Podcast: The Road Home - The Importance Of Dispatch

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Brett Aquila's Comment
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Hey folks, we have another new episode of our podcast "The Road Home" called "The Importance Of Dispatch".

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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 disapatcher will play and what you can do as a driver to make the most out of this critical relationship.

Enjoy!

"The Road Home" Podcast: "The Importance Of Dispatch"

Here is the transcript:

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 responsibility, 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 dispatcher 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.

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

Dispatcher:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
LDRSHIP's Comment
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Yet another good Podcast. Thank you

Victor C. II's Comment
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That Brett was very, very informative! I did not realise that they aren't my boss but that they can influence my ultimate authority for better or for worst. Thanks also for telling us how to prove ourselves. I was kinda wondering on that level. Great episode and keep them coming cause they are very informative especially for us newer truckers!

Mark F. ( DAYBREAKER )'s Comment
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Thanks Brett, Keep them coming sir! Very good material for us rookies. Mark

Brett Aquila's Comment
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Glad you guys enjoyed it! I intend to put out a new one every Tuesday.

I did not realise that they aren't my boss but that they can influence my ultimate authority for better or for worst.

Yeah, it's a somewhat complex relationship between driver and dispatcher. You're teammates, really, but often times you'll have disagreements because everyone wants to be the boss, ya know what I mean? Truckers might say, "Hey, I'm the driver so I'm running the show" and dispatch would respond with, "You just handle the driving part and we'll run the show".

In reality, you need everyone working together to keep things running smoothly. The offices need the input from the drivers to understand what's happening out there on the highways and the drivers need the support of the office personnel to make sure they have the infrastructure support to keep things rolling out there.

But the key to the whole relationship is trust. As a driver you have to perform consistently at a high level to earn the trust of dispatch and the load planners. Once they know you're going to do your job safely and get to your appointments on time they'll be comfortable giving you better miles and allowing you to haul freight for their most important customers.

They will also learn to trust your judgment in circumstances where they need it. For instance, if you're in heavy snow with a load that's on a tight schedule they'll need to know as far ahead of time as possible if you think you can make the appointment on time. Or maybe your truck needs some time in the repair shop but they really need a load taken down the road immediately if possible. Is the truck safe to handle it? They'll need you to make a judgment call for them.

At the same time a driver with a great dispatcher will have full faith that their dispatcher is looking out for them and being honest with them. A driver will never know more than 10% of all of the drama going on behind the scenes in the offices but he'll trust that his dispatcher is looking out for him and making sure he's going to get his fair share of the freight.

Unfortunately you'll find some dispatchers that will lie to their drivers and vice versa.

Maybe the dispatcher only gives their drivers limited amounts of information because they think they're the only ones that really need to know what's going on and the driver should just shut up, do what they're told, and drive the truck.

And at times a driver may do the same thing. He may withhold information from dispatch thinking he'll make his own decisions out there or maybe even lie outright saying he's sick to get some extra time off.

A good relationship means great communication and trust. As a driver you don't need to know every detail about what's going on behind the scenes in the offices as long as you're getting the information and support you need to get the job done and you know your dispatcher has your back.

And dispatch will feel the same way. As long as you're keeping them informed about everything they'll need to know then they'll trust that you're doing your job and that they can count on you to get where you need to be safely and on time.

A solid dispatcher knows when they have a solid driver and vice versa. As a new driver it's going to take you some time to understand how these relationships should work. But that's ok because you're going to have your hands full for quite a while learning how to handle that rig anyhow.

All things in time.

smile.gif

Dispatcher:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Victor C. II's Comment
member avatar

That actually helps me a lot. I am getting near the end of my training, if I am thinking correctly, so thank you for that advice!smile.gif

John M.'s Comment
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Very good information Thanks

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