Commercial-vehicle employment conditions improve; salary gains mixed

  • 18-Jun-2012 03:04 EDT

Employment prospects and salaries have improved for the majority of commercial-vehicle engineers (including those in the off-highway industry) since the end of the global recession, according to the recently released 2012 SAE International Salary Study. Whether one’s salary went up or down depends heavily on where one works.

The mean salary for commercial-vehicle engineers and related technical positions around the world increased by a mean average of 2.5% in 2012, up from 1.8% in 2010. In the U.S., the mean base salary for commercial-vehicle engineers increased from $89,700 in 2010 to $97,100 in 2012, a jump of 8.3%. When supplemental cash income—such as retirement plans, bonuses, commissions, profit sharing, and educational reimbursement—is added to the mix, the U.S. engineer fared even better, with total compensation improving from $100,200 in 2010 to $112,200, an increase of 12%.

Outside of the U.S., the mean base salary decreased from $80,100 in 2010 to $70,300 in 2012, a drop of 12.2%. Supplemental cash income also decreased, from $11,800 in 2010 to $10,700 in 2012, resulting in a mean average total cash compensation for non-U.S. markets of $81,000 in 2012. That is down from $91,800 in 2012, an 11.8% drop.

For the first time this year, SAE International is publishing salary data by country. Across the three industries served by the organization, mobility engineers in Germany are the highest paid on average ($105,700), followed by the U.S. ($101,500), Australia ($98,900), Japan ($97,800), and Canada ($91,700).

Other key findings of the study:

• Mobility professionals that are also SAE International members in the U.S. ($102,300) make more on average than nonmembers ($101,500)

• Female mobility professionals that are also SAE International members working outside the U.S. ($86,500) make more than their nonmember associates ($85,500)

• Female mobility professionals in the U.S. continue to close the compensation gap with their male counterparts, with their mean salary increasing from $80,500 in 2010 to $91,600 in 2012.

To gain an understanding of how the current economic conditions have impacted employment around the world, commercial-vehicle professionals were asked to indicate what types of adversity their company had experienced in the past 12 months.

In 2012, 44% of commercial-vehicle respondents from around the world said their company had implemented one of eight policies generally considered negative to employment conditions, such as hiring and pay freezes, layoffs, or forced time off. This is down from 79% in 2010. Unlike 2010 when layoffs were the most prevalent policy, hiring freezes are the most common today, accounting for 19% (down from 45% in 2010). Layoffs account for 15% (down from 53% in 2010), followed by pay freezes (9% in 2012, down from 44% in 2010), benefit reductions 14% (down from 27% in 2010), no bonus 7% (down from 33%), time off without pay 4% (down from 19%), and pay cuts only 2% (down from 17% in 2010).

For U.S. mobility engineers in general, 54% of full-time employees experienced one of eight changes, a decrease from 81% in 2010. Meanwhile, employees in Europe, Asia, Canada, and Central and South America say only 41.9% of their companies implemented one of the eight changes, down from 61.7% in 2010.

The 2012 SAE International Salary Study is the only survey of its kind to explore levels and changes in compensation and employment for technical employees in the commercial-vehicle, aerospace, and automotive industries. This second biannual study is based on an email survey issued to 55,000 mobility engineers and related technical employees around the world. Survey recipients were both members and nonmembers of SAE International. They were asked a series of 30 questions about their industry, company, educational backgrounds, job responsibilities, compensation, retirement, ethnicity, and more. Out of the initial sample, 5,628 answered the survey, resulting in an optimal margin of error of +/- 1.3% with a 95% confidence level.

The full report and an online interactive salary calculator can be accessed for free at

Click here to read an article published April 23 that looks at the survey in broader terms across all vehicle sectors: commercial-vehicle, aerospace, and automotive.

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