As a truck driver, the best way to handle your dispatcher, is to understand what his job involves.
The dispatcher’s job is to effectively manage the flow of the freight from point A to point B. They attempt to minimize the truck’s empty miles and maximize the company’s profits. That’s the dispatcher’s job and what they are paid to do.
Years ago in the trucking industry, dispatchers were well seasoned, experienced ex-truck drivers. They understood the trucking industry.
Today, dispatchers are often young people highly skilled with computers! They’re often fresh out of community college with a crash course in dispatch software management. They have no idea what a truck driver goes through every day. So as a professional driver, it’s necessary to understand where they’re coming from.
Often times, the dispatcher is paying more attention to his dispatch software or he’s being badgered by the sales team and he truly doesn’t know what you’re going through in a day. It will help if you learn how to ‘manage your dispatcher’ by giving them a little help and teach them what you can about your job. In return, it’ll make your job a lot easier.
Tips For Handling Your Dispatcher
- Don’t argue. The first thing you need to remember is not to engage in battle with dispatch, as it accomplishes nothing, except giving you high blood pressure. It’s best if you approach them with an open mind and an easy handed manner. Remember the goal is for both of you to reach a mutual agreement. So, be wise and handle them gently.
- You set the schedule. When the dispatcher is assigning you a new load, I recommend you establish a few things up front. Remember, you’re the guy with the specialist licence here, you’re the guy with the CDL, you’re the guy with the driving experience, and you’re the guy driving the truck, who fights the weather and the traffic, and everything else. Therefore, it’s up to YOU to establish the delivery schedule. He’ll try to dictate to you when and where you’ve got to be. Have a good look at his proposed schedule, and say something like, “Well you know I’ll do my best.” But, never promise anything. If you do make promises, they’ll often come back to haunt you. There are so many uncontrollable variables you’ll encounter on your trip. Be sure to leave yourself some wiggle room for delivery time. Don’t promise the moon and then have something go wrong so you can’t deliver as you promised.
- Establish trip details before departure. There’s a few things you should establish before leaving on your trip. Double check the trip mileage, propose a delivery schedule, and present any possible obstacles you anticipate for the trip. Also establish who is taking care of such things as customs paperwork for instance. If you aren’t getting paid for it, it’s the company’s responsibility. From personal experience, I’ve found it helps to establish these things up front before you depart on your trip. So, if you hear the words “it needs to be there by…..”, your best response should always be, “I’ll do my best to deliver on time”.
Unrealistic Schedule Demands: A Common Problem
One of the situations that happens commonly theses days is the dispatchers are pressured by the sales team, and the sales team doesn’t know anymore about trucking than the dispatching team! Thus, the sales team makes unrealistic promises to the customer, which they communicate to the dispatcher. The dispatcher passes the orders forward to the truck driver, and that’s when the “it needs to be there” scenario surfaces.
However if the dispatcher doesn’t like your “I’ll try my best” response and starts to pound his fist on the desk and say “you’re gonna be there, you gotta be there”, your next response is “let me talk to the safety supervisor.” The safety supervisor works for the trucking company and is there to protect your butt and protect the company’s butt for hours of service requirements.
If dispatch is trying to force you to run tired, due to an unrealistic schedule promised to a customer by a salesperson, you can shut that down right there. The safety supervisor is your ally in such a situation.
So, bottom line, if you feel pressured and the schedule isn’t a realistic delivery scenario, go right to safety….that will get you out of all sorts of trouble.
Another way to protect yourself is to forward your reply via the truck’s satellite system by email. Send a note….. ” Hey, I’m tired and I can’t make this delivery time.” These messages are stored and retained on the data base. The trucking company would not be happy to show such a message to a scale master or a site auditor. If they did, the trucking company would be in serious trouble.
So, as a backup, it never hurts to your messages into the e-log system, if your have one, in the event that you don’t feel like you’re getting enough time to complete your run.
Know When It’s Time To Make a Change
In the trucking industry, there are all sorts of dispatchers, both good and bad. Some of them can be absolutely great to deal with, and some of them can be complete snakes.
Beware of the ‘owner’s kids’ working in a dispatching position. They can be a little difficult to work with. Sometimes, you may need to remind them gently that it’s not them signing your paycheque, but their father. But, tread lightly.
If you learn to work well with your dispatcher and communicate your needs clearly, you’re bound to get more accomplished. Don’t hesitate once in awhile when necessary, to go over their heads, in the chain of command. Remember, you don’t work for the dispatcher, you work with them.
It’s important to get along with your dispatcher. However, Periodically, it doesn’t hurt to remind the dispatcher of that fact. Many of them have a nasty habit and tend to think you’re working for them. But, you don’t. You are working for the trucking company.
Smart trucking companies are coming to the conclusion that bad dispatchers are creating driver turn-over. With the ‘trucker shortage crisis’ in full swing, trucking companies don’t want driver turn-over. They are implementing new strategies for their dispatchers to successfully work with their drivers to accomplish common goals….an important one, is that both the trucking company and the truck driver, can turn a profit.
If you’ve got a bad dispatcher and have tried everything possible to work things out, and have also tried working it out with the owner unsuccessfully, it may be time to move on to another driving job. The stress isn’t worth it. There are plenty of companies out there with good dispatchers and owners who will happily take you on board.
You don’t need to work with the snakes.