Do you know what your dispatcher is thinking?
By Timothy D. Brady
Many truckers say, “If only my dispatcher knew what I have to deal with out here, things would be a lot easier.”
There’s a lot of truth to that statement. Dispatchers and fleet managers should do a ride-along with truckers to better understand the rigors of being on the road. But truckers also need to see the challenges dispatchers face getting freight all the way from a sales call to being loaded on a truck.
Here’s that opportunity, courtesy of the folks inside two types of trucking companies.
Hayes Trucking and Concrete, Tucumcari, N.M.
Jim Hayes:Our family business started in 1971, as a single-pony operation following the highway jobs around New Mexico. In 1975, we landed back in Tucumcari, and my Dad bought another truck with a 40-foot straight for hauling cattle and a grain trailer. Hauling cattle, grain and gravel kept the trucks busy most of the year. In the early ’80s, we supplied concrete products to our local community, continuing until 2003. As we watched our community’s economy change and shrink, we started moving back into dry bulk commodities. We now run approximately 10 trucks over a large portion of the midwestern United States. All of my family is still very active in our business.
Gallano Trucking, Belvidere, Ill.
The Gallanos’ experience in trucking goes back several years, when I started driving a truck for the family farm. Subsequently, I went to work for my uncle’s flatbed company where I learned the basics of the transportation industry. Then in the late ’80s, I went back to help on the farm where my younger brother, Brian, joined me in hauling grain. While back at the farm, we convinced our dad and grandfather to acquire their authority. In 1999, Brian and I ventured out on our own with the start of Gallano Trucking, Inc. We have grown into a company specializing in flatbed and oversized loads with 14 company tractors and five owner-operators.
What’s the biggest challenge you face each day in your job as dispatcher?
Hayes Trucking: Our biggest challenge every day is reassuring our customers we have enough trucks to cover their loads (or that we won’t pull too many away if they are low on load volume for the week), and making sure we pick up loads scheduled for a certain hour and day.
Gallano Trucking: Dispatch needs to keep the trucks moving while maintaining availability for last-minute customer requests.
What are the areas of the greatest friction between dispatch and truckers?
Hayes Trucking: Not having load information for them when they think we should. A lot of times drivers want to know their next-day load the day before. Some of our customers don’t have that information until the day of pickup.
Gallano Trucking: Dispatch and truckers need to work as a team and remember that both are equally important in keeping our small, family-owned business successful.
What do you do to diminish that friction?
Hayes Trucking: I try to let the driver know ASAP when some part of his load has changed, that the reason for the change is one place is full or another is about to run out, and the destination change will not affect their end of the week.
Gallano Trucking: I try to put myself in the drivers’ shoes and help them as much as possible when issues or problems arise.
What could truckers do to reduce it?
Hayes Trucking: I try to make them understand “Hey, you guys, we’re waiting for your load information just like you! Be a little patient and have some patience with me.”
Gallano Trucking: Maintain open lines of communication — this will help us walk in your shoes as well as prevent or resolve issues appropriately.
If you could change one thing about trucking that would improve the industry, what would it be?
Hayes Trucking: If I were to change one thing today, technology would change it tomorrow. Technology is not always a major improvement the first time around.
Gallano Trucking: Help inform the general public that this is a very complex and fast-paced industry.
What’s your favorite dispatcher/trucker story?
Hayes Trucking: A Deming, N.M., driver had just started driving for us. He landed in Wright, Kan., on a terribly cold morning with the north wind blowing about 40 miles an hour. The mill hands weren’t moving very fast. I answered the phone for his check-in call, asked him where he was and what he was doing. He told me he was just sitting there looking pretty and wearing his mink bikini.
Too much information. But I was curious about the story behind his statement. He told me he’d put the bikini on to show the mill hands it wasn’t that cold outside, hoping it would make them unload him faster. This driver now has a complete wardrobe of bikinis, some mink-lined, one with yellow polka-dots. Our office favorite is the red, white and blue one he wears for patriotic holidays, accessorized by his Marine Corps ball cap.
Gallano Trucking: In preparation for a superload, we were in close contact with various state officials to obtain the appropriate permits. However, when we actually moved the load, the axle weights were different than planned, even though the gross weight stayed the same.
As luck would have it, we pulled into a scale where the scalemaster would not let us proceed. Fortunately, because we had worked so closely with that state, they updated the permit on our behalf and sent it to the scalemaster. The scalemaster was shocked. He had never seen an updated permit so quickly and certainly not completed by the state on behalf of the trucking company.
What are three things truckers could do to make your job easier?
- Go and get the load done!
- Make your phone calls short and to the point.
- Don’t expect to do the same thing every week. Schedules change and things have to be moved around in order for things to work out.
- Have a positive outlook.
- Roll with the punches. Realize that some loads will be good and some will not.
What are three things dispatchers should do to make a trucker’s day go better?
- Get their load information and get them on their way, making sure all load or unload numbers are correct so they don’t have any problems.
- Get them loading and unloading appointments, so they know what time frame they have to work with.
- Get them the easiest or quickest route to where they need to be.
- Be friendly.
- Listen and be understanding.
- Provide all the necessary information so truckers can do their job.