Training needs go beyond those of drivers

by Bruce Richards

Last month in this column we addressed the question of what the industry needs, wants, or can afford in the way of training for entry level truck drivers. It’s at least a three part question: first, I think we can all agree that training for an entry level job with safety implications such as that of truck driving is a good thing. It’s the other two parts of the question that create the discussion points – ie., what does the industry want in the way of training and what is it willing to pay for?

In addressing the topic last month I pointed out that there are some existing training programs that are capable of doing a fine job of preparing an entry-level driver for a career. There is one in particular that was developed by the industry group, the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Canada, which has been called the Cadillac of training courses, but that is seen by naysayers as too expensive.

Absent mandatory training with specified components and outcomes, it is currently left to would-be drivers to find a training centre that will prepare them for that entry level job with a fleet that cares enough to hire trained applicants. The sheer number of training establishments and the lack of oversight of the quality they deliver can make the choice of school a gamble.

And yet it is a reasonable expectation for any new driver who is shelling out hard earned money (or for government assistance programs that pay for the training) that he or she will receive a level of training that will qualify them for a decent job. And that’s often an unfulfilled expectation.

However, entry-level drivers are not the only workers that need or want suitable training to help them, once they gain some experience, to become professionals.

It is generally agreed that one of the most challenging jobs in the industry is that of the dispatcher. To be successful in this role an individual must be part planner, part operations director, part disciplinarian, part human resources expert, part salesperson, part empathetic listening-post for drivers, sales personnel and customers, part expert on transportation regulations, and dare I say it, part magician.

The typical dispatcher in a busy organization needs to be a good communicator, organized, knowledgeable, compassionate, understanding, demanding, and who knows what else? Demands come from the boss, from drivers, from customers, and from mechanics who want to service a vehicle that is needed for deliveries or pick-ups at the same time.

And yet, despite the demands inherent in the dispatcher position, experience shows that few dispatchers received any significant amount of training prior to taking on the role, or even as an ongoing part of the job. Indeed, most receive what is loosely described as on-the-job training – the sort that says “here is your desk and Fred here will show you the ropes.”

In that scenario it’s anyone’s guess as to how your new dispatcher will learn the skills required to do the job well. For example, is it likely that ‘Fred’ has the expertise (or time) to teach the interpersonal skills that good dispatchers utilize to calm irate drivers or customers? Who will teach the planning methodology required to keep the freight moving as scheduled? How will your new dispatcher react to emergency situations that disrupt those plans? The list goes on, of course.

If you are operating the type of fleet that settles for on-the-job training for your dispatchers the best you can do is keep your fingers crossed that they are quick studies and that nothing goes off the rails while they are climbing the learning curve.

Or, you might consider changing your approach in order to utilize some of the established and well-regarded training programs designed specifically to prepare dispatchers for the job you hired them to do.

Of the available programs, there are two with which we are familiar – one classroom and the other online. We do not as a rule mention specific companies or products in this space, but consider these as suggestions as you begin your research into the most suitable program for your dispatchers.

We know that adults have different learning styles so selecting the most suitable type of learning experience is important. You are looking for positive results for your trainee, not an exercise in frustration.

For example, some people learn best in a classroom setting and Transcom Fleet Services ( has been providing that type of training for dispatchers for many years. Roy Craigen, owner of Transcom, once made an impassioned case for dispatcher training at PMTC’s annual conference. It was so well received that we invited Roy back to speak to us again.

Alternatively, for those who can’t live without their dispatcher while they are off-site for training there are online courses that the student can work through at their own pace. Trucking Human Resources Canada ( provides this type of program. It is intensive, structured, and a good alternative to the classroom.

A quick search of the Internet on this topic found even more dispatcher training programs, so there are choices available. As with entry-level driver training however, it’s best to check references and examine program contents as well as instructor qualifications prior to signing on.

Dispatchers quite obviously play an important role in the success of your fleet. Do them the courtesy of preparing them for that role.

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  • Hi There I agree with any training in any job. But the question on the board is Driver not Dispatch. Are we starting a debate that we are short Dispatchers? As far as the 3 questions you are right Most trades are controled by standard and internship But as you said No one can afford this level of training and every one is in the fast food line wanting drivers now. I think we have to push the issue and keep talking about this till we have a program in place. I think it may be time for a partnership between industry and goverment to pay for a good program We also need to set up a monitor system or we will have worse problem and greedy people wanting to make a fast buck!! Let keep pushing this in the CEO and elected officials faces and wait for re-actions