Dispatchers: The Crucial Lifeline for OTR Truckers
By: Joanne Cleaver
In this 24/7 world, the speedy delivery of goods is the new norm in customer service and supply chain distribution. Yet all those just-in-time deliveries don’t appear by magic.
It’s the dispatchers and driver managers, those often-overlooked links between the warehouse and the customer’s front door, who are responsible for successfully facilitating on-the-road supply chain logistics with OTR truck drivers.
A Response to Changing Regulations
Dispatchers are steering a new trend that enables drivers and companies to comply with new, more stringent Federal safety regulations.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires a 30-minute break in the first eight hours that a driver works; they also prohibit drivers from working more than 70 hours a week. These new rules are throwing old timetables, routes and habits into disarray.
Dispatchers are tasked with fine-tuning routes and schedules to make sure that drivers aren’t stranded with a load of undelivered goods due to regulations that require them to pull over because they’ve run out of legal driving time.
Dispatchers are a lifeline to truck drivers, says Dr. Jeanette Kersten, assistant professor with the College of Management at the University of Wisconsin, Stout, who specializes in the transportation industry.
“There’s an interesting dynamic between dispatchers and drivers that we discovered in our research,” says Kersten. “Dispatchers need good communication skills and an aptitude for technology, plus resilience and a strong personality to withstand some of the commentary that they have to endure,” she says, referring to truck drivers’ notoriously salty language.
While the dispatcher job sounds like it’s mostly about managing time and logistics, it actually involves assisting drivers navigate all the unknowns of each day, while keeping the boss informed of their progress.
“Dispatchers have to flex with the demands of the company, as well as with the drivers,” says Kersten.
What’s Driving the Logistics Trend?
Today’s trucks are increasingly equipped with mobile telecommunications gear that reports what the vehicle, if not the driver, are doing, says Jack Skrivanek, director of recruiting for Seward Motor Freight, in Seward, Nebraska.
All that data has to be monitored, assessed, archived, and analyzed by various corporate managers. “Dispatchers need to be conversant in all those systems and in handling the data,” says Skrivanek.
But just as a good nurse pays more attention to the patient than to the monitors attached to that patient, a skilled dispatcher will coach drivers at every turn.
“They need to communicate — and not just when there’s a problem. They have to detect which drivers need a call to say, ‘Thanks, you did a good job,” says Skrivanek.