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An Inside Look at a Truck Dispatcher’s Job

An Inside Look at a Truck Dispatcher’s Job | The Road

A Day in a Dispatchers World

There are a lot of different elements that go into ensuring the goods we use and consume get where they need to go. Many don’t realize the complexities of the supply chain and the people (and roles) that make it run smoothly day in and day out.

I interviewed one of America’s truck drivers, Anthony Brown, to get his perspective on what life was like on the road.

I spoke with Jim Bauer, a dispatcher at A.N. Webber, to learn what life is like for dispatchers. Like, drivers, truck dispatchers play a critical role in making sure freight gets to its final destination.

Let’s dive in to see what life is like for dispatchers:

What is a typical day like for a truck dispatcher?

There is no typical day, which is why I love this job. Every day there is something new, something challenging, and something I have to resolve. I wake up at 4 a.m. I immediately check my email to make sure no problems came up during my six hours of sleep.

After I check my email, I get ready for the day, pour my coffee, and head to the office. I am usually there between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m. If there are no issues, I start my day by entering the day’s dispatch—not knowing what circumstances will occur. Will I have a sick driver, a break down, or a customer change their mind on a load?

Things start to pick up when the business day starts. And every day customers call expecting miracles. We do the best we can to accommodate them based on the information we have at hand. Around lunchtime, I start on the next day’s dispatch, but one phone call can throw it all out the window. My biggest goals are to make our customers happy as well as support our drivers with the miles they need to support their families.

What factors come into play when deciding to take a load for a driver?

The way it is now, I do not have a choice in taking the loads. As busy as we are, they are just given to us. For backhauls, we do take some factors into consideration—deadhead mileage, the type of driver, driver hours available, where the load delivers, and the timeline are just a few. I work hard to get my drivers where they need to be, whether that is a terminal, a customer, or home to his or her family.

What is the biggest challenge in your job?

I can’t pick just one; there are a couple. The first is balancing my responsibilities. I need to make customers, the boss, and my drivers happy. I have to appease everybody and do it efficiently. Another big challenge is the new hours of service (HOS)—especially the mandatory 30 minute breaks. I work with local drivers, making them take a break when there is work to be done gets frustrating.

What technology do you use?

We use satellite communication. Our trucks all have tablet computers mounted on the dashboards. We can tell a driver’s location and send messages to individual trucks. We depend on technology for everything—the ease and convenience makes every job easier. However, we do have technology glitches, the most difficult is not knowing if a driver received a message we sent.

Besides satellite communication, how do you communicate with drivers? Cell phones.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

At the end of the day, I like to know I got everything tied down. It’s important for me to know the boss, our customers, and our drivers are happy. That means I can go home and have dinner with my family and not be distracted or get interrupted.

How long have you been in the trucking industry?

I have been in trucking for 22 years. I have been with A.N. Webber for 10 years. My father got me started in this business. I am not sure if I should thank him or give him a kick in the rear end. Regardless, I am carrying on his legacy.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry during that time?

Trucking is trucking. The one thing that will never change is you pick up freight from point A and deliver it to point B. The biggest changes on how that gets accomplished are technology and regulations, which almost seem to battle one another. Technology makes everything easier, but regulations have made my job and our drivers’ jobs a lot harder.

As you can see, being a dispatcher is an around the clock job. The phone can ring at any hour of the day and that one phone call can throw an entire day off. Thanks to my time with Jim, I have a better understanding of what it is like to be a dispatcher.

I would love to hear from others on their experience as a dispatcher. Please share your comment in the comment section.

Editor’s Note: This post originally ran in April 2014, but we wanted to share it with you again as it is still timely and relevant.

- Regional Capacity Manager, C.H. Robinson

Comments

Steve Campbell

Mr. Webber painted a basic average day for a dispatcher, but he did not elaborate on just exactly how much one of those morning malfunctions can destroy the best laid plans for your deliveries.

Add to that the ridiculous $#@& we go thru in the Intermodal Industry and the lovely railroads...lol

Experience...Only been playing trucks since March 1989 28-29 years

10.18.17

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Unkown

How about when you guys don't want to pay enough for a load

10.18.17

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    C.H. Robinson

    We take your concerns seriously and want all contract carriers to have a positive experience working with C.H. Robinson. If you'd like to discuss a particular issue, please reach out to carrierservices@chrobinson.com.

    Thank you,
    C.H. Robinson Social

    10.19.17

BARBARA

I THINK THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A DISPATCHER TODAY IS TRYING TO KEEP THE TRUCKS LOADED. FREIGHT HAS NOT INCREASED OR REBOUNDED FROM WHERE IT WAS 6 YRS AGO AND SO FINDING LOADS THAT PAY ENOUGH TO KEEP THE TRUCK SHOWING ENOUGH PROFIT HAS GOTTEN HARDER AND HARDER. THE RATES PER MILE ARE NOT INCREASING TO KEEP UP WITH THE COSTS OF MAINTAINING THE TRUCKS TO D.O.T. SPECIFICATIONS. EACH NEW TECHNOLOGY INCREASES TRUCK COSTS ALSO, SO ALTHOUGH IT HELPS THE DRIVER TO COMMUNICATE BETTER, THAT COMMUNICATION COMES WITH A COST.

AS THE OLD SAYING GOES, "ONE HAND WASHES THE OTHER" YET ALTHOUGH THE DRIVERS DO THEIR JOBS TO THE BEST OF THEIR ABILITIES, SHIPPING RATE INCREASES DO NOT COMPENSATE THEM FOR THEIR INCREASED COSTS TO BUY EQUIPMENT, MAINTAIN EQUIPMENT, PURCHASE TECHNOLOGY, AND LASTLY KEEP UP WITH RISING FUEL COSTS.

AND FOR EVERY DRIVER I CANNOT LOAD, I FEEL RESPONSIBLE FOR CAUSING HIM STRESS AND MENTAL ANGUISH AS HE TRIES TO KEEP UP WITH HOME BILLS AND OTHER BILLS. BEING A GOOD HONEST DISPATCHER ISN'T ENOUGH IN TODAY'S DECLINING ECONOMY AND SINCE I WORK ON COMMISSIONS I AM NOT SURE HOW LONG I CAN HANG IN THERE MYSELF SO I DEFINITELY FEEL THE TRUCK DRIVERS PAIN!!

10.18.17

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Kathy Knutson

My husband is an owner operator & I am a former dispatcher at a 100 truck company. I found getting to know the drivers fun, but challenging. Some won't go east of the Mississippi, but then the next driver refuses to go west. Some will stay out for 2 weeks & the next has to be home every weekend. Or, refuses to drive in the dark, or when it's snowing out. Also, we took turns on call so if you get 2 or 3 phone calls in the middle of the night - then it's hard to get up to be to work by 6 am.

10.18.17

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Cristina

Great article!

10.18.17

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Tony Riffe

I read your article. Part of the problem is the soft shoe treatment of drivers. We (dispatchers) are not here to keep the drivers & boss's happy!!!!!! Just the costumer!!!!! If this attitude is foreign then you need to take a look @ your mission statement. We make it very plain to all our drivers. They are here for one purpose & one purpose only. to make sure the customer is pleased with our work. The rest will fall in place.

10.23.17

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