I thought I would give some time to dispatchers, that group of individuals who are either the most loved or most despised individuals in most trucking companies.
I have been a dispatcher. As with most folks who start a trucking company from the ground up, you end up performing almost all of the jobs until some critical mass has been achieved and you find that you are required to step back and play more of an administrative role. As with anything else in life, there were elements of the job I loved and there were parts I absolutely hated.
I always believed that if you had 40 loads and 40 trucks to move in a day, all in the right spot, it could be done by anyone in the office. But if you have 50 loads and 40 trucks, you’ll need a good dispatcher. There is an enormously gratifying feeling of accomplishment when confronted with copious amounts of freight to move and a limited amount of trucks to move it on when at the end of the day it is all covered. It can be a complicated game of chess.
The relationship between dispatcher and driver is as complicated as any in this world. Dr. Phil would go nuts trying to get all the bugs out. It is often a non-stop game of push and pull; the driver wants to know three moves in advance where they are going and what the freight is. The dispatcher is trying not to say too much for fear that the next load falls through and they will be accused of diabolical gamesmanship. All this being said, there are some simple rules that can make the relationship work to both parties’ benefit.
The support of the dispatcher
Whoever is doing the hiring must know that first and foremost, the foundation of the relationship must be solid. This is accomplished by knowing what each party’s expectations are of each other. If you’re a company that specializes in 2,000- 3,000-mile turns and the driver your company is hiring has to be home every weekend to get their kids, guess what, this isn’t going to work.
Spell out exactly what you expect of the driver including notice of time off needed, any particulars of the freight that needs to be discussed, check-in requirements, availability for work, etc. Get it in writing – your dispatchers need this information to ensure there is a successful relationship.
Have driver spell out expectations of dispatch
They may need to have every weekend off for family, they might have an upcoming series of professional appointments that need to be made, they may suggest that they expect to be dealt with respect. They might say that they have to get 10,000 miles a month to be successful. Whatever the individual’s expectations are, review them and make sure that you can accommodate them.
If the expectations of the individual cannot be met, you are going to have an ongoing issue with this driver until they quit or you fire them. Get it in writing signed off by both parties and review it each and every pay period.
Be honest, always
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it isn’t for everyone. If you, as a dispatcher, decide it would be easier for you to B.S. a driver a little to get an extra load covered, you are playing with fire and are likely to be looking for a new career shortly. Integrity and honesty have to be the cornerstone of your relationship with your drivers. As soon as you get caught just once in a little white lie, you’re done. This information will fly though the driver fraternity quicker than grass through a goose and you will not be trusted from then on.
Be consistent, with everyone
The last thing any driver needs is to think that some other driver is getting preferential treatment. Spread the sweet with the sour evenly throughout all of your drivers – do not favor anyone.
This will cause dissension and mistrust and when you’re called on it, you’re done. Every driver or owner-operator who has decided to spend their career at your company deserves every opportunity you can grant them to be successful. Remember that and you’ll be fine.
Never talk down to a driver or colleague
This one gets under my skin. Everyone on this planet deserves the right to be dealt with, with respect.
I was recently at a company that had a dispatcher the drivers hated. All the drivers despised this person, but the customers loved them.
What a crock! This person had never driven before, and I don’t have a problem with a dispatcher who hasn’t been on the road but it’s walk-a-mile-in-my-shoes time here folks. I have a million safe miles under my belt and I am proud of that. I also know that it can be a lonely lifestyle.
I know what it’s like to not be available when things go sideways at home and you’re two days away, etc. Now it’s time to talk to my dispatcher and they’re going to talk down to me? I don’t think so!
At the end of the day, this is a pressure-packed business and unfortunately people don’t always show their best colors when they are under stress. Now add in the pressure of Covid-19 and quite often emotions rather than common sense rule the day. Follow the rules and take deep breaths. Have an empathetic approach to problem-solving. These are two qualities each side of this situation need to practice with great effort to be successful.
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