Outside of the driver’s own performance and attitude, a truck driver’s dispatcher is one of the most important factors influencing the amount of success and happiness a driver will experience at any given trucking company or any given truck driving job. So if you’re unhappy with your load assignments, how can you tell if the problems you’re experiencing are your own fault, your dispatcher’s fault, or the fault of someone else within the offices at your trucking company? There are several things you can do to find out what’s really going on, and who is responsible when there is a problem.
Separating Load Planning From Dispatching
The authority that your dispatcher is given should be the very first thing you must understand in order to determine if your dispatcher is doing their job well or not. Many large companies separate load planning from dispatching. Load planning is the determination of which loads will be assigned to which drivers. These decisions are generally made through routing software that tries to optimize the fleet by reducing response times, reducing deadhead miles, keeping drivers within their legal driving limits, getting drivers home on time, and a host of other variables. Once the loads have been assigned to trucks, the information is sent out to the drivers.
Often times there are circumstances that require changes to the load planning. A driver may be sick or may need to get home soon. Maybe a driver has been getting a lot of short runs and is looking for more miles. Maybe the driver has been in the Northeast for a while and wants to go South for a change. There are a million potential reasons that a driver may want a particular load assignment to be changed. Here’s where the ‘fun’ begins.
Knowing Your Dispatcher’s Authority
Most companies have what they refer to as “forced dispatch” – which means a driver must take the load they are given. They can not refuse a load. But a computer can not take all possible factors into account – there are sometimes extenuating circumstances the computer is unaware of. The dispatcher’s number one job is to monitor his/her drivers and be the initial communication point between the driver and the company. If the driver has a problem, the dispatcher should be the first one to know about it and act on it.
If the driver wants a load changed, he must first determine who has the authority to make the change. Often times your dispatcher will not have the authority to change a load assignment – it must be approved by someone higher up. There are load planners that monitor the load planning software and can manually make changes to the assignments, but even the load planners may not have the authority to make these changes. They may need approval from someone else first.
So Who The Heck Should I Talk To?
Getting to know how the chain of command works within your trucking company is critical. There’s no sense in arguing with someone about something they have no authority to do anything about. Start by asking your dispatcher how the load planning process works. Who initially assigns the loads? Who has the authority to change the load assignments? Once you find out who the key players are, it’s time to take action, but you have to be careful how you go about it.
Understanding The Chain Of Command
Say for instance you determine that your dispatcher has no authority to make changes to load assignments, but his boss does. Ok great. Seems simple enough – call your dispatcher’s boss, right?
Whoa! Hold on a minute. There is a chain of command here, an “office protocol” if you will. If you just go calling around to people complaining about load assignments it could ruffle a lot of feathers, put office workers in uncomfortable or confusing situations, and make you look like a troublemaker. What you want to do is get in touch with the right people, but do it in such a way that nobody is confused, upset, threatened, or offended by your actions.
Inform Your Dispatcher First
I highly recommend that you let your dispatcher know that you would like to try to get your load assignment changed by talking to someone with the authority to do so. Let your dispatcher know that you’re not unhappy with him. You’re not going to complain about him or cause any problems for him. You’re just simply going to make a call to the proper person to lobby your case for a new assignment. This is an absolutely critical step.
Once your dispatcher understands what your intentions are, you can then begin making phone calls to see if you can lobby for a change. If you have to talk to more than one other person, make sure that each person you talk to understands that you’re going to call the next person in the chain of command but not to complain or cause problems, just to try to get a new load assignment.
Why Be So Careful? What’s All The Fuss?
The chain of command within an office is designed to allow certain people the authority to do certain things. It holds people responsibility for performing certain tasks. These people work together every single day. The better they get along and the more they respect each other, the smoother things go for everyone. So if a driver starts calling around unexpectedly it could lead to a lot of confusion and frustration.
You don’t want your dispatcher’s boss coming to your dispatcher saying “Why aren’t you handling your drivers? Why are they complaining to me?” If you didn’t inform your dispatcher that you were going to be making calls, then your dispatcher won’t have any idea what’s going on either. Why did you go over his head? Why are you making him look bad?
Now people are getting confused and frustrated. Who was the cause of all this? That’s right – you. Your dispatcher is likely going to be upset with you, and the boss might be also. You don’t want to ruffle any feathers. You want your intentions to be clearly understood.
Keeping The Chain Intact
By speaking with your dispatcher first and making sure your intentions are clearly understood by everyone you will have far better luck getting in touch with the right people and getting important changes made when you really need them. You have to take the good with the bad and be willing to “pay it forward” to get favors done for you in return. But once you’ve proven yourself to be a cooperative, dependable, hard-working driver you’ll be able to get things your way a little more often if you’ll follow the right procedures and try not to ruffle any feathers along the way.