets with fewer than 100 vehicles. Sixty-four percent of those working for larger fleets received pay increases, compared with 54% of those working for smaller fleets (under 100 units).

The good news is reflected in the distribution of pay across income categories. This year's results indicate that 16% of respondents earned more than $90,000, with 10% earning in the $90,001-$125,000 range and 6% earning more than $125,000.

That's quite a contrast to last year's survey, in which a mere 1% of respondents earned more than $90,000. And with 10% of those surveyed in 1998 placing themselves in the $70,001-$90,000 range, we can say that more than a quarter of the respondents (26%) earned over $70,000.

The remainder of the income categories break down as follows: 26% were in the $50,001-$70,000 range, the same percent as last year; 26% fell into the $35,001-$50,000 range, versus 39% in '97; and 17% earned between $20,000 and $35,000, compared to 22% last year. Only 2% of respondents earned less than $20,000.

In addition to influencing whether or not fleet managers receive raises, fleet size also affects salary levels. As fleet size increases, so does salary. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of those working for fleets of 100 or more vehicles receive salaries greater than $50,000. On the other hand, only 42% of the participants who work for fleets with under 100 vehicles found themselves in this salary category.

And as we reach the higher salary levels, the differences are even greater. While 27% of those working in the 100-and-over segment earn more than $90,000, only 11% of those in the under-100 segment are making this kind of money. This finding is in stark contrast to last year's. Then, all of those earning more than $90,000 worked for fleets with fewer than 100 vehicles.

In general, the management responsibilities involved in running today's fleets can be described as administration, maintenance, or operations. For this year's survey participants, primary job responsibility breaks down as follows: 43% administrative management, 30% maintenance management, and 15% operations management.

Analysis of our data indicates that what you do during the day does make a difference in the money you take home at the end of the day. Specifically, those who describe their primary job responsibilities as administrative earn more than do those who describe them as either maintenance or operations. For example, 40% of these executives make more than $70,000 per year, compared to only 17% of maintenance managers.

Not surprisingly, another factor that makes a difference in fleet managers' pay is education. Almost two-thirds of those with some college under their belts (64%) have annual salaries greater than $50,000, while only 36% of those who completed high school or vocational/technical school are making this kind of money. This year's survey also shows that 35% of fleet managers are college graduates, and another 10% have graduate degrees.

Bonuses continue to appear in fleet managers' compensation packages, with nearly half of all respondents indicating their eligibility for one (44%). This number is up slightly over last year's 40%. Analysis reveals that both fleet size and type are indicators of bonus eligibility. Those who work for larger fleets (100 or more vehicles) are more likely to receive a bonus as part of their compensation package than are those who work for small to midsize fleets (less than 100 vehicles.

And managers of for-hire fleets are more likely to be eligible for bonuses than those who work in private fleets (51% and 41%, respectively). Results also show that the majority of bonuses come in the form of cash (86%), with a much smaller proportion in stock (8%).

For the first time, we also looked at the kinds of benefits fleet managers receive. More than half of those surveyed receive supplemental health insurance (63%), supplemental life insurance (63%), and supplemental retirement benefits (54%). While we see no real differences between private and for-hire fleets in terms of health and life insurance benefits, private fleets are more likely to offer retirement benefits (59%) than are for-hire fleets (43%).

Other benefits include professional development (49%), automobile insurance (48%), membership in professional associations (39%), and financial planning/tax preparation assistance (16%). While association memberships and professional development are benefits more commonly offered by private fleets, for-hire fleets are more likely to offer employees financial planning and/or tax preparation assistance.

With more than half reporting salary increases over last year, the financial future looks bright for fleet managers. And working for a private fleet or a large fleet makes this even more likely. Adding to the good news is an increase in the number of bonuses, with the odds favoring for-hire carriers and the larger fleets.

[Ed Note: For additional information and to view charts mentioned in story, refer to pages 40-42 of FLEET OWNER's December 1998 issue.]