What Is The Norm When Communicating With Drivers?

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Mark C.'s Comment
member avatar

So I've completed my entire two weeks of training, and have been cruising Texas to the Carolinas for a few weeks. I signed on to be a team driver, but driving solo until they find a teammate from my area. I've benefitted from my solo time, learning that it's not a good idea to try parking after 6pm, and never drive until 10pm unless you want to stop on an on-ramp. I've learned that 14 hr clock stops for nothing. I finally get to back up without a play-by-play, and that ally-dock is different with a 53'. If the money were as good, I'd stay solo.

Where I'm struggling is with a lack of communication, particularly with the weekend crew. I "upgraded" on a friday afternoon. That meant I was left stranded at a drop yard for the entire weekend with only the vending machines in the driver's lounge (and no cash). If I hadn't had my own resources (a cab to Walmart) it would have been a very unpleasant (and hungry) weekend. Not much for first impressions.

I have moved on, it's just a backdrop.

Last week another driver from near my home upgraded looking to drive team. We were introduced and we've agreed to work together. It seems no two planners/DM's know what the others are doing. My planner sent me from Laredo to Dallas (to t-call my load to TN) to wait for him, his planner sent him (from TN on his 34) to AZ. Of course it seemed to us that had I simply taken my load directly to TN I could have reached him as his 34 ended, but what do we know?

It's impossible to see the big picture from the driver's seat. I want to trust the planners to be doing their best by both the company and the drivers, but it's getting tough as I'm far outside the loop, and the loop looks disorganized from out here.

My question comes down to no communication. Is that normal? It has taken up to 45 minutes to even get someone to pick up the phone to put me on hold, particularly on the weekend. Is it usually this hard to speak with someone? With the huge push for teams, is it normal to make connecting a team such a feat? Maybe it is normal, but when no connection is made, and no explanation is given, I'm left to question the commitment to me as a driver. I don't expect love notes and flowers, but being let in on the plan, and keeping to the plan, would be nice.

Again, not asking for a solution. Just want to know if this is industry standard.

For those who can't abide posts that are critical of employers, please don't reply. I'm just trying to manage my expectations; much easier to stay positive that way.

Dm:

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

Most companies have skeleton crews on the weekends dealing with more drivers than weekdays. You are brand new with much to learn. Hope teaming works out for you. Have patience. Good luck.

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

Oh and here is an example, we delivered a load today and had planned a reset afterwards. On our empty form is a box asking if we want to board. If no contact dispatch. Put no and sent a message of where we will be and when we will be ready to roll. Have not gotten any acknowledgement. I did see they put us out of service. So, they did their job.

As drivers we are not the only driver our dispatchers deal with.

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.
Old School's Comment
member avatar

Mark, your question is a good one. The answer is more complicated than you realize.

As a rookie driver, you are going to experience considerable frustration with communication. I know you have learned a great deal here in our forum. I am sure you have seen us talk about how important communication is. Poor communication is one of the biggest frustrations that rookies experience. They feel abandoned at times. You yourself felt "stranded" and stuck at a company drop yard with no accommodations. Experience will help you learn to communicate well with dispatch so that they know what to do with you well ahead of time.

The most important communications are driver generated information that enables dispatch and planning to be able to keep you moving. None of that can be established until you have been able to set some standards of performance that they can count on. Right now you are just another rookie driver who is likely to quit at any moment in the next three months. You are very low on their priority list right now. You will be responsible for making that situation change.

You will learn to communicate your ETAs (estimated time of arrival), and your PTAs (projected time of availability) well in advance. That way they have time to look out for you. I never even leave a shipper without giving my dispatcher an accurate ETA and PTA for the next load. Then I make sure that I do everything I said I would with precision. Once you start doing that you create trust between yourself and your dispatcher. That is when the communication starts to gel and produce effective results. The onus for productive communication is on the driver. There is no way for a new driver to experience really effective communications without first building that level of trust between themselves and the team in the office. It will come, and it will help your career greatly, but it takes time to get it established.

It has taken up to 45 minutes to even get someone to pick up the phone to put me on hold, particularly on the weekend. Is it usually this hard to speak with someone?

Yes, it is really difficult to get someone on the phone, especially on the weekends. They can communicate more effectively and quickly through emails. That is why you have that tablet in your truck. They want and expect you to communicate with them through your tablet. They can deal with many drivers at the same time through email, while they can only deal with one driver on the phone. They very much prefer you to communicate electronically. Once again, you are a new rookie. You will not be prioritized over their really productive drivers who are needing help. If you have ever been in an office where dispatchers are working, it is a cluster. Those guys are fielding all kinds of calls from distressed drivers. Some of them are experiencing really serious issues. A new rookie who is wanting a load is going to be a low priority. This is especially true on the weekend.

With the huge push for teams, is it normal to make connecting a team such a feat? Maybe it is normal, but when no connection is made, and no explanation is given, I'm left to question the commitment to me as a driver.

I don't know about any huge push for teams. That must just be specific to your company. Again, you have to realize any seemingly big demand in trucking is a demand for experienced productive drivers. New rookies always get this confused. They hear about the demand for drivers and they think, "Hey, I've got a CDL and I am ready to roll! These guys should be showing me some respect. They don't even seem to be committed to their drivers!" The internet is full of these tales.

Thousands of drivers make claims that their company is not committed to their drivers. Maybe that feels true, and it certainly sounds true when you see so many people making those claims. But 99% of those claims are made by new rookies who have never even made an attempt at establishing themselves as truly productive professionals. It is easy for us to think we are the "cat's pajamas" when we are getting started in a field where there is "high demand" for us. It is just as easy to get thrown to the curb if we can't patiently build ourselves into a professional who can be trusted and counted on to be consistently productive and easy to work with. That has got to be our focus at the beginning. We have to prove we are worth paying attention to. Trucking is performance based. There is nothing in this career that speaks for us like our reputation. It pushes us to the front of the line. It speaks for us as a strong advocate. As a rookie it is nonexistent. We have got to develop it.

If the money were as good, I'd stay solo.

You can show me all the math you like. You can never convince me that the money is better to be part of a team. If you are doing this for the money then you have got to accomplish the things I have been stressing. You have to develop a reputation for productivity. That is where the money in trucking comes from. As a team you have both got to be hyper productive. You have no control over that other member of your team. You have control over your own performance. A really good solo driver is just as likely to make great money in trucking as a pair of really great team drivers. It's just harder to maintain a really productive team than it is to take control over your own personal destiny.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

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.

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

EPU:

Electric Auxiliary Power Units

Electric APUs have started gaining acceptance. These electric APUs use battery packs instead of the diesel engine on traditional APUs as a source of power. The APU's battery pack is charged when the truck is in motion. When the truck is idle, the stored energy in the battery pack is then used to power an air conditioner, heater, and other devices

JakeBreak's Comment
member avatar

I just want to echo what OS has said. It takes time to prove you are a productive driver and even once you are there are still going to be things that happen. And yes weekend dispatch is the pits lol.

I'm reminded of my experience when I started at this company, I was new to them, but not to trucking. After the first week I showed them what I could do and they started planning me better. 2 months after I started it turned into a ****show. I was getting loads with way too much time on them, think a 34 hr reset every load kind of time. I wasn't happy then when it came time to get me home they scheduled me a load where I wasn't going to get home til 3 days after I had requested. I sent messages, and called, no one knew anything. I finally sent a very long message expressing my discontent, and called the head terminal manager. There ended up being nothing they could do on that load, but I got a phone call where they finally explained what was going on and yeah it was all handled very professionally and while nothing could be done to fix that load they made it right imo. I havent been late since and for the most part they keep me running.

I said all that to say this sometimes there are things going on in the office that we can't control and the people in the office are only human and can only do so much.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

Anne A. (G13Momcat)'s Comment
member avatar

Oh and here is an example, we delivered a load today and had planned a reset afterwards. On our empty form is a box asking if we want to board. If no contact dispatch. Put no and sent a message of where we will be and when we will be ready to roll. Have not gotten any acknowledgement. I did see they put us out of service. So, they did their job.

As drivers we are not the only driver our dispatchers deal with.

OOS's'd?!?!?!?

Or .. just not available for dispatch ?!?!

What am I missing here?!?!? Yep, I'm a sponge; just not like the one on my sink.

I'm tired....if I misspoke and / or misunderstood, I apologize! Still making sense of the 'terminology;' January comes quick.

Thanks again, all.

~ Anne ~

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.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Mark C.'s Comment
member avatar

So it's normal... ok. Thanks for the replies.

You can show me all the math you like. You can never convince me that the money is better to be part of a team.

OS, I'm hoping that's true once my rookie year is up. Until then it's a 40% increase for me. Also, I'm told teams are dispatched on longer runs which equates to more miles as well. Once I've paid these rookie dues I'll be looking for a better balance of home time and income, probably dedicated or local.

I'm not inclined to trust others to value my interests. When I got my MBA I was taught the 'proper' way to think about labor, it's really dehumanizing. Knowing the industry norms will help me know when to push for myself and when to let things slide. Like I said, just managing expectations.

And yes, I really can understand how complicated it is. I also know there are people like the girl in the guard shack the other day who let me sit there with her feet up playing on her phone, until I left my cab and knocked on her window. There are times when it helps everyone to give a push.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Mark C.'s Comment
member avatar
Yes, it is really difficult to get someone on the phone, especially on the weekends. They can communicate more effectively and quickly through emails.

I was asked to take a load 20 miles down the road since I was going to reset at the yard. I had a few hours left so I was glad to help. There was some missing information in the ticket and I needed to speak with someone to get the correct information, I had 3 hours on my 14 when this started, I had only two when I got answers. In the end, I hit the yard with a single minute on my clock. That hour mattered and the email produced no answers quickly.

Perhaps I was expecting too much, perhaps I shouldn't have agreed to be helpful, or perhaps this is all just normal. Again, understanding what's normal helps me decide these things. I can't imagine getting an HOS violation in my first month is good for my reputation, but I could be wrong there too.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

EPU:

Electric Auxiliary Power Units

Electric APUs have started gaining acceptance. These electric APUs use battery packs instead of the diesel engine on traditional APUs as a source of power. The APU's battery pack is charged when the truck is in motion. When the truck is idle, the stored energy in the battery pack is then used to power an air conditioner, heater, and other devices

Steve L.'s Comment
member avatar

So it's normal... ok. Thanks for the replies.

double-quotes-start.png

You can show me all the math you like. You can never convince me that the money is better to be part of a team.

double-quotes-end.png

OS, I'm hoping that's true once my rookie year is up. Until then it's a 40% increase for me. Also, I'm told teams are dispatched on longer runs which equates to more miles as well. Once I've paid these rookie dues I'll be looking for a better balance of home time and income, probably dedicated or local.

I'm not inclined to trust others to value my interests. When I got my MBA I was taught the 'proper' way to think about labor, it's really dehumanizing. Knowing the industry norms will help me know when to push for myself and when to let things slide. Like I said, just managing expectations.

And yes, I really can understand how complicated it is. I also know there are people like the girl in the guard shack the other day who let me sit there with her feet up playing on her phone, until I left my cab and knocked on her window. There are times when it helps everyone to give a push.

Mark, I appreciate (as probably does Old School) your perspective on business. I found it a real challenge going from business owner to employee.

I started with Schneider and spoke with some team drivers, while I was solo. They showed me they weren’t making much more (certainly not 40% more) than me. Most were grossing, maybe, an extra $200/month.

The cents per mile may be better and your company may be different than our experiences. But there WILL be a trade off. If hometime is a priority it’s gonna need to be coordinated with your teammate. 🤔 If you’re a top performer, you’ll likely make very good money as a solo driver. Just something to consider.

On the communications, yep, fairly normal. However, I never sat an entire weekend. Maybe communicate to your Driver Manager that, for you, this is a job and expect to be compensated for that weekend. You’re in this job to make money, not park and spend money. Just as they’re not making $ if they leave your truck sit all weekend.

Hang in there. Stay safe and I hope this helps.

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Mark C.'s Comment
member avatar
You yourself felt "stranded" and stuck at a company drop yard with no accommodations.

Perhaps I was unclear. I was stranded. I was given a truck and keys, my mentor left, I was then told that something was missing and I couldn't be assigned to the truck until Monday. I had not a single coin in my pockets. I had a truck to sleep in, but couldn't drive it to the store as it was unassigned.

I don't hold grudges, but this is a formative experience as it pertains to expectations. I am a positive person, and I'm positive that the only person who is concerned about my career, in this company and probably industry, is me. That's not unique to trucking.

As for being productive, my first 6 day stretch was 3407 miles. My best day since was 681 miles. I've been on time or early on every load. I ran in the top 20% for fuel economy and never deviated from the fuel solutions. I'll do my part.

OS, most of what you say is applicable to any industry. I've taught the same class you're giving in times past. It's valuable to say, I just wish you'd say it without presuming I'm completely ignorant. I know there's a broader audience, so don't stop teaching it.... just sayin'

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