About Dispatcher

What Dispatchers Do

A dispatcher is to the transportation field what air traffic controllers are to the airline industry.  They act as go-betweens for drivers and the company’s customers, making sure that freight gets where it needs to go.  They handle all the legwork involved with a delivery run, from cargo pick-up to the final drop-off.

They must balance the safety and welfare of individual truckers against fulfilling the transport company’s obligations.  For this reason, they must be familiar with how many hours truckers may legally work in a day to stay compliant with DOT requirements.  In the United States, professional drivers are limited to 11 cumulative hours of driving during a 14-hour period, after a rest period of at least 10 consecutive hours.  Also, truckers can’t work more than 70 hours inside of an 8-day period.  Disregarding these guidelines means falling out of FMCSA compliance, which carries consequences ranging from fines to revocation of an operator’s license.

What It Takes To Be a Dispatcher

The ability to handle pressure is key to succeeding as a dispatcher.  The customers are under stress because they need the freight to be at a certain place by a certain time, and their bosses don’t want to hear otherwise.  The drivers are under pressure because they need to keep the customer and the trucking company happy, yet must also pay attention to the needs of their own body as well as Uncle Sam’s many rules.

The dispatcher is at the center of all this tension, and must work to keep all sides happy.  For this reason, excellent people skills are vital to dispatching success.  Some other abilities dispatchers should have include:

  • Being able to multitask
  • Strong organizational talents
  • The academic skills to pass licensing requirements for dispatchers (these vary from state to state)

 Independent Dispatching: What Is It? 

There’s a great deal of confusion about what independent dispatchers do versus the responsibilities that a freight broker takes on.  This is understandable, as there’s a good degree of overlap between the two fields.  Here are the main differences:

  1. Independent dispatchers work directly for owner operators or for small trucking companies.  Their job is to keep trucks loaded and on the road as much as possible.  An independent dispatcher will work with both freight brokers and manufacturers to try to get good rates for the drivers he or she represents.  Independent dispatchers earn either a percentage or flat fee for each load they set up for their drivers.  Some also earn a weekly salary per truck.
  2. Freight brokers represent companies that need things moved.  Their job is to work either with dispatchers or directly with owner-operators to arrange pick-ups and deliveries.  They earn a commission based on the difference between what the company pays them to set up the load and what the driver and/or dispatcher receives for hauling it.  The broker posts announcements about open loads on the Internet, and then receives calls from independent dispatchers offering to have their drivers handle the job.

One way to look at how this works is to consider what happens when an agent selling a piece of real estate deals with another agent who represents someone trying to buy the property.  Each has the interests of their client foremost in mind, and they work to arrange the best possible settlement for their side.  The relationship between the two might be cordial and friendly, with each agreeing to a price that all sides think is fair.  At other times, however, the exchange might resemble a fight between two alley cats, with each using whatever tactics it has to in order to win.

As you can see, both professions require the ability to deal with persons who have all sorts of motives, both fair and foul.  This is why people skills are so important for both dispatchers and freight brokers.  On any given day they might be acting as sales reps, counselors, coaches, negotiators, horse traders, or any number of other things.  For those who are up to these challenges, however, both fields offer opportunities for high income and endless variety.