Small trucking companies play a vital role in the freight transportation industry. The top trucking companies in the country represent only 5% of all trucks on the road, whereas independent carriers make up the other 95%.
Without small carriers, the freight industry would simply shut down. Independent carriers are critical players in getting merchandise to stores, food to restaurants, and deliveries to businesses to keep the nation running.
Carrier operations can range in size from a single truck to over thousands of trucks in their fleet. A small carrier is typically considered a company that owns or manages between 1 and 25 trucks. A small fleet is generally made up of 2 to 20 trucks.
Many small carriers book loads through load boards and work with brokers. These companies often have a specific person in charge of acquiring and managing freight. Let’s take a deep dive into what role dispatchers play for small carriers.
Job Responsibilities of a Dispatcher
Dispatchers of small fleets typically oversee all of the trucks in the fleet. Their goal is to improve fleet performance and increase productivity. Even the most organized, experienced, and well-oiled machine of a team will face unforeseen issues and challenges; dispatchers are the problem solvers who are able to step up and help the team succeed when faced with those curveball challenges.
What does fleet management look like for a dispatcher? Common responsibilities include:
Managing the schedules and workloads of each driver in the company
Managing vehicle maintenance, including scheduling routine maintenance tasks
Overseeing fuel usage and fuel costs for the fleet
Implementing technology and fleet management services to help the fleet run efficiently
Dispatchers are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the fleet they manage. They are the ones who help carriers get on the road, stay on the road, and run an efficient operation. Let’s look at some of the specific tasks dispatchers perform to fulfill their responsibilities.
Support Driver Safety
Dispatchers contribute to driver safety by using tools like dash cams, fleet tracking systems, and real-time safety analytics to monitor driver behavior. Dispatchers also make sure that drivers receive all of the essential training to keep them safe on the road.
Happy, satisfied drivers stick around. Driver retention is one of the most effective ways to keep costs down in your fleet and prevent issues related to driver shortages.
Retaining drivers is all about improving working conditions and building trust between drivers and dispatchers. Dispatchers are drivers’ valuable partners; they handle the logistics related to sourcing, securing, and managing the freight details so drivers can focus on the road. Dispatchers work as the go-between point person drivers can rely on to troubleshoot issues that arise. No matter the size of a problem, big or small, effective dispatchers will support their drivers and set them up for success.
Mentorship programs are another great way to motivate and retain drivers. Freight transport can be a lonely job, but mentorship programs provide structured relationships that connect drivers to others in the workplace and can improve retention. Mentorship programs may look different from carrier to carrier; however, it can be as simple as connecting a new driver at your company with a driver who has a lot of experience and can lend helpful insight and guidance.
Give Recommendations for Vehicle Acquisition
Dispatchers are well versed in their fleet’s operation and are able to evaluate if there are gaps. While dispatchers are not directly responsible for acquiring new trucks, you can provide helpful insight that can be used to guide your company when it’s deciding to add more trucks. After all, acquiring vehicles is about more than just buying trucks to add to the fleet; it’s about predicting how many and which vehicles will be needed to operate effectively. Track
Track the Fleet
How well can you keep track of every vehicle in your fleet? Can you quickly pinpoint, in real-time, the exact location of every truck you are responsible for? Or would you have to call each of your drivers to find out where they are?
Tracking vehicle locations is not always easy, especially as the number of trucks in a fleet increases. Dispatchers can use GPS technology to track trucks in their fleet and maintain overall awareness of where everyone is and what driving conditions they may face in each location.
One major responsibility of dispatchers is to understand the ins and outs of your company’s expenditures. By reducing costs, you can create a more efficient fleet. For example, you can reduce costs by managing fuel usage or maximizing your drivers’ time on the road by using technologies that make it easier to find freight and plan backhauling opportunities.
Facilitate ELD Compliance
Staying on top of Electronic Logging Device (ELD) compliance is a critical part of fleet management. The ELD mandate, or ELD Final Rule, went into effect in December 2017 and identified time tracking requirements and relevant safety measures.
All commercial vehicle operators must record their Hours of Service (HOS) electronically. This system replaced existing paper logs, which were time-consuming and difficult to track. The goal of the ELD Final Rule is to prevent drivers from being on the road when they’re overly fatigued and reduce dangerous driving.
Dispatchers are responsible for facilitating compliance with the ELD mandate and can help make sure that drivers are using ELDs that not only track HOS but offer other systems that can improve operational efficiency as well.
Manage Registrations and Licenses
Another aspect of compliance is ensuring that your vehicles are appropriately registered and your drivers have the correct licenses. Dispatchers’ clerical responsibilities include collecting registration and license information from drivers. Staying on top of registration and licensing will help you stay on top of compliance.
Finding Freight for Your Drivers
Acquiring freight is one of the most important tasks in your day-to-day job as a dispatcher, and one of the most time-consuming. It is important that you have a comprehensive understanding of how to source the best loads for your fleet and negotiate high rates negotiate high rates, as efficiently as possible. As a dispatcher, you have to juggle a lot of different operational tasks; the more time you have to spend finding and securing ideal loads for your drivers, the less time you have for all of your other responsibilities. That’s why it’s critical to streamline the freight finding process and make the most of your time.
Dispatchers need to develop strong relationships with brokers and shippers, be familiar with which load boards post reliable and up-to-date loads, and stay on top of what technology is available to streamline the process of securing freight.
Load boards are a great resource that dispatchers can use to find freight for their fleet. However, not all load boards will be the right fit, so it’s critical that dispatchers can distinguish between load boards that will help improve operational efficiency and your bottom line and those that aren’t worth your time.
Using Load Boards
Load boards are the primary way trucking companies acquire freight and are a great resource for finding new business opportunities and developing industry relationships. Load boards show you what loads brokers and shippers have posted; posts typically include information like pick-up and drop-off location, load weight, the truck or trailer specifications necessary for the load, and delivery dates.
Brokers and shippers aren’t the only ones who can post to load boards. Small carriers can post available trucks, so brokers and shippers come to you. When you post trucks on a load board, you’ll want to include the following information in your listing:
The name of your company along with your contact information
The length and type of trailer you have — flatbed, refrigerated, dry van, etc.
The dates and times your truck is available
Your desired pick-up location
Your desired drop-off location
Load type — full or partial
The weight you’re able to transport
If you are certified to transport hazardous material
How to Search for Freight on a Load Board
Searching for freight on a load board can be time-consuming and frustrating at times. Whether you’re just starting out or have been scrolling through load board postings for years, we have advice on how to boost your efficiency and make load boards work for you.
Leverage Hybrid Load Boards for the Best of Both Worlds
Hybrid load boards are different from your standard load board. The main difference is that you have options for how you book loads. Depending on what you need at the moment or your personal preference, you can book loads using self-service software or directly with a broker when you use a hybrid load board.
Some load boards offer either self-service software or traditional brokerage services. Hybrid load boards make it so you can leverage both. Booking flexibility is critical for dispatchers and lets you adapt how you secure loads based on your unique needs.
Use Map Search Features
Find a load board that includes map search features. Map search adds a whole new dimension to planning routes through an easy-to-use interface. You can visually search for available loads that coordinate with the routes of your fleet.
Map search can optimize your time, improve backhaul trucking expenses, help keep your fleet’s trucks full, let you identify the best routes, and find regions where trucks are in high demand. Map search helps you strategize where to pick up and drop off loads so your drivers can avoid deadhead miles that don’t bring in any money. With map search, you can visualize the time and energy it’ll take to acquire each load. To refine your searches and further improve operational efficiency, filter your search by load size to ensure you’re finding posts that match your fleet’s needs and capabilities.
Choosing the Best Technology to Perform Your Job Responsibilities
Dispatchers need to juggle a lot of different responsibilities. You are an essential part of your company’s operation, and you need the tools and technology that’ll help you get the job done. The good news is that there are a number of excellent tools available to dispatchers today, and the technology is constantly evolving and improving.
Choosing the best technology is about finding software that meets your needs, as well as your budget. You could use a pick-and-choose approach, where you find individual apps and software platforms to patch together fleet management solutions. Or you could choose a company that provides an entire software suite for fleet management needs.
Looking for Smarter Ways to Find Freight?
There are several online resources you can use so you can make an informed decision about which software options are right for you.
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