Your shipper customers may not realize it, but dispatchers play a vital role in getting their freight moving and delivered on time. They do a lot of things, from the obvious like coordinating pick-ups and deliveries, to dealing with the stress that problem shipments can create for everyone involved. In the end, it’s usually the dispatcher who needs to keep things calm until the situation gets resolved.
Dispatchers, however, don’t get good at their jobs overnight. The ones who are good at it have a lot in common that new dispatchers can learn from. It takes a lot of experience to be successful as a dispatcher, so here are some of the things veteran dispatchers know and do that a rookie can use to improve in the role.
Nothing worthwhile is earned (or learned) without some effort. And, the best way to learn to be a better dispatcher is to ask questions and not be afraid to make mistakes. When you are just getting started, you don’t know what you don’t know. Even if you already have experience in the trucking industry, being a dispatcher requires more organizational skills than most jobs, and the ability to work with a lot of different types of people.
Rookie dispatchers can only improve by asking questions and not being afraid of making mistakes – it’s the only way to learn. This is not easy for some people, but if you make up for it with hustle you’ll earn and maintain the respect of everyone you work with.
At the same time, it’s important to be receptive to feedback and collaboration. Having open communication with drivers and your customers is also necessary to improve your skills.
And when you do get feedback, don’t take it personally (even though it feels like it is.) There’s a lot of stress involved with shipping. And if we’re honest, a lot of people you’re dealing with are NOT going to be the touchy-feely type. When you have tough conversations try to learn what you can from it and move on.
Up there with people skills is organization as a top skill veteran dispatchers have mastered. The best always have a routine that works for them. This applies to their approach towards planning their day as well as the details they are always checking for individual loads. These routines are important, but because each day is different, just like every load is unique. Having a routine process keeps any of the details from being overlooked.
It's the details that make or break logistics, so the best dispatchers are very detailed-oriented. Whether it’s with written checklists or online task managers, dispatchers are managing their time, as well as all their drivers, plus countless other things. There is too much to remember without a system and the risks of a mistake are too great to not.
Veterans make it look easy because they have a process and have done it a long time. Even if you think you are the best multi-tasker, be humble when you’re learning because it’s not as easy as it seems.
Veterans also have a knack for being one step ahead of things. Good dispatchers are thinking about what could or is going to happen as much as what’s happening now. Shipments all have potential hang-ups but most can be avoided with some planning. This is where experience and knowing (because you asked) help.
Whether it’s your drivers or key contacts at your customers’ docks, smart dispatchers know to take care of those that take care of you. The best way to build those relationships? It’s simple; do what you say you will.
Every driver is different, so how you work with them needs to be based on the situation. Veteran dispatchers are good at sizing up drivers and their personalities while setting up clear expectations for how you communicate with them as individuals. Regardless of who the driver is, it’s always your role to prioritize their safety, ensure they’re following the rules, and keep them on schedule.
It’s also the dispatcher’s job to create a plan that works for all of the drivers and complies with HOS. The better the communication with the drivers the better and more effective your plan will be. It’s important that dispatchers also do not set their drivers up for failure. When drivers are facing compressed timeframes or notoriously difficult origins or consignees there are bound to be other repercussions. The result will always be damage to the relationship you have with drivers.
Experienced dispatchers also know how important other internal company relationships are, including those with salespeople and the estimating team. Any advanced knowledge of loads will help you do your job better and these people are key to helping you gain this visibility.
A good relationship with a shipping dock and its team can make a lot of problems go away. As a rookie, you’ll have some work to do to build your credibility with customers, but when you do it right you’ll notice good things happen and your requests being granted a lot more frequently. It starts with what we’ve already said—by doing what you say you will.
There are a lot of costs and time wasted to be avoided when shipping docks are willing to work with a particular dispatcher. Veterans know this better than anyone. Don’t be surprised if early in your career you get a firm ‘no’ on something from a customer, only to have a more seasoned dispatcher who knows the location call the same person and get a yes. Don’t take it personally that’s just how things work sometimes.
Dispatching is a tough, but rewarding job. If you’re just starting out you have a steep learning curve in front of you. If you stick with it and are patient, you’ll gain the experience you need to be successful. Dispatchers who are good at their jobs learn from the people around them and recognize the importance of good organization and people skills. If you master those things, soon you’ll be the one rookies are coming to for advice.