As a trucker, one of the most important professional relationships you will have is with your dispatcher.
Unfortunately, it’s also sometimes one of the most difficult relationships in your professional truck driving career.
Dispatchers don’t come from the same stock as they used to. Most of them are recent college graduates with little to no experience in our industry. And this can cause a lot of problems and miscommunications.
However, your dispatcher is likely your lifeline to your company. So if you want to be successful, you’re going to have to learn to play nice.
The Dispatcher’s Responsibility
As a professional driver, it’s important you understand your position in the industry. If you’re brand new to the business, you are most likely at the bottom of the company ladder.
Your job at this point is to do what you’re told to the best of your ability. And because truckers are usually independent by nature, this isn’t necessarily an easy task.
A dispatcher is not necessarily your supervisor. However, they are the ones who manage the software systems and give you your instructions. They are sort of the gatekeepers between you and your carrier. And having a basic idea of their job duties can sometimes help you understand where they’re coming from.
The dispatcher’s job is to effectively manage the flow of the freight from point A to point B.
Their job is to try to minimize the truck’s empty miles and maximize the company’s profits. They are also the ones in control of how many miles you receive pay for. Don’t forget, you get paid by the mile.
Tips for Getting Along With Your Dispatcher
Many times, it seems dispatchers don’t listen to the truckers.
But to be fair, they do have a lot going on with their software systems and sales team interactions.
Also, since most dispatchers nowadays have never been truckers, they actually have no idea what we go through in a day. For this reason, one of the best things you can do to open the lines of communication is to help them better understand your job.
Additionally, here are a few tips I’ve found helpful for getting along with a dispatcher.
- Don’t argue.
The first thing you need to remember is not to engage in battle with dispatch. It accomplishes nothing, except maybe giving you high blood pressure. It’s best if you approach them with an open mind and a friendly manner. Remember, the goal is for both of you to reach a mutual agreement. So, be wise and handle them gently and respectfully.
- 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 many uncontrollable variables you’ll encounter on your trip. So be sure to leave yourself some wiggle room for delivery time. Don’t promise the moon and risk having to break your promise.
- Establish trip details before departure.
There are 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 certain things like 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”.
Dealing With Unrealistic Schedule Demands
Impossible schedule demands are a common problem in this industry. It usually happens because the dispatchers get a lot of pressure from the sales team.
And they don’t know any more about trucking than the dispatchers! Thus, they makes huge promises to customers and communicate those to the dispatchers. The dispatchers then just pass on the orders to the drivers.
This creates some obvious problems, and many new truckers feel pressured into promising things they’re not sure they can deliver. Don’t fall into this trap.
If the dispatcher doesn’t accept your “I’ll try my best” response, ask to speak to the safety supervisor.
This supervisor works for the trucking company. His job is to protect you from unsafe practices and protect the company from potential problems. They will likely resolve the situation very quickly.
If dispatch is trying to force you to force you to run tired due to crazy scheduling demands, the safety department will by your ally. It also never hurts to have these conversations in writing.
You can reply via the truck’s satellite system by email, saying something like, “I’m tired and can’t make this delivery time.” These messages are stored on the database.
And the trucking company could get into serious trouble if a scale master or site auditor saw the message and knew they forced you to run tired anyway.
What to Do If You Still Can’t Deal With Your Dispatcher
In the trucking industry, there are both good and bad dispatchers. Some of them can be easy to get along with and others can be snakes. And sometimes, despite your best effort, you will come across one who you can’t seem to get along with.
In these situations, you don’t have too many choices.
But you can start by going over their head. First, if the dispatcher’s instructions are putting you in danger, go directly to the safety supervisor. That usually clears those matters up immediately.
But if your dispatcher continues to communicate the same way and repeat the same behaviours, you may have to go over his head.
My advice to you in any situation is to keep a good record of everything dispatch asks you to do.
You can even use a tool like an electronic onboard recorder to do so. This way, if anything is questioned by people up the chain of command, you’ll have documented proof of the conversations.
Moving On To Another Truck Driving Job
Keep in mind that you will not always have to deal with bad dispatchers.
In fact, a good dispatcher is usually the sign of a decent trucking company. And there are many of them out there.
But if you have dealt with a difficult dispatcher for a long time, and the trucking company is not willing to address the issue, then you may be at a crossroads in your driving career.
Sometimes no matter what you do or say it doesn’t work. It’s not always possible to find a workable solution to getting along with your dispatcher
Don’t be afraid to take that step if you have to. A good, long trucking career may require some lateral moves.
Know when it’s time to move on!
Watch This Video For More Tips On Handling Your Dispatcher Successfully!
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