Should Drivers Refuse To Work For Companies With Forced Dispatch?

by Old School

One of the things that people get conflicted about when getting started in trucking is a subject that sometimes comes up in forum discussions and is occasionally mentioned on various trucking company websites. It is the subject of being “force dispatched.” Some people will argue the virtues of working for a company where you aren't force dispatched, and others will say it's no big deal, you shouldn't worry about it. So, what is forced dispatch and how big of a deal is it?

What Is Forced Dispatch?

I'll grant you that the idea of being forced into anything sounds troubling, but when a trucker is force dispatched it really only means that you are not supposed to refuse to run the loads that are assigned to you.

I don't recommend that anyone refuse to run a load that their dispatcher has given them, and I hope to lay out the reasons why so that you don't get yourself worked up about being forced into something that you don't really want to do. For the record, I have worked for two different trucking companies in my career, and neither of them were “forced dispatched.” Also, I have never refused a load, even though I was allowed the option.

Why Would A Company Force A Driver To Accept A Load Assignment?

Part of the reason that a company will consider itself force dispatched is simply because that makes it easier for them to coordinate all the many issues involved in logistics. Having multiple drivers refusing to do various things just makes it more difficult to juggle everything efficiently so that your customers are being served properly. That reason alone should give you an idea why it is not wise for you to refuse a load when it is assigned you.

Trucking is all about service and efficiently getting things done. If your dispatcher has to drop everything in order to find another driver who is available to run a load that you refused to do, then you just added one more thing onto his already overloaded schedule. That alone does not bode well for his attitude toward you, and it certainly bumps you down a little bit on his priority list of things he is working on for the day.

Take The Ball And Run With It

Once he has a perfectly good opportunity for you to earn some money, he'd like for you to take the ball and run with it. Let's use a sports analogy. When a quarterback hands off the ball to one of his running backs he doesn't expect for that guy to hand the ball right back to him just because there happens to be a big burly defensive end barreling down on him and he doesn't want to take the hit. That is just about what it's like when you refuse a load. You are handing the ball right back to the guy who is calling the plays in the game. You are making him take the hit, and that does not go over well. Running backs, like truck drivers, have the drive and the desire to move the ball and score when the opportunity arises. We don't try to take the easiest path to success, we do the hard work knowing we will reap the rewards for our efforts.

Running New York City

Usually what really causes people concern over being force dispatched is the issue of being forced to go into New York City. I know that New York City is not a fun place to be in a big rig – I've been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Here's the deal: I was never dispatched there when I was a greenhorn rookie driver, and I don't expect that you will be either. I honestly don't think that should concern you.

When you start a truck driving job, the rookies are usually handled a little differently than the veteran drivers, and rightly so. It is tough enough for most of us as rookies just to keep ourselves from getting lost or making a wrong turn on a simple load from Laredo to Dallas, TX. As rookie drivers we have trouble getting parked at a truck stop. We have trouble finding our way in and out of all the various shippers and receivers that we are sent to. It's not easy being a rookie driver, and our load planners and dispatchers understand that.

We are expected to step up and prove that we can do the job, but they don't expect us to work miracles at the beginning of our careers. Part of what helps you establish yourself as a “go to driver,” or what we often refer to as a “Top Tier Driver” is the fact that you jump on every opportunity that comes your way, and you do your best to make it look easy. On several occasions I have had my dispatcher call me and we have a discussion that goes something like this:

Dispatcher: “Hey, I've got a question for ya. Driver X is telling me how difficult it is to get these three stops done on this Northeast load in one day. I've noticed you do it all the time, but I've never heard you complaining about it. So, what is the deal? Why do you think he can't seem to get it done?”

Old School: “I can't answer that one for you. All I know is that I sit down and make a plan on how to get it done, and then I go at it with every intention of making it happen. This is what I signed up for, and that's how I make my money.”

Dispatcher: “Yeah, I just don't get it. I've got several of you guys that don't seem to have any problem with it, but this driver always moans and groans every time I try to give him this assignment.”

Old School: “Maybe he is happier doing the easy stuff, and doesn't like to get those nice big paychecks.”

Dispatcher: “Well he definitely doesn't like being put on this load, but he still complains about his paycheck. I can't seem to make the guy happy, no matter how I dispatch him. I'm getting tired of holding his hand, it's just making extra work for me. I need somebody that wants to take the ball and run.”

That is honestly a conversation I have had many times with my dispatcher. I share it here because I want you to realize how dispatchers think. They love to have problem solvers working for them. They love those drivers who seem to be able to make things happen, even in adverse conditions. Those are the drivers they count on and are willing to do anything for.

Even if you are force dispatched it is not something to get worked up about. It is just a way for your trucking company to be efficient at what they are doing. Often times a company may not have sufficiently effective logistics software or maybe not enough trucks or manpower to allow you to refuse loads. I certainly don't know all the reasons why some are force dispatched and some are not, but I do know it shouldn't really bother you.

What Happens When A Driver Refuses A Load?

I'm hoping I can help you understand this whole issue a little better with a real world example of how refusing loads will work against your ability to be successful at this. Here's an example from my archived experiences out here on the road:

Once when I was over in Connecticut after hauling a load of sheet rock, I had gone to the Pilot truck stop near Milford to take a break before getting started on my next assignment. I walked into the building and was soon approached by another driver who worked for the same company as I. He had seen me park my truck, and followed me into the building to ask me a question.

He says, “Hey, I noticed you parking your truck, and I'm with the same company. I was wondering if they got you a back haul load yet? I've been waiting for a full day now and they haven't gotten me a load yet. I'm really getting frustrated with these guys.”

I answered, “Well yes, I had a pre-planned load already assigned to me. It is a trash load coming out of Long Island, and it goes over into Ohio.” He then says, “Yeah, they tried to get me to do one of those loads. I told them that I didn't sign up to be a garbage man. I'm an over the road driver, and I don't haul trash! I am a flat-bedder, and I know they've got loads coming out of the NuCor Steel plant over at Wallingford, Connecticut. I told them I'd take one of those loads, but I wasn't hauling trash.”

That was about the entirety of our conversation, other than the fact that I explained to him how the trash loads weren't all that bad. The trash is bagged up in these huge green bags and it's put on your truck so that you can easily strap it down. It doesn't have to be tarped and it's an easy load to do. It gives you about 600 miles and you can get it done in a day. I left the next morning, got my trash load picked up and made it all the way over to my receiver and slept in their yard until the morning.

As soon as they started working the next day they quickly unloaded me. I had gotten a pre-planned load dispatched to me while on the way to Ohio, and it was another load of sheet rock that had me headed right back over to Connecticut. I picked it up and high tailed it right back over there the next day and netted myself about 1,200 miles in two days worth of work. When I finished that load I headed right back over to the Pilot to take a break.

Guess who was still parked in the same parking spot?

If you guessed it was the driver who had refused to haul a load he didn't particularly like, then you get a gold star!

There he was, and I got a parking spot just a few trucks away from him. I got out and headed for the building when I hear him calling me to get my attention. I walked over to his truck and he starts going on and on about how these guys are treating him like a red-headed step child. I had to interrupt him to remind him of how he had refused to haul that load of trash. I explained to him how I had just made about $500 while he was sitting here licking his wounds. He all of a sudden got interested in wanting to know a little more about those trash loads. When we got through talking about how easy they are to do, he said he guessed they just must not have any loads available from the NuCor Steel plant. He decided he would send a message to his dispatcher and let him know that he would take a trash load after all.

I went on into the truck stop and when I had finished inside I went back out to my truck and discovered that I had been dispatched another load while I was inside the building. It was a load from the NuCor Steel plant with about fifteen hundred miles on it! Now, if you are good at math you can easily recognize that I just had around 2,700 miles dispatched to me while the other driver, who refused a load because it didn't meet his criteria, had been put in “time out” like a toddler who is misbehaving. That is what the power of refusal can do for you when you are working for a company that lets you refuse a load.

Don't Worry About Forced Dispatch

I honestly don't think you should get all worked up about working for a company that is force dispatched. I just don't think it is a big deal. Even though I work for a company that allows me to refuse a load, I have never exercised that option, nor do I see a reason for such an action unless maybe I just can't make it happen on time due to an issue with my logbook hours available. There really is no good reason to be refusing loads unless you know it just can't be done with the hours available to you, and your dispatcher would prefer to know your situation in advance rather than having to scramble around and find someone to T-call the load to at the last minute.

The power of refusal is often times way overrated. You see what it got my fellow driver when he thought he had the power of choice. He exercised his power as if he were the “Big Boss.” He was going to show them they couldn't force him to do something he deemed to be beneath him. Well, they decided they had better things to do than concentrate on pandering to his particular needs. He finally got rolling again, but not until he had learned a lesson the hard way. Don't try to be the one who forces your company to do things the way you think they should be done. Don't be that guy. When they hand you the ball, run with it and do your best to make something happen in your favor. That is how you succeed in trucking. You do what it takes to get things done. It may not always be exactly what you wanted, but the more you practice making things happen out here, the more you will discover that they are willing to help you run the way you really like to run.

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.

Over The Road:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

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

by Brett Aquila

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