Dispatching is a tough job, no matter if the fleet is large or small. The bigger the fleet, the more moving parts to keep track of. Smaller fleets contend with owner-operators doing double-duty as fleet manager and scheduler.
This is where technology can do the heavy-lifting and become a valuable asset. Efficient dispatching is a key part of any fleet operations.
Why dispatching scheduling software is critical for fleet management
Even the most experienced dispatcher can use the helping hand of technology. Today’s scheduling software is a powerful tool that drives productivity and profitability. Here’s how:
Company-wide visibility in real time
Before, dispatchers worked off of spreadsheets and whiteboards. But when unplanned incidents happened, such as change orders, weather delays, or vehicle breakdowns, the process suffered as they scrambled to solve problems. With a modern dispatching software solution, everything is live. Dispatchers can view status at a glance and work fast to address changes to minimize delays.
For instance, Dohrn Transfer Company had to estimate when drivers might return for their next load or called drivers for information. Now, using live GPS tracking, they make better real-time decisions about sending drivers and planning days. Terminal Dispatch Manager Ryan Pitzer explains, “More knowledge creates efficiency, and with less guessing about timelines, we can get more done in a day.”
Streamlines and connects back-office operations
Dispatching and field service scheduling software can connect with the other apps to track equipment maintenance, compliance, and more. Other solutions combine all tools on one platform, making operations much simpler. When all your data is in one place, it creates a single source of truth for your entire operations.
When Uniti Fiber acquired four other fiber utility companies, they had to unite several disparate fleets. Using the Samsara platform as a base, they linked their customer information in Salesforce and Esri’s geographic information. They could see real-time fleet location overlaid on a live view of their fiber network. Their dispatch team can now identify the right technician needed for a job, find the proper personnel to handle the customer request based on proximity, and dispatch that person in minutes.
Improves bottom line
Implementing routing and scheduling software helps trim costs. Here’s the source of potential cost improvements:
Fewer vehicles: By optimizing routes and having visibility over operations, you can save money. You may not need to buy additional vehicles and can redeploy underused vehicles.
Reduced fuel costs: Fuel costs go down when you need fewer trucks and cover mileage more efficiently.
Avoid fines: Routing and scheduling software helps drivers comply with hours of service (HOS) rules. With accurate route plans, drivers can keep within their limits.
Increased agility: End manual processes. In streamlining operations, you become more agile, flexible, and able to take on more business.
Improved driver retention: With the average cost to replace a driver at $8,200, it pays to keep drivers. A dispatching solution helps generate and allocate routes fairly, ensures they’re achievable, and takes driver preferences and skill set into account.
When Athens-Clarke County started building more efficient routes for their solid waste fleet, they also benefited in cost savings. Their collections division has seen a 58% increase in fuel efficiency and a 19% decrease in fuel usage. This amounts to about $6,000 saved over six months. With these savings, they covered the maintenance costs for their trucks.
Increases customer satisfaction
Today, the sum of all interactions with a company influences whether customers will keep working with you. Customer experience sets a company apart and differentiates them from other brands. When the stakes are so high, an organization’s ability to provide reliable and consistent interactions boosts satisfaction. Service dispatch software does this by centralizing important customer data. This enables real-time scheduling and communications.
For example, what used to happen when customers called, asking for a driver’s estimated arrival time (ETA)? A dispatcher would call the driver and then call the customer back. Today, a dispatcher could give the ETA in a moment using a software solution. Even better, before the customer even asks, the dispatcher can share driver tracking via mobile app or SMS notifications. This kind of proactive service leads to increased satisfaction.
5 signs you need a new dispatching and field service solution
Unfortunately, dispatchers often find themselves in the center of stressful situations. If these problems seem familiar, it’s time to look into alternative solutions.
1. You’re still working off of spreadsheets
Considered the first “killer app,” spreadsheets aren’t the height of innovation anymore. Many dispatchers still work from legacy spreadsheets or single-use software disconnected from the rest of fleet operations. Even if a business is small enough that spreadsheets suffice, your fleet isn’t working at its top optimization level. Today’s solutions let you share information easily, make reporting simpler, and use data visualizations to communicate insight at a glance.
2. Inefficient use of a driver’s time
Some days field service workers are constantly battling the clock. They’re delaying arrival times at their next scheduled stop and disappointing customers. Or they may have those “mission impossible”-style loads with little margin for error. At other times, drivers have long stretches between appointments. Both kinds of inefficient scheduling can cost businesses money and reputation.
3. You don’t know where your drivers are
Are you always contacting your drivers to learn their ETA? Is it tough to reroute field technicians when there’s traffic or other route delays? GPS technology removes the guesswork and gives dispatchers real-time location data to stay on top of where drivers are and which routes to take. Today’s solutions give you wider visibility into operations than ever before.
4. You have a low first-time fix rate
When field service technicians have to return to a job site a second time, it creates a negative impression for customers. Sending technicians without the right parts or know-how to complete the job causes customer experience to suffer.
Field service management software helps schedulers assign the right jobs to the right person, improving fix rates and customer satisfaction. Some solutions also include full knowledge base integration and communication tools, so a field technician isn’t without help.
5. It’s tough to enforce detention time
Driver detention continues to frustrate fleets and is a top priority for the United States’ Department of Transportation (DOT). Trailer detention is expensive, costing motor carriers in the truckload sector up to $302.9 million annually. While delivery contracts allow shippers to charge a detainment fee, your driver’s word is often against theirs when proving culpability. Modern tracking technology combined with reporting provides dispatchers with the data they need to enforce their detention fees confidently. It also helps dispatchers know what to expect at a facility and plan next stops accordingly or even decline loads with expected long detention times.
6 features to look for in dispatching scheduling software
Robust and flexible dispatching and field service scheduling solutions should do the heavy lifting and free workers to focus on solving issues that require more critical thinking. Here’s what to look for when you’re shopping for scheduling software.
Ease of use
Software should make your job easier, not give you more work to do. When you evaluate the software’s user interface, check how easy it is to complete the most basic scheduling and routing functionality. Can you complete tasks in a few clicks?
Access driver and customer information: How do you access this information? Is it easy to edit—i.e., when a driver goes on vacation or a customer moves locations. Can you scan a work history fast?
Integrations: Can the software integrate with other systems? Does it have an open application program interface (API)?
Schedule jobs: How do you set up a scheduling workflow? Are there drag-and-drop workflows where you can change things quickly if needed?
Route and reroute drivers: How do you set up routes? Can you set up rerouting automation, where a driver receives new directions when unexpected delays occur?
Driver and fleet status: Can you see driver status at a glance? Is it easy to communicate with drivers and vice versa when things change?
View reports: Are reports easy to customize and understand? Can you get a quick-view dashboard up and running fast?
Invoicing: Are there billing integrations available with the software? Can you include any fees, charges, or notes on work orders for your accounting team?
Dispatch and field service management software that provides breadcrumb GPS tracking instead of real-time GPS tracking makes it difficult for dispatchers to respond to last-minute changes quickly—such as new work orders, service calls, or shifting road or traffic conditions. Look for a solution that provides live-to-the-second GPS data, allowing dispatchers to track everything from vehicle locations to late or missed stops.
ETA live-sharing with customers and stakeholders
Most of the time, customer satisfaction relies heavily on ensuring on-time arrivals. Customers can be understanding if drivers are running behind as long as you inform them about updated ETAs. The earlier you can inform customers of changes, the more forgiving they will be.
Look for solutions that have real-time notifications or live-sharing features. This allows you to share live ETA links with stakeholders so they can track route progress themselves. This reduces manual calls and helps customers understand situations—which boosts customer satisfaction.
An open API
Single-purpose dispatch management solutions make it difficult to manage your fleet efficiently. Switching back and forth between your dispatch software, route planner, transportation management software, and other tools wastes valuable time. Solutions with open application programming interfaces (APIs) allow applications to “talk” to each other and ensure that all your data is in sync. For example, Samsara’s open API makes it easy to sync with popular apps used for invoicing, customer relationship management, customer support, and more.
With all your systems connected, dispatchers' jobs become easier. Your business becomes streamlined because you can make routing, job scheduling, and dispatching decisions using a complete data set.
Mobile apps for drivers
With over 81% of Americans now using a smart mobile device, mobile apps have become essential for conducting business. Dispatch solutions that offer a driver-facing app end the headache of manual calling. A well-designed app makes it simple to send drivers updates to routes, work orders, and service changes—without calls. Drivers know where they’re needed and the fastest route there instantly. Plus, drivers can also use the app to perform vehicle inspections, capture fuel receipts and other documents, and record and track their HOS.
A complete and unified fleet management system
Another key characteristic of an effective dispatch scheduling solution is that it’s part of a complete, unified fleet management platform. For instance, the Samsara Vehicle Gateway collects more than real-time GPS data. It gathers a variety of distinct data points to gain full insight into the entire fleet. It also collects engine diagnostics and fault codes, detects harsh braking and speeding, and tracks HOS to ensure ELD compliance.
With these combined insights, you can create preventative fleet maintenance schedules, build a safer fleet through driver coaching, and ensure compliance to avoid HOS violations.
Want to dive deeper? Check out our full guide on dispatching scheduling software.
To find out more about how Samsara’s all-in-one connected platform can improve your efficiency, streamline your operations, and improve customer satisfaction, reach out for a free demo or trial today.