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Salary survey: Who earns what, and where?

MONTREAL, Que. - Planning a career in the Quebec trucking industry? Then consider the following facts about starting salaries: On average, a long distance driver will start at $39,205 a year - $7,306...

MONTREAL, Que. – Planning a career in the Quebec trucking industry? Then consider the following facts about starting salaries: On average, a long distance driver will start at $39,205 a year – $7,306 more than a local driver. A master mechanic will begin at $36,343 annually – $6,841 more than a maintenance mechanic. A dispatcher will hire on at $37,000. The highest starting salaries, about $49,700, go to the directors of operations or finance.

These salary figures were distilled from questionnaires completed by 229 trucking companies for a Quebec Trucking Association (QTA) study titled “2005 Survey on the Global Renumeration of Personnel in the Trucking Industry in Quebec.” It can be downloaded as a 31-page .pdf file, in French, from the QTA’s main Web site:

“There is a huge shortage of drivers and industry workers. What this project does is show the exact salaries for each situation. We have never had a global salary survey done for strictly the transport companies in Quebec,” says QTA director of finances and industry products, Carolle Cloutier.

In late 2004, the QTA commissioned the Ottawa firm GRH Solutions, in collaboration with the Universite du Quebec en Outaouais, and with resources from its own finances and industry products office, to develop a questionnaire and carry out the survey. The results were published in 2005.

Readers can see how salaries in 14 job categories rise after five years on the job, and at what levels they level out. The report also lists salaries according to company size; e.g., the lowest salaries are paid to employees of companies with 19 or fewer employees, but in companies with more than 20 employees, there is no connection between salary size and company size.

The report shows that salaries range considerably across the nine principle regions of Quebec. If, for example, you happen to work out east in the Bas St-Laurent and Gaspesie region, you will earn less than anywhere else in the province. For example, a maintenance mechanic there will only earn $24,687, compared to $31,187 in the Abitibi region north of Montreal. A director of finance in the Bas St-Laurent and Gaspesie region will earn $35,680, $21,000 less than his counterpart in the Monteregie, south and east of Montreal. The best-paid long distance drivers are in the Monteregie.

This detailed information on salaries can shed light on why some companies have trouble retaining employees. “This is a great tool for companies that want to keep their employees. For example, it helps one understand why a mechanic quits,” says Cloutier.

Well-paid employees are less likely to quit, but Montreal, Laval and Monteregie area workers, although generally the best-paid, are by no means captive: the healthy and accessible market offers them a lot of choice where they wish to work.

The report also groups salaries according to six transport categories: tankers and dangerous materials, specialized sectors, wood chips and logs, aggregate haulers, general transport and moving companies. With only a couple of exceptions, everyone in the moving business, whether driver, mechanic, dispatcher or director, is paid less than their counterparts in the other five transport sectors – a good meat and potatoes head’s up for anyone keen on a trucking career, but still undecided on which kind of trucking to specialize in. On average, the forestry industry pays the most money.

Salaries are further broken down by transport zone (local and intraprovincial, interprovincial and international or a combination of these), jurisdiction (provincial or federal) and union or non-union; not surprisingly, the best-paid employees are found in union environments; 26 per cent of the businesses in the survey were unionized.

The survey also presents quite a lot of information on individual and performance bonuses, profit sharing, fringe benefits and annual vacations.

Profit sharing appears to be limited to the director class, and at that, only about 12 per cent of the companies surveyed offer profit sharing. A director of operations could add anywhere from an additional $750 to $50,000 to his salary, but the average top-up is $10,856. Directors of finance in companies with profit sharing make an average $16,871 on top of their regular salaries.

More companies offer performance bonuses, and they are available to more types of employees. Long-distance drivers are the most commonly-found beneficiaries, with about 21 per cent of companies paying an average $2,512 bonus. Local drivers in about 17 per cent of the surveyed companies pick up bonuses, averaging $1,965. Again, the fattest performance bonuses go those in the director class, although in very few companies. Dispatchers, mechanics and general office employees should not hold their breath, although a handful of companies did give them some bonus money.

Far greater numbers of employees can expect benefits of the medical variety: Over 70 per cent of the companies surveyed contribute to the cost of hospital care, drug costs, life and accident insurance. About 25 per cent of the companies surveyed contribute to registered retirement savings plans.

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