More than a stunning logo or a great sales team, dispatch—efficiently managing logistics and scheduling drivers and work orders—is what will make or break your trucking company and can play a major role in driver retention.
Below, we’ll take a look at what comprises dispatch management and why it’s critical to your success. We’ll also explore ways to optimize fleet dispatching performance that hold true whether your operation is planned by one fleet owner or multiple teams of fleet dispatchers.
What Is Fleet Dispatch?
Fleet dispatch covers the ongoing organization of drivers and routes to maximize efficiency while fulfilling customers’ needs. The principles of fleet dispatch management include the following:
- Assigning and tracking drivers, vehicles, and loads
- Route planning and adjusting to changes that arise
- Making the best choices to reduce time and costs while meeting goals
- Prioritizing driver and vehicle safety
Today, accomplishing these principles means integrating fleet management software that provides:
- Real-time GPS tracking of all fleet vehicles
- Telematics and wireless communication between dispatch and drivers
- Route planning capabilities and optimization
- Reporting and analysis functionality
Why Is Fleet Dispatching Important?
A fleet dispatch manager is at the center of endless data points and in a position to put that information to work. If drivers are the actors in a movie, your dispatch team comprises the director and producers—calling “Action!” and making decisions that turn skill, talent, and resources into a hit.
In the best-case scenario, effective fleet dispatching:
- Matches up the right driver and the right vehicle to the assignment
- Plans the ideal route to meet goals based on load and vehicle eligibility
- Fulfills each order on time
- Incorporates fleet safety solutions and concerns of drivers as well as vehicles and freight
- Adapts routes in real-time to changes in customer needs, weather, traffic, and more
- Maximizes profit, often by reducing total miles on the road (and associated fuel costs and transportation times) across the fleet
But the results of ineffective fleet tracking and dispatching can be:
- Missing deadlines, pick-ups, or returns
- Not providing correct or timely answers that customers and drivers need
- Paying too much for fuel (discover ways to reduce fuel cost)
- Missing critical driver breaks and road limits
- Sending out vehicles in poor condition, leading to accidents or breakdowns
- Over-hiring and overscheduling drivers
- Paying premium prices for urgent repairs and fill-in drivers
- Being hit with higher insurance premiums
Most aspects of making a fleet-based business successful and profitable are at risk without skilled dispatch management and the right systems and policies in place.
8 Ways to Optimize Fleet Dispatch Management
With so much of your fleet’s success riding on it, it’s crucial that you find skilled and engaged fleet dispatchers to help you increase efficiency, reduce costs, and support safety and driver productivity. But you can also make them more effective in those aims with the right approaches and resources—like providing fuel cards.
The most important ways to optimize your dispatch operation include the following eight tips.
#1: Use the Right Software Tools
Ditch the supply closet full of whiteboard erasers and post-it notes; you need fleet dispatch software that’s right-sized for your business.
Per a 2019 Peerless Research Group survey, fleet management software users rated higher in seven out of 10 categories of dispatch performance than those still using manual methods—including route optimization, capacity planning, and controlling labor costs 1.
While there is no end to the bells, whistles, and data analysis available, consider the following:
- Critical functions your business needs
- Areas of weakness that the right software stack may be able to help improve
- Availability of support, training, and customer service
- Ease of use for all parties
#2: Capture the Right Input
Ever heard of GIGO? The idea of “garbage in, garbage out” in computer software indicates that entering bad data leads to useless results. For dispatchers and fleet dispatch software to operate effectively, they need accurate and complete information.
- Employee status, availability, certifications, and limits
- Vehicle features, load and route limits, and maintenance schedules
- Job requirements necessary to allocate the right resources at the right times
- Pick-up and delivery location information relating to vehicle assignment
#3: Follow an Implementation Plan for New Technology
Once you’ve chosen the right dispatch and fleet management software, getting it up and running takes more than one email and a switchover date. For a successful launch, consider a plan that includes the following:
- Coming-soon promotion highlighting how the new system will benefit each user group
- A living FAQ to address common concerns, questions, and roadblocks
- Live and recorded webinar new user training
- Support documentation incorporating images and video snippets
- Rewards and positive reinforcement for user adoption
Keep in mind that a driver app that looks like a magic wand to management may appear to be a time-wasting hassle for your truck drivers. Focus on features that will save them time or effort and find concrete ways to express appreciation for compliance.
#4: Integrate Fuel Cards into Dispatch
With fuel prices doing a quick-step hustle up and down (and back up) this year, it’s more important than ever to get the most bang for your gas and diesel buck by finding ways to reduce fuel cost.
You can do this by optimizing routes and keeping vehicles in top condition, but another critical tool is the right fuel card program. Your fuel cards should:
- Be easy to obtain, assign, use, and track
- Provide data integration and reporting
- Help you track expected-to-actual fuel usage and identify possible changes
- Offer transparent fees and benefits to avoid unexpected costs or restrictions
- Provide maximum coverage to allow usage at lowest-cost truck stops
Learn more about how to prepay for gas with fuel cards.
#5: Stay on Top of Vehicle Maintenance
An accident or breakdown can create more than just a simple delay—it can cause freight damage and loss, high-priced repairs, insurance hikes, and driver and third-party injury or fatalities.
In addition to helping prevent accidents, attentive maintenance can extend the life of a vehicle and increase fuel efficiency. To meet this goal, implement a comprehensive schedule for maintenance activities and checks, including:
- Time for fluid checks and tire pressure monitoring, and inflation at truck stops
- Pre- and post-delivery vehicle check-ins
- Seasonal vehicle checks and preparation for weather extremes
- Following recommended review and replacement schedules for specific engine parts
- Keeping a detailed log to monitor vehicle and part performance and lifespan
#6: Communicate, Communicate, and then Communicate More
Excellent systems facilitate clear and constant communication, making dispatch always available to help with guidance and for providing historical records. But once everyone is trained on the ideal software, it’ll all basically run itself, right? Not quite.
There’ll always be an exception to a work order, an employee’s scheduling response, or exactly what vehicle part or system needs replacing beyond your entry forms’ available fields. Dispatch can prioritize clear communication by:
- Ensuring there is a dedicated point person (or persons) for customer contact
- Enabling multiple communication modalities (e.g., phone, text, email, app, web form)
- Facilitating video and in-person opportunities to humanize each party
- Encouraging a “there is no stupid question” approach
#7: Use Honey Instead of Vinegar
The people side of resource management requires empathy and kindness as well as communication. A dispatcher may need to deal with:
- Angry customers who are being pressured by their clients or management
- Drivers with route, mechanical, health, or personal crises
- Service providers with personnel turnover or other challenges to performance
In addition to untangling the results and making a new plan for the issue at hand, keep in mind the long-term impact of the tone and nature of human interaction. Expressing patience and empathy may help:
- Retain customers who think positively of how you handled a problem
- Maintain a good working relationship with a driver or other employee
- Secure goodwill or future benefits from a vendor
#8: Convert Failures to Opportunities
What can you learn from a customer complaint, a delivery error, a vehicle breakdown, or an employee quitting? There are endless factors dispatch can’t control or anticipate, but use the opportunity of every accident, failure, or change to question the chain of events that led to it.
In most cases, you can find useful information in these autopsy processes. Given the same set of circumstances, is there:
- A policy or procedure that could be modified or better communicated?
- A glitch in communication suggesting additional work order clarification in the future?
- A change to vehicle maintenance schedules concerning usage or model?
How AtoB Prepaid Fuel Cards Can Help
So you’re ready to invest in the right fleet dispatchers and dispatch software—but do you have the right fuel card program?
The AtoB fuel card program scales to your business size, whether that’s a single-owner LLC or a monster-truck-sized trucking operation. You’ll have data at your fingertips to track fuel stops and usage, with that information connected to assigned vehicles, load weights, and driving routes. Fuel usage tracking enables dispatchers to identify spending irregularities, low-cost vendors, and vehicle issues.
And the AtoB fuel card offers transparent pricing––so you know exactly what you’re paying for and when.
We also stand out in terms of flexibility. With AtoB, you can authorize purchases based on your vehicle needs. Our program is backed by Visa and allows purchases of fuel as well as repairs, parts, road tolls, insurance, and more at any vendor that accepts Visa cards.
Ready to save up to 25 cents per gallon and keep your card costs down? Get started with AtoB Unlimited today.
1 Peerless Research Group. Survey Finds Fleet Management Solutions Bring Rapid ROI. https://web.archive.org/web/20201028121731/https://business.uscellular.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/WP-Survey-Finds-Fleet-Management-Solutions-Bring-Rapid-ROI-LV.pdf