A lot of people are drawn to the trucking industry for the freedom and adventure associated with it. But they don’t necessarily want to be professional drivers themselves. If this is the case with you, then you might want to consider a career as a dispatcher. It’s an excellent way to learn the industry. Even if you eventually get behind the wheel yourself or you might decide to become a freight broker.
What you’ll need if you decide to go this route, however, is a strong command of truck dispatch software. You’ll also need good communication skills, knowledge of local roads, and the ability to think fast and work under pressure.
What Dispatchers Do
A dispatcher is to the transportation field what air traffic controllers are to the airline industry. They act as go-betweens for drivers and the company’s customers. They make sure that freight gets where it needs to go. Another thing they handle is all the legwork involved with a delivery run. This is anything from cargo pick-up to the final drop-off.
They must balance the safety and welfare of individual truckers against fulfilling the transport company’s obligations. For this reason, they must be familiar with how many hours truckers may legally work in a day. This is in order to stay compliant with DOT requirements.
In the United States, professional drivers are limited to 11 cumulative hours of driving during a 14-hour period, after a rest period of at least 10 consecutive hours. Also, truckers can’t work more than 70 hours inside of an 8-day period. Disregarding these guidelines means falling out of FMCSA compliance, which carries consequences ranging from fines to revocation of an operator’s license.
Truck Dispatchers and the New ELD Mandate
To make sure drivers remain compliant with federal hours of service (HOS) regulations, trucking companies are now required to make the transition from paper logbooks to electronic logging devices (ELDs). The ELD mandate put in place in December 2017 has been rolled out gradually. This has given trucking companies time to install ELD devices in their vehicles. The ELD mandate effectively replaces older methods of tracking HOS. Such as Automatic On-Board Recording Devices (AOBRDs) and Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs). And with the automatic logging feature characteristic of ELDs, the new ELD standards will be more easily enforced by federal authorities.
The ELD mandate means big changes for truck drivers who won’t have a choice but to accurately log their driving hours. While driver accountability may be the main reason for the new ELD standards, there are a number of added safety and cost-saving benefits to ELD use. As a truck dispatcher, the ELD mandate means you will have access to a driver’s real-time status.
This allows you to better plan for loads and routes, taking into account fuel usage and HOS compliance requirements. The information collected and compiled by ELDs can also help truck dispatchers locate trucks that have broken down or identify potential vehicle maintenance issues the moment they arise.
The ELD mandate has received harsh criticism from those who believe the new standards will have an adverse effect on the trucking industry as a whole. Potential issues posed by opponents of the rule run the gamut from confusion about what constitutes a compliant ELD to driver privacy issues and cybersecurity concerns. Like it or not, all U.S.-based commercial vehicles are now required to have an ELD installed to be compliant with the mandate.
What It Takes To Be a Dispatcher
The ability to handle pressure is key to succeeding as a dispatcher. The customers are under stress because they need the freight to be at a certain place by a certain time, and their bosses don’t want to hear otherwise. The drivers are under pressure because they need to keep the customer and the trucking company happy. Yet must also pay attention to the needs of their own body as well as Uncle Sam’s many rules.
The dispatcher is at the center of all this tension. He or she must work to keep all sides happy. For this reason, excellent people skills are vital to dispatching success. Some other abilities dispatchers should have include:
- Being able to multitask
- Strong organizational talents
- The academic skills to pass licensing requirements for dispatchers (these vary from state to state)
Independent Dispatching: What Is It?
There’s a great deal of confusion about what independent dispatchers do versus the responsibilities that a freight broker takes on. This is understandable. There’s a good degree of overlap between the two fields. Here are the main differences:
- Independent dispatchers work directly for owner operators or for small trucking companies. Their job is to keep trucks loaded and on the road as much as possible. An independent dispatcher will work with both freight brokers and manufacturers to try to get good rates for the drivers he or she represents. Independent dispatchers earn either a percentage or flat fee for each load they set up for their drivers. Some also earn a weekly salary per truck.
- Freight brokers represent companies that need things moved. Their job is to work either with dispatchers or directly with owner-operators to arrange pick-ups and deliveries. They earn a commission based on a few things. The difference between what the company pays them to set up the load and what the driver and/or dispatcher receives for hauling it. The broker posts announcements about open loads on the Internet, and then receives calls from independent dispatchers offering to have their drivers handle the job.
How to Look at It
One way to look at how this works is to consider what happens when an agent selling a piece of real estate deals with another agent who represents someone trying to buy the property. Each has the interests of their client foremost in mind. They work to arrange the best possible settlement for their side. The relationship between the two might be cordial and friendly, with each agreeing to a price that all sides think is fair. At other times, however, the exchange might resemble a fight between two alley cats. With each using whatever tactics it has to in order to win.
As you can see, both professions require the ability to deal with persons who have all sorts of motives, both fair and foul. This is why people skills are so important for both dispatchers and freight brokers. On any given day they might be acting as sales reps, counselors, coaches, negotiators, horse traders, or any number of other things. For those who are up to these challenges, however, both fields offer opportunities for high income and endless variety.
One Thing You Absolutely Must Have
One thing is for sure: you won’t get far in this line of work without excellent truck dispatch software. And that’s exactly what TruckingOffice provides. Here are some of the advantages it offers dispatchers:
- The ability to enter multiple consignees and shipping points
- Flexibility in entering driver pay options
- Dispatch sorting by driver, trucks, date, or customer, all with a single mouse click
- Cutting-edge search features that allow you to review dispatch histories from any category screen
We think that TruckingOffice is the very best dispatch software you can find anywhere. But don’t take our word for it; take our 30-day free test drive and see if you agree. You don’t even need a credit card or checking account to get started. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself hooked!