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Ms. Manners: Frustrating Communication With Dispatch


By A. H. Bosley
Feeling unheard and unimportant at work? – Not knowing where to turn for answers?

This is a DRIVER’S number one reason for quitting.

Owner-operator’s have complete, or almost complete control over where they go and when. To take a load right after delivery or take a day off and get some laundry done. Get a sit-down meal and shower, or simply relax for a few hours. Maybe get a hotel and regroup.

For company drivers – and really any driver, the hardest part of your job, and is what makes or breaks a company, is the communication or lack of communication between the driver and dispatch or whoever they decide your go-to guy is, mine is dispatch.

I have had some really good dispatchers, which to me means they give me a load assignment with dates, times, a proper address, phone number, and then they leave me alone until I call and tell them I’m unloaded and ready for my next load. Sometimes I like to be preplanned so I know what I’m doing as soon as I get unloaded. This lets me know what I have time for before my next load. I know which direction to head after I unload – or to fuel up, get coffee, or shower before your next load (time-permitting, of course). I can call them up directly, and if I have any trouble or questions, they can give me an HONEST and sound answer. – If he doesn’t know he will find out shortly. He’s also not afraid to say, “Can’t do it, but this is what we can do.” – It doesn’t sound very hard, does it?

Now-a-days, some companies are so big that a driver doesn’t have a chance to become friends with the dispatcher, and if he does find a bit of a relationship with a dispatcher – well, the dispatcher is run by the planners anyway. It’s a false supervision position. The driver gets aggravated, quits, and moves on to another company that has most of the same problems. Companies spend thousands to pull drivers in – only to forget about them as soon as they get them in orientation. Putting them up in ratty hotels and not giving them what was promised to them via the recruiter.

Smaller companies do a better job with all of these things, I think because they communicate with each other better based on actually knowing everyone in the office or have hands-on owners who still care and get involved in the business. Still, the company falls short in the communication aspect of dispatch-to-driver. – The driver is out of sight and out of mind. Treated like he’s a part on the truck, like it needs a new fuel or an oil filter.

Without the driver, the truck doesn’t move, and no one is going to make any money. You know the old saying: “If the tires aren’t turning, you’re not earning?”

Office staff is also important, as is everyone. Like a spoke in the wheel, every spoke is needed to support the hub, which is the truck. That’s what business we are in. From the owner to the secretary and payroll to planners, and dispatch. The driver, however, is a very important spoke. He/She needs to have some communication. Being away from the office for days, weeks, and months on end. He wants to be heard, and DESERVES to be heard. To have an answer to every question asked. Every single question needs an answer. – Nothing like sitting in the middle of nowhere and not being able to get a hold of anyone.

So why do we have the planners running the trucks? The planners should plan, and the dispatcher dispatch. Let the drivers drive, and we could all get along better.

I don’t think that back in the yard and office that the permit office is telling the payroll department how to handle payroll. I don’t think the men hired to detail and clean the trucks should tell the mechanic how to do a PM or change a tire.

Truckers talk to dispatchers, and dispatchers talk to truckers. So if you are telling your dispatcher you need a day off, and then in the middle of the night someone is calling you telling you that you must take this load – that’s a problem. You feel unheard and unimportant. A driver asks a question to an after-hours dispatcher gets nothing.

It is beyond what they may want to do, or care to do, so they deal with more important stuff. You wait and wait, but no answer comes. You feel unimportant and thus frustrated.

I just told a weekend dispatch I’m out of hours. I had just six hours to run yesterday. The response given: “Your hours look good to me.”, Good to who? – Now I’m frustrated because I know this dispatcher is going home in a few hours taking a few days of for his weekend. Going to his son’s game or family get-together, and could care less that I’m out here going on the weeks and getting slack from a guy that’s never even been in a truck let alone in a truck for weeks. He has not heard, listened, nor cares. I can give many examples but YOU know what I’m talking about.

Call your dispatcher when you can talk to him/her directly. Maybe it’s best done face-to-face. Let them know how you feel. Ask them who their supervisor is, and who you need to ask certain things from. Go to their supervisor or even the owner of the company – if they care enough to be involved in the day-to-day operations. Let them know the communication line has broken down where the driver is involved.

Should we only have to deal with one person? When you are told something from that person, you will do it, and expect the same when you ask for something. Please, do it with respect and professionalism.

Let them know by giving specific incidents of miscommunications as well as a complete lack of communication as a whole. I’m sure you will receive feedback and hopefully help your company in its retention of drivers at the same time.

Say nothing, do nothing, and you will get nothing for it in return but more aggravation.

It’s up to you. I’ll be taking to my dispatcher and his supervisor. – Will you?

Trucking is not just a profession, it’s a way of life!


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