The driver shortage fueled by driver turnover, continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing the trucking industry. Hours, pay, and a disruptive lifestyle all contribute to the turnover as well as driver safety issues, expensive training, and the position viewed as an unattractive career choice by younger job-seekers. There’s another turnover issue that drivers have known for years—dissatisfaction with a dispatcher.

As stated in a recent Commercial Carrier Journal article titled, “Stay Metrics: dispatcher satisfaction a key variable in driver turnover. The Stay Metrics research team… studied the responses of nearly two thousand drivers representing over a dozen carriers. Published on February 12, 2014, results of the study indicate that turnover is 57 percent higher for drivers who indicated dissatisfaction with their dispatcher…” The study goes on to explain that a dispatcher who meets a drivers needs won’t necessarily help retain drivers, but one who doesn’t meet driver needs will chase them away.

What Makes a Good Dispatcher?

The most important thing a dispatcher can do is be understanding of driver challenges. A dispatcher who projects an image of understanding, consideration, and teamwork goes a long way towards gaining the respect of drivers. On the other hand, dispatchers who don’t take the time to get an idea of what the driver is experiencing, in the moment, on the road, may be a driver retention programs worst enemy.

How to be a Driver Friendly Dispatcher

Listen to drivers with an open mind. This mean occasionally allowing them to vent, drivers are out there fighting the battle alone, they need you on their side. Be on their team. That doesn’t mean you have to agree, endorse, or contribute. Sometimes a driver just needs someone to hear what they have to say.
Stay calm, cool, and collected. Dispatching is a demanding and stressful position. Sometimes it’s difficult to take the higher road, but it’s important to always stay calm and collected with your drivers. Displaying anger seldom solves a problem more often than not it escalates the situation.
Avoid unnecessarily and poorly timed communication. There are enough regulations requiring communications to stay compliant without adding to the noise. When a proven, competent driver has the information he or she needs it may be overkill to double or triple check their understanding. With the most current HOS regulations, it’s important to know when a driver is off the clock and not awaken them after three hours of sleep. And, to expect or even demand electronic communication when a driver is negotiating heavy traffic is not only inconsiderate—it’s unsafe.
Be someone a driver can count on. Help the driver by keeping him or her compliant and legal. Be a reliable source of information—routes, traffic, and load. Keep drivers informed of customer needs and keep the customer happy so the driver doesn’t receive the brunt of an unhappy client. Tell the truth, not the convenient truth or the half-truth, but the reality, and if you make a mistake—own up to it. How could your on-the-road partner rely on you for anything if he or she can’t rely on you for the truth?
Respond in a timely fashion. When a driver requests information don’t give it to him or her four hours after they need it. Sharing information as needed not only allows the driver to be more efficient—it’s a sign of respect. Don’t ignore your drivers, and if you don’t have an answer at least contact them and let them know you’re trying.

What Can Carriers do?

To begin with, make a commitment to improvement. At first glance, the points below may sound naïve if not impossible. How can a driver dispatcher meeting be held—who has time, or a dispatcher in a truck, what about insurance? You may not be able to incorporate every point, but you can get started.

•Incorporate dispatcher training, not only for new hires, but as an on-going process for all dispatchers.
•As part of driver new hire orientation share the expectations of dispatch.
•Observe and monitor dispatchers in action.
•Conduct driver surveys on dispatch satisfaction and vice versa.
•Hold shared meetings with drivers and dispatchers.
•Job share, have drivers shadow dispatchers and dispatchers ride with drivers.

The driver shortage isn’t going away. It’s not going to suddenly and miraculously improve. It’s going to take a lot of determination and changes to fix. In the meantime, carriers who focus on employee satisfaction will have an upper hand in driver retention. Don’t allow someone as critical to driver satisfaction as a dispatcher be the cause of even one driver leaving. We’d like to hear from dispatchers, drivers, and carriers. There’s always more than one perspective, please share yours.

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