Communicating With Dispatch

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Old School's Comment
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I know the new drivers in here see the vets talking quite a bit about how important communication is. Good communication is the driver's way of keeping his support team in the office up to speed so they can keep him moving efficiently. Most of the time when you hear drivers complaining about how inept their dispatcher or their company is, you can almost know the driver doesn't understand how vital a part he plays in enabling them to keep him moving efficiently. Our communication of vital information is really helpful when planning and distributing loads.

Here's an example of part of a conversation between my dispatcher and myself from earlier today. My comments are highlighted in blue. Notice how brief I was, but still got him everything he needs to know about when I can take another load, and I confirmed that I have hours to run with. It does him no good for me to tell him when I'll be done, but then have to refuse the load because I didn't realize I'm out of hours.

0797983001557459016.jpg

Also notice his demeanor toward me. He loves to have information like this. It makes his job so much easier and efficient. Drivers who can ease their dispatcher's stress levels get treated really well.

I have not heard anything about my next load yet, but I've already run two loads totalling 2,660 miles this week. I can almost guarantee that he will come up with something in the neighborhood of 1,300 miles. I'll jump back in here tomorrow when I hear what we're doing next.

I put this conversation out here because I think if some of you see it, you'll better understand what we mean about communicating. This snapshot is illustrative of how you do it and how it benefits your results.

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.
Ralph D.'s Comment
member avatar

Old School, it really makes a difference to see the conversation and not just get a paraphrased typed version.

One worry I have as a hopeful student (one day) is walking the line between being a "problem child" and communicating enough. Is there TOO much communication?

Big Scott (CFI's biggest 's Comment
member avatar

Ralph, you will find that when you prove yourself a hard working, get it done driver, it will help your dispatcher plan you better. They have many people on their fleet to manage. The ones he doesn't have to worry about make his job that much easier. You have to develop a good relationship with your dispatcher. Old School has proved time and again that he is the go to guy. He gets more miles and better loads then other drivers on the dedicated account he runs.

Here is an example of what my week has been like. I picked up a load in Pennsylvania going to Kansas City, Kansas. Between the pickup and delivery miles it was a little over 900 miles. I was dropping an empty and picking up a loaded, placarded hazmat trailer. This meant I had to pull into every weigh station. When I pre-tripped the trailer I had four lights out. Not good. I was ****ed that someone dropped this off knowing it would be loaded with hazmat. I messaged road service that I was taking it to a TA in West Virginia to get fixed. I spoke to my fleet manager , while putting my placards on, told him of the issues and that I would be delayed on delivery because I had to go in the shop. He was now, before I moved able to get the ball rolling to make sure we could reschedule the delivery time. Once out of the shop, I sent a message with a good ETA to delivery and got a new appointment time. The rest of the trip was uneventful. I lucked out and every weigh station was closed when I went by. While on my way to deliver I spoke with road service about the issues with that trailer and they had me drop it at a trainler shop. Then I was pre-planned on a load from KC, KS to Nebraska. My fleet manager told me since I had all those trailer issues on that hazmat load, he would try to find me a good load out of Nebraska. Well I delivered in Nebraska yesterday. I dropped my loaded and picked up a loaded trailer going 1500 miles to NC. This will end my week with enough miles to have a take home of about $1000.00 that will be paid on the 17th the day I will be home for a much needed vacation. I call my fleet manager Great One. He takes great care of me and knows I get it done. I can go days without messaging or talking to him.

I hope this helps you.

HAZMAT:

Hazardous Materials

Explosive, flammable, poisonous or otherwise potentially dangerous cargo. Large amounts of especially hazardous cargo are required to be placarded under HAZMAT regulations

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.

Fleet Manager:

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
Is there TOO much communication?

This is a good question, and it's something that came up in a conversation a couple of weeks ago. I'm sure Old School will add some thoughts to this, but I'll put this out there.

You should let dispatch know about anything that might affect your schedule, things like:

  • Upcoming truck maintenance
  • Delays at a shipper or receiver
  • Upcoming home time requests
  • Logbook hours available
  • An illness that might require a shutdown
  • Major storms approaching that might require a shutdown

.....things of that nature. They need to know if anything might prevent you from sticking with your current schedule and what your upcoming availability will be. If they know you're on schedule and what your upcoming availability will be then they can keep you rolling much easier. But they have to know they can count on the information you're giving them, and that is something you prove to them over time. That's one of the many reasons it's so important to commit yourself to the company you work for beyond just a few months. You're not going to earn the trust of the office personnel in one or two months. It takes time.

You should also let them know about any concerns regarding the freight you're hauling.

  • Does the load number on the bills match the load number they gave you?
  • Does the trailer number match?
  • Does the destination on the bills match the destination they gave you?

Things like that. Basically they need to know your schedule, your upcoming availability, and that the load information is correct.

The things you do not want to communicate with dispatch are the things that have no effect on your upcoming schedule or things that are unrelated to the load you're hauling because the rest really doesn't concern them. They're not your counselor so they don't want to hear about your personal problems if they won't affect your ability to do your job.

They're also not there to help you drive the truck. You should not burden them with problems like how to manage your logbook hours, how to get the weight adjusted on the tandems , or how to find a route that avoids heavy traffic. That's not what they do. They're not counselors or virtual drivers. Their job is to help schedule loads and relay information.

Logbook:

A written or electronic record of a driver's duty status which must be maintained at all times. The driver records the amount of time spent driving, on-duty not driving, in the sleeper berth, or off duty. The enforcement of the Hours Of Service Rules (HOS) are based upon the entries put in a driver's logbook.

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Bruce K.'s Comment
member avatar

Drivers need to keep in mind that your FM or Driver Manager is responsible for many drivers. I think my DBL (Driver Business Leader, a Schneider term), told me that she managed 40 drivers. One can imagine if every driver called her about stuff he should be able to figure out on a daily basis, she would be driven insane. So I’m very selective about what I call in about. It’s usually something I REALLY need help with, otherwise I try to solve the problem myself. This not only helps her, but helps me develop problem solving abilities related to my job.

When a driver is new, their manager expects and even encourages frequent communication. But as time goes on the initial rate of contact will slow down to just necessary business.

The one “communication” that never gets old is this question: “Have you noticed anything lately that I can improve on?”

Fm:

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.

Driver Manager:

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.
Big Scott (CFI's biggest 's Comment
member avatar

At CFI we have the newbie fleet. All new drivers are on this fleet until these FMs feel your ready for a regular fleet. This newbie fleet is made up of former drivers and very experienced fleet managers. They are more hands on to help the new drivers work their beginner's problems out. For example you forgot a to fill out a form for a load and took off. They will fix it for you. Your regular FM won't.

If I remember correctly my FM has about 100 drivers on his fleet. I have seen his screens with messages coming in all day. He has 3 computer screens to monitor all day. With a click or two he can see any driver. He is alerted to unread messages, drivers who are highlighted (Scheduled for home time or someplace), drivers who are running late and drivers who are empty and needing a load. He is a very busy man. Yet, I always feel like I am the only driver on his fleet. He has been doing this for nine years now.

Fm:

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.

Fleet Manager:

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.
Rob D.'s Comment
member avatar

So with the old proverb, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" would the following be a good message to dispatch:

"I've got a squeaky wheel, but couldn't find any grease at Lowes, Walmart, Home Depot, Autozone, or any of the truck stops. Can you help he out?"

The idea being, escalate the problem to dispatch only when you've exhausted all means to resolve the problem.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Bruce K.'s Comment
member avatar

Rob D, (I think there are getting to be too many guys named Rob on TT, it confuses old guys like me!) LOL

Like most things in life, striking a balance is always a good practice. There is such a thing as too little communication, for sure. And there is such a thing as too much if it's unnecessary communication. The grease illustration you used is a good example. If you went to all those stores and couldn't find any grease, your manager might question your competence! Or if you kept calling in about the same thing all the time, your manager is certain to get frustrated. But if you encounter a new or unusual situation and you are unsure about it, they WANT you to call in. Especially if your call can save you from doing something that would cost the company money. Our superb classroom instructor had an expression: "Smile and dial".

And if you work for a company with a phone policy like Schneider's, you cannot use your phone while the truck is in motion. We have to stop in a safe place before we can make a call or send a message. So the wheels stop turning for us when we have to call in. If we're put on hold, we have to sit until we finish the call. That forces us to be judicious about calling in.

Remember that your manager and dispatcher know that your education is not finished when you graduate from training. Really, it's just begun, and they are there to HELP you. They are your security blanket. The natural progression is to be liberal about calling in at first, and then those calls will naturally diminish in frequency as you gain experience. At least that has been my experience so far.

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.
G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Bruce wrote:

Rob D, (I think there are getting to be too many guys named Rob on TT, it confuses old guys like me!) LOL

Like most things in life, striking a balance is always a good practice. There is such a thing as too little communication, for sure. And there is such a thing as too much if it's unnecessary communication. The grease illustration you used is a good example. If you went to all those stores and couldn't find any grease, your manager might question your competence! Or if you kept calling in about the same thing all the time, your manager is certain to get frustrated. But if you encounter a new or unusual situation and you are unsure about it, they WANT you to call in. Especially if your call can save you from doing something that would cost the company money. Our superb classroom instructor had an expression: "Smile and dial".

And if you work for a company with a phone policy like Schneider's, you cannot use your phone while the truck is in motion. We have to stop in a safe place before we can make a call or send a message. So the wheels stop turning for us when we have to call in. If we're put on hold, we have to sit until we finish the call. That forces us to be judicious about calling in.

Remember that your manager and dispatcher know that your education is not finished when you graduate from training. Really, it's just begun, and they are there to HELP you. They are your security blanket. The natural progression is to be liberal about calling in at first, and then those calls will naturally diminish in frequency as you gain experience. At least that has been my experience so far.

Bruce you do realize the conversation OS referenced in this post is an electronic one. A phone call should only be out if necessity and perhaps a way to follow up on a free form macro conversation that occurred in the QC. There is no record of phone calls...anything entered into the QC can be referred back to.

Guys...I urge you to reread OS original post, notice the time stamps on the delivery receipt and realize it’s not a phone conversation.

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.
Grumpy Old Man's Comment
member avatar

Bruce wrote:

double-quotes-start.png

Rob D, (I think there are getting to be too many guys named Rob on TT, it confuses old guys like me!) LOL

Like most things in life, striking a balance is always a good practice. There is such a thing as too little communication, for sure. And there is such a thing as too much if it's unnecessary communication. The grease illustration you used is a good example. If you went to all those stores and couldn't find any grease, your manager might question your competence! Or if you kept calling in about the same thing all the time, your manager is certain to get frustrated. But if you encounter a new or unusual situation and you are unsure about it, they WANT you to call in. Especially if your call can save you from doing something that would cost the company money. Our superb classroom instructor had an expression: "Smile and dial".

And if you work for a company with a phone policy like Schneider's, you cannot use your phone while the truck is in motion. We have to stop in a safe place before we can make a call or send a message. So the wheels stop turning for us when we have to call in. If we're put on hold, we have to sit until we finish the call. That forces us to be judicious about calling in.

Remember that your manager and dispatcher know that your education is not finished when you graduate from training. Really, it's just begun, and they are there to HELP you. They are your security blanket. The natural progression is to be liberal about calling in at first, and then those calls will naturally diminish in frequency as you gain experience. At least that has been my experience so far.

double-quotes-end.png

Bruce you do realize the conversation OS referenced in this post is an electronic one. A phone call should only be out if necessity and perhaps a way to follow up on a free form macro conversation that occurred in the QC. There is no record of phone calls...anything entered into the QC can be referred back to.

Guys...I urge you to reread OS original post, notice the time stamps on the delivery receipt and realize it’s not a phone conversation.

And I could be wrong, but I believe they are archived, and cannot be deleted from the system, so they also serve as a legal document if you ever need to CYA

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.
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