Ray’s Rules for Dispatchers

July 2010
Ray’s Rules for Dispatchers, part 1
Hello folks hope all is well, I thought I would go right to the group of individuals who are either the most loved or most despised in most trucking companies with this month’s article. I myself have been a dispatcher, just as most folks who start a trucking company from the ground up, you end up performing almost all of the jobs until some critical mass have been earned 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 and there were ground rules that had to be followed.
I always believed that if you had 10 loads and 10 trucks to move in a day it could be done by anyone in the office but if you have 15 loads and 10 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 and at the end of the day it is all covered and everyone and everything is under control.
The relationship between dispatcher and driver is as complicated as any there is in this world, Dr. Phil would go nuts trying to get all the bugs out. It is often a nonstop game of push and pull, the driver wants to know 3 moves in advance where they are going to be sent and what the freight is and the dispatcher is trying not to say too much for fear that the next load falls through and they will be accused of lying, just to get the last load moved, a perfect example of being between the rock and the hard space. All this being said there are some simple rules that if followed can make the relationship work to both parties benefit.
Rule 1, 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 dispatcher of a company that specializes in 2-3000 mile turns and the driver your company is hiring for you to work with has to be home every other 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, to be dealt with respect etc. Get it in writing!
Rule 2, have the driver spell out exactly what their expectations are of you, they might need to have every second weekend off for family, they might have an upcoming series of professional appointments that need to be made, they might suggest that they expect to be dealt with respect. They might say that they have to get 10,000 miles a month in to be successful. Whatever the individual’s expectations are review them and make sure that you can accommodate them, because if the expectations of the individual cannot be met you are going to have an ongoing issue with this person until they finally quit or you fire them? Get it in writing!
Rule 3; be honest, all the time! 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 little to a driver to get an extra load covered you are playing with fire and are likely to looking for a new career shortly. Integrity and honesty has 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 that grass through a goose and you will not be trusted from then on and when you need that favor, because you’re really really stuck, forget it liar not gunna happen!
Rule 4; 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 more that another on anything. This will cause dissension and mistrust and when you’re called on it and you probably will be, you’re done. Every driver or owner operator who has decided to spend their career at your company and ends up on your board deserves every opportunity you can grant them to be successful, remember that and you will be fine.
Rule 5; Never Never talk down to another driver or coworker! This one gets under my skin; everyone on this planet deserves the right to be dealt with, with respect, period! I was at a company last week and they have a dispatcher that the drivers hate, all of them despise this person, but the customers love this individual. What a croak, this person had never driven before and I don’t have a problem with a dispatcher who hasn’t been on the road but, its walk a mile in my shoes time here folks. I have a million safe miles under my belt and I am proud of that fact, I also know that it can be a lonely lifestyle, I know what it’s like not to be available when things go sideways at home and your 2 days away, to have just left a receiver who really didn’t want what you had to deliver and for some reason felt it was his job to make you aware of his problem and all you want to do is get to your backhaul and get home etc etc. now it’s time to talk to my dispatcher and they’re going to talk down to me, I don’t think so, not this cat, no how no way, I’m ready let’s dance dickhead!
I could go on with this article for a couple more pages, but I’ll give you folks some space to comment on my ramblings and give me a few of yours.
Who knows you might also want to distribute this to someone you think might be able to use it.
Safe trucking

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Mr. Ray Haight has enjoyed a successful career in transportation starting as a company driver and Owner Operator logging over one million accident free miles prior to starting his own company. After stepping down from a successful career managing one of Canada’s 50 largest trucking companies, Ray focused on industry involvement including terms as Chairman of each of the following, the Truckload Carriers Association, Professional Truck Drivers Institute, North American Training and Management Institute and the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities voluntary apprenticeship of Tractor Trailer Commercial Driver, along with many other business interests, he enjoys a successful consulting business, also sitting on various Boards of both industry associations a private motor carriers. He is also Co-Founder of StakUp O/A TCAinGauge an online bench marking service designed to assist trucking companies throughout North America focus on efficiency and profitability within their operations.

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  • Great post Ray! I think you should go to every large fleet you can get to and drive your points into the dispatcher’s brains! I would help you do it, but I refuse to ever work under a dispatcher/load planner again, so it won’t matter to me anyway. The part about being honest seems to be the hardest part of all to drive home. The point of getting it in writing is a great idea, but in my experience, no one at any big company I ever worked for would put anything in writing-never, ever! I agree that it should happen, but good luck with that!

  • Ray, point #4 is wrong. You can’t treat all drivers the same because all drivers aren’t the same. Some won’t put forth the extraordinary effort that others will so why should they be treated the same? If you did that you would lose all your superior operators and be left with average operators at best.
    You treat those that out perform with preference and those that that don’t will either work harder for the better loads or continue at the pace they are satisfied at or they will move on. Mo matter what you win.

    • That’s bull because if you treat some workers like crap do you think they’ll ever give you more that they think you deserve? Respect is a two- way street. You can’t treat one person like dirt and expect them to respect you and work harder for you after that.

    • Ralph as a dispatcher and I believe I’m a very fair dispatcher I agree. I’m not going to treat the guy who doesn’t want to do what you request without complaining and the guy who says to you whatever you need whenever you need me I’ll be there just call me. Or treat the guy who can’t be on time save his soul with the guy who is never late. Respect goes both ways and as the saying goes “cream rises to the top”! I believe you should treat all drivers with respect because all truck drivers just by the job itself should be treated with respect. Without them this country would be in bad shape but as a dispatcher “equal” – no – that’s earned.

  • #5 when you tell a driver to come home ( local board ) don’t expect any more work out of him until his next duty cycle , because on the way home he will have dreamed up all the things that need doing at home ( cut the lawn,get the repair parts for —, changethe oil on the truck, call the accountant, go to the bank ).Give yourself an out by telling him to check in before he gets home to see if anything new has come up.

    • Yeah tell him to check in so you can send him out again and steal what little free time he has. You are obviously looking at a computer and not a windshield at your job. You have more free time in 48 hours then the driver your jerking around has in two weeks!

  • Ray, your article is very informative and made some very good points. Honesty being paramount. I have been involved in dispatch and operations for over 30 years and not once have i been behind the wheel of a truck. but i can relate to every driver and dispatcher who all have a million stories both good and bad. Why, because a good dispatcher knows how to listen, react, and live with the decision be it good or bad. A dispatcher has the most hated position in any transport company as he has to weigh both the good for the company and the requirements of the driver to get the job done. The two do not always match and this is when a dispatcher really shines. Putting the puzzle together day after day and very seldom with little reward other then the satisfaction that he made it through another shift and will gladly come back tomorrow and do it all over again.
    I have always said dispatchers are a breed all there own and my hat goes off to all of them. Keep up the good work people you are the best.

  • Good one Ray. I have sat in the dispatch seat and it is not a comfortable fit some days. “HONESTY” is the key to making this work. Hiring the right driver is where the honesty needs to start. I have found that before the driver sits in the seat for the first trip that the driver and the dispatcher need to sit and come to agreements. I put together what I call the “Driver/Dispatch expectation sheet” This is were both parties sit down and agree on each others needs and expectations and they both sign off on it. This needs to be updated every 6 months also. May sound funny but it works!


  • I am new to the otr industry.
    I am under the impression that when things go wrong out here, for instance im left to sit over 24 hours time and time again..that its my dispatcher screwing me over. Am I wrong?
    I get in his face because this keeps happening.
    Can he fire me ?

  • I can relate to this there’s no worst feeling than to work for someone where your work in not appreciate and when you need to attend to your family you have to decide if it’s family or bill’s not getting paid.. I’m starting own business and it will be ran with family love, nobody better than other, most of all above the next. we all have the same goal in mind providing for our family. If you can’t fall in line with treating everyone with respect and as a person your out the door. God Bless