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Dispatchers can make a good living; most dispatchers make around $50,000 a year, while the top 10% of dispatchers can earn close to $70,000. There are over 700,000 trucking businesses in the United States, meaning there are a lot of job opportunities for those interested in working as a dispatcher.

As trucking companies adapt to a post-pandemic America, they will be looking to hire drivers and dispatchers to handle increased workloads and demand. And after experiencing incredible disruption, these companies will likely be looking for individuals that do not simply fit the bill, but for those who can do the job exceptionally well to help them bounce back and experience growth.

So, what’s required to get your foot in the door? How can you become a successful truck dispatcher? Let’s break down the basic requirements for getting started as a dispatcher and dive into some tips and habits that will help you succeed at the job.

Learn more about what fleet management looks like at a small trucking company.

Be a Life-Long Learner

While no formal training or education is required for those interested in becoming a dispatcher, there are certainly some courses you can take to boost your earning potential and give you an edge in the industry. Your high school diploma or a GED is good to have, though it’s not necessarily required.

If you have more time and money to spend, having an associate or undergraduate degree can give you even more of a leg up on the competition. Degrees in areas such as transportation, shipping, logistics, business, and project management can all improve your knowledge and skills to better prepare you for your job as a dispatcher.

Regardless of what degree you have, being a life-long learner and staying up to date with industry trends and new technologies will help you stay ahead of the game. It’s beneficial to take some online courses or certificate programs geared towards the trucking industry. The internet is vast and full of helpful resources and information that can help you gain some basic industry knowledge; some online courses and resources are free, while others may charge a fee for the services they provide.

Background Knowledge of the Trucking Industry

If you are new to the trucking industry, it’s important to gain some insight into how things operate. Between communicating with drivers, brokers, and shippers, finding loads, and staying on top of compliance, there are a lot of moving pieces to keep track of. Even if you’ve been working in the industry for years in a different capacity, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the specific requirements of dispatchers and the nuances of the operation you’re working for.

It’s also helpful to gain an intimate understanding of safety compliance regulations. As a fleet dispatcher, you’ll need to ensure that your drivers are adhering to all safety standards to guarantee that everything is in line with federal and local regulations. To avoid penalties, you’ll need to be aware of regulations like mandated rest periods and weight restrictions.

Six Tips for Becoming a Successful Dispatcher

The following are the skills, qualities, and experiences that will help you succeed in your role of managing a fleet as a dispatcher:

1. Gain Experience and Find a Mentor

Before jumping into a position as a fleet dispatcher, it’s beneficial to learn about the industry. As we mentioned above, there are no specific education requirements to become a dispatcher, but it can only boost your potential if you take the initiative to invest in some courses or certification programs beyond a high school diploma or a GED.

From there, it’s helpful to understand the industry as a whole and the specific market you will be working in. While much of this information may be readily available on the internet, one of the best ways to truly learn the ins and outs of the freight industry is to work with a mentor. Someone who has worked in the industry for years will be able to give you tips and tricks that you won’t find anywhere else.

A mentor can give you useful information that can greatly benefit you and help you succeed in your role. And it doesn’t have to be another dispatcher—an experienced driver, for example, or anyone else that has been connected to the industry for years, can help guide you and offer you basic knowledge as well as specifics that you won’t find on the internet. A freight broker you have a good relationship with may even be willing to share some industry insight and lend some valuable perspective as a customer.

2. Adapt to Technology

The freight industry has adopted shipment tracking systems like the Internet of Things (IoT), radio frequency identification (RFID), and advanced GPS technology in recent years. Technology is playing a more prominent and significant role in the trucking industry and to be a successful dispatcher, it’s important to be open and receptive to changes and have a willingness to adapt to new technology.

While there is understandably a learning curve when implementing new systems and devices into your daily operations, in the long run, it will only benefit you and your team by helping you streamline your operations and run more efficiently. And when you are running optimally, you are likely to experience growth and boost profits.

For example, Xpress Technologies has software that can help optimize routes by providing route suggestions that make the most sense geographically for drivers. Being able to utilize systems like this will give you a significant advantage as a fleet dispatcher. Learning how to use and adapt to new technology can set you apart from the rest.

3. Build Relationships

While technology is constantly changing, being able to connect and build relationships is a foundational part of becoming a successful fleet dispatcher. While being tech-savvy will help you increase your efficiency in day-to-day tasks, having good communication skills and being able to connect with drivers, shippers, and brokers will benefit you greatly in the long run.

Inevitably, you’ll run into issues on the job. Maybe your driver is late delivering a load, or they run into an emergency that prevents them from completing a load. You never know what might happen to throw something or someone off course. In these situations, having a network of quality relationships is key. The customer you’ve delivered quality business to and established rapport with for the past six months is going to be a lot more understanding than the customer you have no experience with. If you have a strong relationship with a broker, they’ll be more likely to help you troubleshoot when issues arise. With so many moving parts and variables that play into a successful delivery, it’s easy to forget this is a people-first business. Keeping that in mind will take you a long way.

4. Be a Patient Communicator

One way to sabotage yourself from building quality relationships is to get into arguments with those you do business with. For example, you might run into a situation where someone under-delivers. They told you the load would be ready by 10 am, and your driver has been waiting at the pick-up location for six hours, and now their schedule is thrown off. It’s easy to get frustrated.

In these types of situations, it’s important to stay calm and collected while communicating with your clients. By showing others in the industry you understand where they’re coming from and remaining calm throughout the situation, you’ll be able to maintain respectful and productive relationships with key players in your business. Great dispatchers know the importance of keeping their emotions in check and avoiding arguments.

5. Plan Ahead and Keep Organized

For fleet dispatchers, knowing how to plan and stay on top of all your tasks is a necessity if you want to succeed in your role. It will save you time and help you keep everything operating efficiently and according to plan. Proactively addressing problems before they arise is a great way to stay on top of all your responsibilities. For example, you can set up your zones as early as possible, get subcontractors on your bench, and create processes for repetitive tasks. The more you can get done ahead of time and plan out, the less likely it is you’ll get caught off guard and have to fix something in the moment.

In addition to the day-to-day tasks you juggle, you will need to keep tabs on longer-term plans as deadlines approach. For example, take a few minutes to check the weather before each workday begins. If you have a driver set to make an eight-hour trip through a snowstorm, problems could arise. Looking at this a day or two in advance gives you time to make changes and reschedule things if necessary.

This also shows your drivers that you have their best interest in mind. Their safety should always be a priority, especially when there is bad weather that affects road conditions and their ability to see while driving. When they feel looked after and respected, they are more likely to stick around and work harder. By keeping them informed of any potential bad weather and what they can do to stay safe and letting them know ahead of time of schedule changes will go a long way towards earning their trust and respect.

6. Plan for the Unexpected

As you’re planning ahead and staying on top of daily tasks, make sure to plan for the unexpected. In other words, plan with the understanding that something might go awry, and build in some safety nets. What good is a plan if there’s little to no chance it will be executed successfully? Some of the best dispatchers are those that are prepared for the unexpected and can think on their feet to handle issues that arise. But it’s generally best to under-promise and over-deliver than to make promises you can’t fulfill.

If you take on jobs that leave your driver with no margin for error, you’re taking unnecessary risks. You could risk your relationship with the driver, as this job will likely put them under a lot of unnecessary stress. You could also potentially risk ruining your reputation with clients; if your company does not deliver what it promised, they might not trust you with their business in the future. Regardless of how good the freight opportunity is, it’s rarely worth the risk if the deadlines are too tight.

Fleet Management Success

Managing a fleet as a dispatcher is no small task. Your drivers, clients, and brokers will be relying and counting on you to deliver and meet their expectations. For some, that’s part of what makes this job so exciting; it’s fast-paced and keeps you on your toes. You’ll use critical thinking skills as you develop schedules and plans, you’ll need compassion as you defuse situations and put out fires, and in many instances, you’ll rely on instinct as you run into problems that call for on-demand solutions.

Dispatching is hard work, but with the right management, communication, and organization skills, you’ll be on your way to having a rewarding career as a successful fleet dispatcher.

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