Shifting schedules. Last-minute changes. Routing issues. The trucking industry requires a dynamic workforce to navigate the endless number of moving parts it contends with daily. Freight dispatchers play an important behind-the-scenes role within your fleet. They can help bridge the gap between customers, drivers, and owner-operators in scaling and managing your fleet. Also known as truck dispatchers, freight dispatchers make sure your fleet has loads to deliver, stays on schedule, and meets customer requirements.
Truck dispatchers aren’t just for large fleets; they can help small motor carriers aiming to grow their business. Dispatchers scout load boards, discovering opportunities with shippers that have similar business needs. Their efforts help to build a steady customer base for smaller fleets.
Dispatchers help trucking companies streamline their operations and manage seamless customer experiences. Are you considering hiring freight dispatchers? Read on to learn how they can bring value to your fleet—plus, learn what tools will maximize their performance.
What is a freight dispatcher?
Freight dispatchers support a variety of business functions for a trucking company. Most job descriptions are a mix of support, operations, and customer service tasks. Depending on the company, dispatchers also work on back-end operations like billing and compliance.
Since freight dispatchers are in constant contact with your customers and drivers, strong communication skills are key. Dispatchers spend a lot of time coordinating with truck drivers to minimize late deliveries. They also keep clients informed of drivers’ locations and arrival times. Customer service skills are vital to the job. Successful dispatchers can help strengthen customer relationships, encourage safe driving behaviors, and ensure on-time deliveries.
Freight dispatchers also analyze huge amounts of fleet data daily. To optimize delivery routes and manage incoming customer requests, dispatchers must consider endless variables. This includes everything from current weather conditions to the number of completed stops. Much of their day is consumed by liaising between your drivers, sales agencies, and end customers.
Managing these job duties can be tedious and stressful for full-time freight dispatchers. Smart telematics and dispatching solutions like Samsara can reduce the headaches of daily decision-making. For example, without a solution like Samsara, dispatchers would need to track deliveries by calling drivers and clients. With Samsara, dispatchers can track deliveries by viewing real-time GPS data displayed on an interactive map. They can even use Live Sharing links to give customers live ETAs via a shared URL, minimizing the need for time-consuming calls and increasing customer satisfaction.
The outlook for dispatching as a career is favorable. The U.S. Department of Transportation projects that the number of freight tons moving throughout the nation’s transportation network will grow 40% by 2045. As freight volume in the United States increases, the demand for skilled freight dispatchers will also rise.
The difference between freight dispatchers and freight brokers
Both freight dispatchers and freight brokers serve as go-betweens for shippers and fleets when negotiating for new freight. However, they are different in a few key ways. Here are the differences between freight dispatchers and freight brokers:
Freight dispatchers: Freight dispatchers are usually employees of an individual fleet. They are responsible for ensuring that drivers have loads to deliver and that they are on-time. Freight dispatchers optimize routes and communicate status updates to your customers.
Freight brokers: Freight brokers are usually a third-party service licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). They arrange (or broker) the transportation of goods between shippers and carriers, helping to identify carriers who can take on loads. Freight brokers negotiate with carriers on behalf of shippers. Freight brokers are neither shippers nor motor carriers; they operate as a middle-man between those two parties.
Dispatchers represent your fleet’s best interests when finding loads. By contrast, freight brokers typically want to negotiate the lowest rates for carriers. Brokers receive payment based on the difference between the rates for shippers and carriers. As a result, they are more motivated to offer carriers a lower rate. Fleet managers looking to maximize their profits need strong negotiation skills when working with freight brokers.
5 ways that telematics can help your freight dispatchers
An all-in-one telematics solution that provides real-time GPS data can help freight dispatchers save precious time. No more toggling between multiple screens to access the information they need. Comprehensive analytics platforms can help your dispatchers bring efficiency and business growth to your fleet in five important ways.
1. Finding and securing optimal loads
When they’re first starting their business, managers of small fleets tend to source clients primarily from load boards. These online freight marketplaces are where shippers post loads and negotiate rates with carriers. Trucking companies can also post the available flatbeds or dry vans in their fleet, and freight brokers contact them on behalf of a shipper.
Fleet managers of smaller operations can turn to experienced dispatchers to help secure the most profitable and efficient loads. For example, truck dispatchers might consolidate deliveries based on shipment size and optimize routing based on real-time telematics data, including pick up locations. This maximizes your return along every route. They also negotiate rates with shippers, ensuring that your business focuses on the most profitable freight.
Your dispatchers should possess an in-depth knowledge of your fleet, its capabilities, and the routes you routinely serve. An advanced telematics solution can help give them visibility into these details, so you can build a client portfolio that better matches your unique business offerings.
2. Planning around weather delays
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, weather-related delays cost the trucking industry around $8 to $9 billion annually. Their study estimates that 23% of all trucking delays can be attributed to weather events. Unpredictable weather conditions can result in costly accidents and late deliveries. Long-distance over the road (OTR) carriers are even more susceptible to the copious number of weather changes that can occur along their journey.
If you’re a fleet manager, proactive planning and instant rerouting around weather conditions can be challenging to manage on top of your other responsibilities. Freight dispatchers help you navigate weather delays by taking charge of driver scheduling. They can notify your fleet of unexpected driving conditions, freeing you to focus on the bigger picture.
Instead of looking at the weather forecast every hour, dispatchers can use telematics solutions to plan ahead. A weather route planner and live radar, like Samsara Weather Overlay, gives dispatchers real-time insights on weather events impacting their fleet’s service area. This critical information allows for quick rerouting around potentially hazardous weather.
Additionally, dispatch services can notify drivers of a sudden route change through two-way messaging in the Samsara Driver App. Comprehensive telematics solutions help fleet managers and freight dispatchers save time by streamlining communications.
3. Optimizing route performance
Do some of your routes always seem to be delayed? Are late deliveries hurting your business? Inefficient routes can quickly become costly challenges that lead to wasted fuel, unhappy customers, frustrated drivers, and unnecessary vehicle wear and tear. Freight dispatchers can assess routes, identify inefficiencies, and adjust driver schedules. On-time deliveries keep your customers satisfied and your team feeling productive.
Keeping track of all your drivers’ locations and making last-minute route changes can get cumbersome. But, with the right tools, dispatchers can make data-driven decisions. Applications that display and analyze route data can support smarter, more efficient dispatching.
Samsara's routing tools offer unprecedented visibility into every route. Dispatchers can identify low-performing and high-performing routes by identifying trends in planned versus actual route performance reports. This allows inefficient routes to be flagged and adjusted. Our geofence technology also accurately measures estimated arrival times, completed stops, and when a truck is approaching their next stop. With large volumes of real-time data at their fingertips, truck dispatchers can confidently make route updates and decisions in the moment.
4. Delivering best-in-class customer service
Freight dispatchers can double as customer service representatives for your company. Attention to client relationships has never been more important, especially amidst crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. Dispatchers can play a major role in boosting customer satisfaction.
Dispatchers are responsible for communicating delays to clients, answering their inquiries, and managing expectations. This constant flow of communication builds trust and helps your fleet adapt to customer requirements that change on a whim.
Using Samsara’s Live Sharing feature, dispatchers can give customers a shared URL that shows real-time ETAs. With visibility into live-to-the-second vehicle locations, your customers are less likely to inquire about the location of their loads—and they are better prepared to receive your drivers, decreasing detention time. Everyone spends less time waiting, and your fleet continues to delight customers with seamless deliveries.
If you are transporting perishable goods, your dispatchers can also take advantage of Samsara’s reefer temperature monitoring solution. Temperature monitors help ensure the quality of perishable assets upon delivery. Automatic alerts notify dispatchers of unsafe temperature fluctuations, preventing spoilage. In turn, they can provide additional transparency with customers and avoid rejected loads.
5. Managing relationships with your drivers
Drivers are critical lifelines in your fleet. Motor carrier companies rely on their drivers to safely deliver precious goods, collect proof of delivery documents, and invoice customers. But it can be tough to find experienced CDL drivers, especially with the ongoing driver shortage in the United States. According to the American Trucking Associations, the shortage of truck drivers could swell to 160,000 by 2028.
Problems arise on the road around the clock. Your drivers need dispatchers who can resolve route issues fast and prioritize driver safety. At the same time, dispatchers need deep insights on driver behavior to minimize expensive accident claims. It can be hard to gather this information remotely, but with Samsara AI dash cams, dispatchers can better identify and coach drivers on unsafe driver behavior, while rewarding drivers with flawless safety records.
Dispatchers can also implement time-saving processes for their drivers, like paperless documentation. Samsara’s digital document capture relieves the burden of manual paperwork on both drivers and dispatchers. In 2019, Samsara customers saved 652,000 hours that would have been spent processing papers. They also avoided using nearly 11 tons of paper.
3 key considerations before working with an independent dispatching service
Some fleet managers with smaller operations might partner with a third-party dispatch service rather than hiring employees to perform dispatching duties. Here are three guidelines to consider when searching for an independent dispatching service.
Make sure the FMCSA has licensed the dispatch service. It is illegal for trucking companies to work with a freight dispatcher not licensed as a broker. According to the FMCSA, any agent who is compensated for arranging the transportation of property must receive a brokering license. Your trucking authority could be revoked if your dispatch partner’s operations violate these requirements.
Assess your costs. Instead of seeking independent dispatchers, hiring dispatchers for a larger fleet might pay off in the long-term. Also, self-employed dispatchers could be working with a roster of different fleets; this could present a conflict of interest.
Read the contract carefully. If you decide to work with a third-party dispatch service, confirm that they are licensed, insured, and bonded. This reduces the chance that your business becomes liable for damaged goods or accident claims. As a fleet manager, you should be able to trust that independent contractors are acting in the best interest of your business.
Maximize the productivity and efficiency of your freight dispatchers with Samsara
Samsara’s unified fleet management platform helps freight dispatchers optimize dispatch and routing, prioritize driver safety, and deliver outstanding customer service. Our set of solutions helps differentiate your business from competitors. Features like Live Sharing, in-cab safety alerts, and temperature monitors can help reduce the stresses of dispatching, attracting top talent. Thanks to real-time visibility and routing, dispatchers who use Samsara no longer spend hours at a time calling drivers and sales agencies, leaving every stakeholder in your fleet feeling satisfied.
See what Samsara can do for your dispatchers with a free trial.