"The Road Home" Podcast

Episode 2: The Importance Of Dispatch

Welcome to "The Road Home" everyone! This is TruckingTruth's podcast for those considering a career in trucking or trying to survive their first year on the road.

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Episode 2: The Importance Of Dispatch

Dispatch will play a critical role in determining the level of happiness and success a driver will experience out on the road. But what exactly does a dispatcher do and why is this relationship so important to a driver? We'll take a look at the role your dispatcher will play and what you can do as a driver to make the most out of this critical relationship.

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Transcript: The Importance Of Dispatch

Hey, folks I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth.com and welcome to another episode of our podcast “The Road Home” where we help new drivers prepare for life on the road.

Today we're gonna be talking about the critical role that your dispatcher will play, both for you as a driver, and in the everyday operations of a trucking company.

So by far the most important person in a driver's work life is their dispatcher, and in fact probably 95% of all the communication between the drivers and the company will go through dispatch.

But what exactly is your dispatcher's job, anyhow? Do they control how many miles a driver gets or what loads they're assigned? Do they dictate how much home time you're going to get?

And what is the nature of the relationship between a driver and dispatcher? Is your dispatcher your boss? Are they your teammate? Are you their boss? Who's calling the shots?

And why does everyone say it's so important to develop a good relationship with your dispatcher?

To make sense of all this let's take a look at what role your dispatcher will play and why they're so important to you as a driver.

So to begin with, what is your dispatcher's primary role?

Well your dispatcher will normally have anywhere from 30 - 50 drivers they are directly responsible for. Now when things are going according to plan your dispatcher's primary role will be to make sure you have all of the information you need for the loads that you're assigned to. She will keep you up to date on any changes that may take place with your current assignment or alert you to any future assignments that might be coming your way.

Now when things are not going according to plan your dispatcher's main role will be to gather all of the information needed to understand the situation and then notify the appropriate people required to help you work through that situation.

For instance, if a driver is going to be late for an appointment your dispatcher will notify customer service so that they can then contact the customer.

If a driver's truck breaks down dispatch can notify the shop so that the shop can begin the process of getting you underway again.

So if your dispatcher can handle the situation, she will, and if not, she'll pass the information on to the appropriate people and remain in the loop while the situation is being resolved.

Ok so that's the dispatcher's primary reponsibility, now what about the driver's responsibility to their dispatch?

When things are going according to plan the most important thing you must do as a driver is to keep dispatch up to date on your schedule and up to date regarding anything that might effect your schedule. For instance, if you see you're heading into a storm or you're starting to feel ill you would want to alert dispatch that there may be potential problems looming on the horizon. Even if you don't know how things are going to play out you should inform dispatch right away of any potential concerns. The more warning you can give them, the better.

When things are not going according to plan it's critical that the driver relays every bit of information available to dispatch so they can understand exactly what's going on and formulate a plan to handle it. Whether a storm comes on strong or your truck breaks down or you're feeling ill, it's critical that you keep dispatch up to date at all times on everything that's happening out there.

So obviously great communication between a driver and their dispatcher is critical.

So the next question would be, “Is your dispatcher your boss?”

Well technically, no. At most companies your dispatcher is not your boss. Your dispatcher normally will not have a lot of authority when it comes to assigning loads or granting special privileges or hiring and firing drivers. But keep in mind that your dispatcher is normally relaying information to you that is coming from a higher authority.

So you might think, “Well, great! She's not my boss then why would I care what she thinks?”

Because dispatch is acting as your voice to the people who do make the important decisions, like load planners, operations managers, safety managers, and shop foreman. If your dispatcher is on your side she will watch out for you and champion your cause when she feels you need or deserve something. For instance, maybe you've had several short runs in the Northeast back to back and it's time to give you a longer run down South for a change. Dispatch will notify the load planners that you're one of their top drivers and that you really deserve one of the better loads available in the area.

However, If you're in the doghouse your dispatcher will likely do all she can to make sure you're the last person that gets any sort of special favors or even gets a timely response at all to any questions.

So your dispatcher may not have the authority to assign loads or send you home for an extra day or two but she can have a huge influence on the people who do have that authority. The load planners and operations managers trust the dispatchers to monitor their fleets closely and to take care great care of their best drivers.

So if your dispatcher doesn't have a lot of authority then why is it such a big deal to form a solid working relationship with your dispatcher? Well your dispatcher is going to learn how you operate as a driver. She's going to learn your likes and dislikes, your strong points and your weaknesses. She'll learn your communication style and the way you prefer to schedule your runs.

This is a really big deal because one of the most important roles a dispatcher can play is to encourage the load planners to preplan a load assignment for you. Preplanning is when they assign the next load even though you haven't delivered the load you are on. In fact, they can even preplan two or three loads ahead of time for you.

This can make a significant difference in the amount of miles you turn in a week. If dispatch is waiting until you're empty before assigning you a load, other drivers may have already been assigned all of the available freight in an area so you're going to sit for a while hoping something turns up. If you're preplanned already, you make your delivery, you run over and grab the next load, and you keep on rolling down the road.

If you can earn the trust and respect of your dispatcher they'll be far more willing to go out of their way to make sure you're getting preplanned on loads and you're getting the great miles and the home time you deserve.

So how does a driver develop a great relationship with dispatch in the first place? The right approach to take is to 'pay it forward', and what I mean is that you should go out of your way to prove yourself to your dispatcher first. Show dispatch you're willing and able to handle anything they throw at you and make sure you get to all of your appointments safely and on time.

Now obviously if there's a major snowstorm or your truck breaks down that's beyond your control as a driver. But doing your job safely, getting to all of your appointments on time, and always acting like a professional out there will demonstrate that you're a top tier driver who deserves the treatment that the best drivers get at any company.

Do not make the mistake of putting the cart before the horse and thinking that your company has to prove themselves to you before you'll put in your best effort. That is only going to convince dispatch that you're a bottom of the barrel driver who doesn't deserve the miles or the special favors that the top tier drivers get. If you want to be treated like a professional in this industry you're simply going to have to earn that privilege. No one is going to hand it to you.

Now there's a lot more to this game than what I can cover in one episode but we were still able to help you understand the important role that dispatch plays in a driver's life.

You now know that your dispatcher will be the hub of all communications between you as a driver and the rest of the company, and this communication is critical to the operation of any company.

You also learned that your dispatcher may be somewhat limited in authority, but they are very powerful when it comes to influencing the people who do make the important decisions which affect you as a driver.

Finally, you've learned that taking a 'pay it forward' approach to building a great relationship with your disaptcher is the best way earn the big miles and the great treatment that the top tier drivers are getting.

So go out there and prove to dispatch that you're one of those top tier drivers and as always do it safely so when the work is done you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride home.

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TruckingTruth was founded by Brett Aquila (that's me!), a 15 year truck driving veteran, in January 2007. After 15 years on the road I wanted to help people understand the trucking industry and everything that came with the career and lifestyle of an over the road trucker. We'll help you make the right choices and prepare for a great start to your trucking career.

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