Though there are thousands of stories in the trucking industry about terrible dispatchers, the truth of the matter is that company drivers and leased on owner operators would be lost without the dispatchers they work with. Dispatchers are a driver’s lifeline when things go wrong, get the driver home, give them their loads and make sure they get adequate miles to satisfy both the driver and the company. Along with that, most try to ask how the driver is doing that day if they do not use satellite dispatch systems.
Dispatchers do all of the above with a phone at their ear, a pen in one hand while typing away at the computer with the other for 8 to 10 hours a day. Small company dispatchers may do other jobs along with dispatching trucks and drivers. These small company dispatchers also find the loads, schedule repairs and maintenance on the trucks, and do orientation of new hires along with often working after hours and weekend phone duty.
Dispatchers come from many areas to become dispatchers. Some start out in other areas of trucking company offices and get promoted thru the ranks into the position, some start out as drivers and then enter the office as a dispatcher, while a few are just hired cold to become a dispatcher. Brokers switch over to dispatching for a company and visa versa sometimes because the jobs are similar.
At the company where I am working now, we have two dispatchers. Jen came from another trucking company where she worked as a broker after immigrating to the USA from Canada. Scot was in my employer’s words, “The best driver this company ever had. I knew he would be a bang up dispatcher so I talked him into coming into the office.”
Jen and Scot both have very different personalities and strengths but mesh well in dispatch. Jen brought along her contacts when she came to work as a dispatcher, which helps the company, and she is the peacemaker if there is a problem with a load or a broker. Scot has the mechanical knowledge gained from his years of driving and along with his dispatching duties, handles routine maintenance and on the road repair scheduling. Both share a deep respect for the drivers under them and the work truck driving entails.
One thing both will tell you though is paramount to everything a dispatcher does and that is communication from the driver along with being on time for pick-ups and deliveries. If they do not know where you are and you will be on time, then they cannot find another load for you until they hear from you. If you are late on delivery or pick up and have not called to explain the delay, it puts dispatch into the position of having nothing to tell a customer or broker about where their freight is.
Family owned businesses find their dispatchers from within the family at times. I have only had one bad dispatcher in all of my years of driving and it was not that he was a bad person. He just was very inexperienced though he thought he knew everything. Getting directions for the drivers was impossible for him because he did not understand how the interstates ran or where the states were. He would however always ask how you were that day and would listen if you had a complaint or problem, not that he would do anything about it. He got into dispatching because he was the company owner’s son-in-law and had needed a job.
On the other hand, one of the best dispatchers I have had was the daughter of a company owner. She was only 21 years old when I hired on to drive for her dad and she was just learning about trucking and dispatching. Though she had a prior job as a server in a family friend’s café, she did not know how to work with male drivers and at first allowed them to intimidate her. Knowing that I had worked in trucking company offices, whenever I would come into the yard, she would ask me questions for hours on how to handle things. After she gained experience and confidence, she learned the delicate balance of working with male drivers and how to be taken seriously. She was and is a tiger in defense of her drivers and will take up for them, as long as they are in the right, against anyone.
To keep a good relationship with your dispatcher is easy. Do your check calls on time and keep them in the loop in how you are running. Make them your first call if something is wrong with the truck or if you are delayed on your run for any reason. Remember that dispatchers have off days too or may be ill but still at work. So just like you do not like to be rubbed the wrong way when you are not at your best, do not give your dispatcher a hard time if it appears they are having a bad day. If you have a problem that cannot be resolved over the phone in a calm fashion, do not yell at and/or cuss your dispatcher. Either wait until you get into the yard to get it resolved or get in touch with the supervisor and talk to them.
Most of all a driver must remember that at 3 am in the middle of an icy night when the truck breaks down, that dispatcher may just be your only lifeline to help; and the dispatchers have to remember that without a truck driver, a dispatcher has no paycheck. We all have to work together in our symbiotic trucking relationship to be successful, without either one of us, the rig’s wheels stop.