Point of Beginning

Letters to the Editor

February 1, 2004
Readers comment on hourly surveying rates, NCEES policies; an editorial clarification.

Letters to the Editor
November 2003

I read with interest the letter from Paul Sample. As a licensed surveyor and former surveying business owner I have seen both sides of the employer/employee relationship.

I realize that surveying companies charge $65 per hour and more for licensed individuals. The company I work for now charges $85 per hour. Employees who have never been owners don't realize that the difference between what is charged and what is paid to the employee as an hourly rate is not pure profit. The employer must pay FICA and Medicare taxes for each employee along with mandated Workers' Compensation insurance and unemployment taxes. If there are any benefits, and there usually are, the employer generally picks up all or part of those. These can consist of health and dental insurance, 401(k) or other retirement, profit sharing, etc. Let's not forget paid time off (vacation and/or sick leave) and paid holidays. All of these taxes and benefits put together can easily amount to anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of the employee's base pay.

There is also something in business called overhead. That is the general category that can include rent, utilities, insurance (general liability, vehicle, professional liability, property, etc.) equipment purchases and maintenance, vehicle purchases and maintenance, office and field supplies, computers, software, software licenses, and"¦ well, you get the picture. Also included in overhead are some very necessary support personnel such as secretaries, accountants, attorneys, etc., [who] may or may not be on the payroll but will nonetheless be paid. Also consider the fact that the employer sometimes cannot charge the client for every hour that an employee works. Jobs are generally bid on a "lump sum" or "not to exceed" basis. If an employee exceeds the estimated time for a particular job, then the employer has to eat the amount of time that cannot be billed.

The costs of owning and running a surveying company can be staggering. Consider the cost of outfitting one crew with a vehicle, GPS, total station, data collector, tripods, prisms and all the small but necessary equipment that goes with them. Throw in gasoline, maintenance, insurance, etc., and you can see that it costs more than the $15 or $20 per hour base pay to run a surveying crew.

I was lucky. My company made a decent profit and we didn't have any major problems. I am grateful for the experience, but I'm sleeping better at night not having to worry about all the things that could go wrong such as lawsuits or accidents. The life of a business owner is not just sitting back and raking in the money; it carries a lot of headaches, responsibility and expense. The hourly rates charged are generally fair and reasonable; otherwise the market would not bear them.

Richard L. Dayton, PLS
Bentonville, Ark.

The Latest News
November 2003

The NCEES needs to police its own work. I recently took the test. In preparation for the test, I ordered the study guide to assist in my review for the test. When reviewing the suggested texts contained in the appendix, I was extremely disappointed to find out that the majority of the suggested texts are out of print. This was determined by using Amazon.com. What does the NCEES intend to do about this? When and if they do something about this, the test should be changed to reflect the changes in suggested study materials.

Sitting back and resting on your laurels is a good way of losing your monopoly and being replaced by someone or some other organization that is more competent. Mankind has a problem learning from history. Empires and businesses come and go because they cannot and will not keep up with the changing times. Let's get with it!

The calculator problem is a minor issue. I personally purchased an HP48GX for the overall capability. I also removed the program cards before taking the test so as to be playing on a level playing field. Just like Mr. Byrum in your article, I am not happy that I will have to purchase another calculator just to take the professional test and then throw it away.

Frederic T. Dugdale
Lafayette, La.


In the December 2003 article "The Surveying Chronicle," Scott Beagles, PLS, is quoted as citing that the Trimble 5600 series reflectorless robotic total station "excels way beyond any others on the market." The actual model of the Trimble series used on the project was the 5603 DR200+; the statement was the opinion of the surveyor.

When evaluating the accuracy performance of an electronic total station, there are two instrument characteristics to consider: the vertical angle accuracy specification in arc seconds and the compensation design whether single or dual axis. The measurements reported to be have been completed in this project could have been performed with the same performance and accuracy standards with Leica Geosystems, Topcon or Trimble reflectorless robotic instruments. These models offer dual-axis angle compensation, as noted:

Topcon GPT-8000 series:
GPT-8001A (1 arc second H & V)
GPT-8003A (3 arc seconds H & V)
GPT-8005A (5 arc seconds H & V)

Trimble 5600 series:
5601 (1 arc second H & V)
5602 (2 arc seconds H & V)
5603 (3 arc seconds H & V)
5605 (5 arc seconds H & V)

Leica 1100 series:
TCRA-1101 (1.5 arc second H & V)
TCRA-1102 (2 arc seconds H & V)
TCRA-1103 (3 arc seconds H & V) TCRA-1105 (5 arc seconds H & V)

The ideas and opinions expressed by our readers do not necessarily reflect those of POB.