Dispatchers catch a lot of hell. Sometimes they deserve it; sometimes not. However, more often, I’m thinking that it’s the Planners that deserve to be flogged in the town square; not the dispatchers. Before I explain my loathing of Planners, perhaps I should lay out the job descriptions of each of the parties involved. At least this is the way it works at most of the large carriers.[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
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First, the Dispatcher. In the large companies, the dispatcher is just the connector between the company and the driver. They send you load information. They answer any questions about company policies. If they don’t know the answer, they know who will. They help you with minor payroll issues. If they’re good at their jobs, they’ll listen as a driver vents about the crappy day that they’re having. Unfortunately, they usually don’t have a lot of pull. They can try to fight for you, but in the end, they have to do what they’re told, whether you like it or not. I’m sure they aren’t big fans of the system either.
Next, there are the sales people. As you might suspect, these folks seek out customers who need to ship stuff. For the most part, I like these people. Without them, I’ve got no freight to haul. No freight, no paycheck. What I don’t like is some of the contract details that are agreed upon.
For instance, some of my carrier’s biggest customers require loads to be dispatched at 45 or 50 mph. In other words, if a load pays 500 miles (of course it’s 550 actual miles), and it’s dispatched at 50 mph, I’ve got 10 hours to deliver the load. Now let’s say that it takes two hours to eat a decent meal and take a shower. Now I’ve only got 8 hours to deliver on time, instead of 10. So, 500 miles divided by 8 hours, equals 62.5 mph average. Yeah, right. Unless I’m coasting down a really steep hill, my truck only goes 65. Heck, a strong headwind could make me late. If I’m late, my company pays a fine to the shipper.
Does this affect the sales person in any way? Nope; but as a driver I’ve got to flat scoot. Skipping showers is not something I like to do, and The Evil Overlord… well, let’s just say no one is gonna have a good day. And what to eat when you’re in such a rush? Well, the buffet is screaming your name. It’s trying to yell loud enough to be heard over Ronald and that creepy-looking Burger King serial killer guy.
Now, one of these shippers has added a new twist. In the past, they would pay for any and all tolls because it was the fastest route. Due to the tough economy, they’ve decided to start routing around toll roads when it’s possible. Did they change the 50 mph dispatch down to 40 or 45 to accommodate for the loss of time that traveling on back roads will cause? Nope. They’re expecting miracles. The last trip we took like this, we grumpily skipped a shower (until after delivery) and only stopped for fast food to-go and quick potty breaks. We got there with 15 minutes to spare. We’ll see how long this lasts when my company has to start paying for a lot more late fees.
Next up, we have the Customer Service Representatives, or CSR’s. Once the sales people hook the customers, the CSR’s are responsible for dealing with them day-to-day. They contact the shippers everyday to find out what freight needs to be moved where. They gather all the load information together and pass it off to the elusive Planners. The CSR’s should be happy. I’ve got no beefs with them.
The Planner’s job is to find the truck nearest to the load’s origin and assign it to them. Usually they give the loads to the Dispatchers, whose job is to pass it on to the driver. Usually. Herein lies the part that chaps my tater. And with that, I’ll pause… take a deep breath… and save the rest for the next post. I guarantee I’ll be worked up for that one. Heck, I already am.