In the freight industry, it’s common for someone to start working as a driver and then decide they’d like to become an owner-operator and drive for themselves. As an owner-operator, this person owns their truck and finds their own loads. After some time, an owner-operator may partner up with another driver to increase capacity. At this point, the owner-operator is part of a small fleet, which consists of two or more trucks.
As business goes on, all the routes, phone calls, and planning may start to take up a significant chunk of time. The team making up the small fleet might decide they’d be more efficient if they had someone taking care of these tasks. At this point, they can hire a small fleet dispatcher to tackle the dispatch services so the drivers can focus on delivering loads. Dispatchers positively impact carrier companies by juggling the many operational tasks that go into running a smooth business.
Small fleets need to keep their trucks loaded to avoid deadheading as driving empty trucks can become a costly, detrimental expense. To maximize profits and operate optimally, small fleets often have a dispatcher who is responsible for finding profitable loads to minimize empty miles for drivers.
However, the job of a fleet dispatcher extends beyond finding and optimizing load opportunities for drivers. They will typically juggle multiple tasks and handle a number of operations for the fleet on a daily basis, such as fleet and freight logistics and management, and communicating with brokers, shippers, and drivers. They’re the member of the team behind the scenes who makes sure everything runs smoothly. Small fleets with an effective dispatcher have a significant competitive advantage.
Customers want their loads to be picked up and delivered on time, drivers want to make the most of their time, and carriers want competitive rates. It should go without saying that there’s a lot to keep track of operationally, and managing everyone’s expectations is a key responsibility for dispatchers. Being responsible for so many things can be a lot to handle. Dispatchers often must operate in a stressful demanding environment, so it’s important to have the ability to remain calm and organized under pressure.
As a dispatcher, you are like the glue holding everything together. You are helping everyone operate efficiently, which will greatly benefit the fleet and the company as a whole. It may be a lot to tackle, but when you do your job well, your team can access opportunities for growth and an increase in revenue.
Dispatchers Juggle Many Tasks
As mentioned above, dispatchers have a long list of responsibilities, and if you decide to work as a dispatcher, you’ll need to master the art of juggling multiple tasks at once. It may seem overwhelming at first, but with time, and the right skills, training, and tools, you’ll be mastering the art of fleet management in no time.
There isn’t much downtime in a dispatcher’s day. As a fleet dispatcher, you have the power to scale small fleets by optimizing daily operations, but to do so, you will need to stay as organized as possible and have good communication skills.
It falls on the dispatcher to make sure everyone, including themselves, knows what is expected of them and are keeping organized to stay on top of tasks and schedules. Good communication and the ability to communicate with your team calmly and clearly is key. Doing this day in and day out, in addition to managing logistics, can be stressful, we understand. It’s easy to get overwhelmed feeling like everything ultimately falls back on you if something goes wrong. But if you are generally keeping things running smooth and efficiently by utilizing available tools and technology to optimize operations, you will reduce your chances of running into problems.
You, of course, can’t control everything. Sometimes things just happen, that’s part of the job—being able to think on your toes and handle what is thrown at you. But overall, if you can stay organized and on task by optimizing your daily operations, your day-to-day on average will become easier.
Daily Responsibilities of Dispatchers
What are some of the daily tasks you’ll have to take on as a dispatcher? Every operation runs a little differently to meet the unique needs of the company and fleet; however, dispatchers will typically be responsible for the following:
Scheduling: You will be responsible for scheduling all deliveries, pick-ups, and service appointments. To do this successfully, you’ll need to maintain a high level of organization. Gathering, recording, and curating dates and events and keeping that information readily accessible will be the key to success. In addition, you’ll need to keep track of the locations of multiple different drivers and their agreed pick-up times. When dispatchers are able to successfully stay on top of scheduling, the fleet is able to run smoothly.
Truck safety and compliance: Dispatchers are responsible for ensuring the company adheres to federal and state guidelines. This process is known as compliance. Safety compliance is crucial for fleets of all sizes. It ensures a fleet avoids penalties, has more time for business, and prevents costly errors.
For a dispatcher, keeping your fleet compliant means making sure your drivers take breaks at the appropriate times, getting drivers off the road during periods of severe weather, identifying areas where it is okay to park, and more. Keeping up with compliance is a significant portion of a dispatcher’s day. To do it effectively, dispatchers must maintain an overall awareness of their drivers’ locations and stay up to date on regulations. Dispatchers should take this task very seriously because their fleet relies on them to make sure the company adheres to all required guidelines to avoid legal repercussions.
Tracking mileage: As a dispatcher, you’ll need to track mileage for tax purposes, as well as maintenance purposes. Trucks today have equipment that tracks miles automatically. You can use that technology to stay on top of the mileage numbers. Having technology that tracks mileage is particularly useful for staying compliant with IFTA regulations, as IFTA requires carriers to record their odometer readings every time they cross state lines and turn in a comprehensive record of miles traveled once per quarter.
Manage driver expectations: Whether there’s unforeseen inclement weather, or the route will take an extra hour, it’s essential to keep your drivers in the loop. They’re working long hours and are part of the team, so it’s important to keep them informed of any issues or unforeseen changes. More often than not, if you keep your drivers up to speed and empathize with their situation, they’ll understand.
Communicate with customers: Unfortunately, late arrivals are sometimes unavoidable. If you become aware that a driver will be late to a drop-off or pick-up, you can mitigate a problem by using clear and empathetic communication with the client. These situations should never turn into a blame game or be about who is right and who is wrong. Dealing with an upset customer can be challenging, but it’s imperative that you keep a level head as much as possible to maintain those relationships. Though customers don’t want there to be delays or complications, they understand that unavoidable complications sometimes happen; being upfront and transparent goes a long way.
It’s also worth noting that your trucking company will likely have different types of customers. For example, as the dispatcher you might have to coordinate with the logistics manager for a shipping client for one load, and then a broker for the next load. Dispatchers need to be willing to pick up some industry lingo to effectively communicate with the multiple customer types you work with.
Make plans for backhauling: Dispatchers play a crucial role in making sure that every mile drivers travel is profitable, and should plan routes and find loads that optimize backhauling opportunities. Driving empty can end up costing the company money, so it’s important to make the most of the tools available to you to ensure you are getting the best loads possible for your driver and making the most of their routes.
What Makes a Good Dispatcher?
Working as a trucking dispatcher can be a very lucrative profession. Most dispatchers make around $50,000 a year, while dispatchers earning in the top 10% earn close to $70,000. So, what does it take to become an effective dispatcher and increase your earning potential?
Technical and computer skills: Many fleets utilize fleet management software to help with mapping and scheduling. The trucking industry is implementing new technologies faster than ever. To be a successful dispatcher, you need to keep up with the pace of change. Learning how to use a suite of software applications will set you apart and help you perform essential daily tasks.
Attention to detail: Dispatchers find themselves consistently looking at large amounts of data. Being able to hone in on specific information and paying attention to detail are necessities for the quick decision-making needed for this role.
Organizational skills: Staying organized may be the most significant differentiating factor between a good dispatcher and a great one. There’s an abundance of information dispatchers have to deal with daily and the only way to stay on top of all this information is to be organized.
Critical thinking skills: Dispatchers put out fires. As a dispatcher, you’ll deal with situations where you’ll need to think on your feet. Thinking critically about a problem and coming up with a solution in real-time is an invaluable skill that all dispatchers should have.
Communication skills: Communication is one of the most important skills for every dispatcher to have. You will need to communicate with your team and customers. You’ll need to be able to set expectations, negotiate, and work in the best interest of your drivers and your company. The importance of communication as a dispatcher cannot be overstated. If you can harness this skill, your chances of success are very high.
Emotional intelligence: As a dispatcher, you’ll have to juggle communicating with many people at once. It’s important to have the emotional intelligence￼to work with various stakeholders in an empathetic and understanding way. Refining this skill will take you a long way as a small fleet dispatcher when you are trying to meet the needs of your drivers and customers.
Emotional control: While emotional intelligence refers to your ability to understand and be empathetic towards other people’s emotions, emotional control is your ability to manage your own emotions. For example, there will be times when a client may say something you don’t like—they may even be disrespectful—but to communicate your message tactfully, you will need to reign in your emotions and remain calm.
Build Your Dispatching Skills and Learn to Balance Your Day
So, what does a small fleet dispatcher do? It might be easier to answer the question, what doesn’t a small fleet dispatcher do? In this position, you’ll have your hands in almost every part of the business.
The dispatcher is the glue that holds the fleet together. They communicate with owners, clients, brokers, and drivers. They facilitate core processes, and they try their hardest to keep everyone satisfied.
To be an effective dispatcher, you’ll need a great deal of energy, enthusiasm, compassion, and organization. As a fleet dispatcher, you have the opportunity to build relationships, grow the business, and help your fleet operate at a high level within a competitive industry.
It’ll take a great deal of time and energy to manage your fleet and you may find some days feel overwhelming with all the different tasks you have to juggle. For tips on balancing your day better, check out this article:
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