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How to Effectively Communicate with Your Truck Driver Dispatcher 

January 17th, 2022

Vicki Rajkowski

Vicki Rajkowski

Vicki started at ATS the same month she graduated college. She just wanted a job, but she loved it so much she never left. She began working overnights before she got her own fleet of drivers. She has two decades of experience as a driver manager.

Be honest: Have you ever Googled, “I hate my truck dispatcher” and read message boards with other angry truck drivers? (Believe me, they’re out there.) 

Maybe you just don’t see eye to eye because you’re oil and your dispatcher is water. Maybe you don’t feel like your dispatcher gets it. They don’t get you and they don’t understand how difficult and frustrating your job can be. And when you don’t like your truck dispatcher, chances are that you’re unhappy with the loads you’re pulling, the pay you’re getting and the home time you are or are not getting. 

The top reasons why over-the-road (OTR) truckers quit their jobs? Pay, home time and a dispatcher (or driver manager) who just doesn’t get it. 

Hello, driver manager of more than two decades here! 

I’m here to tell you that I get it and I want to make your job easier. I’ve worked with frustrated drivers like you for decades, and I’ve watched communication barriers between drivers and their dispatcher cause drivers to quit their jobs and go somewhere else. I’ve seen dispatchers quit because of it too. 

It’s frustrating to watch it happen. With a few simple adjustments, a lot of drivers and dispatchers could have been a lot less frustrated. Communication is a two-way street. Frustration doesn’t always boil down to drivers communicating incorrectly. It takes work on both sides of the relationship.

And I’m here to teach you those communication strategies — like being upfront about your driving style and communicating honestly — so that you can feel a lot better about your relationship with your truck dispatcher. I promise you, it’ll make your job a whole lot easier. You might never love your dispatcher, but if they understand your needs, they’ll be able to help you succeed.

6 Ways To Improve Communication With Your Dispatcher 

Following these six steps will help you and your dispatcher work together, smarter.

Explain What Type of Driver You Are

When you’re new to a trucking company and you’re assigned a driver manager, one of the first things you need to do is be upfront about what type of driver you are. 

Are you a morning person who’s going to get up at 5 a.m. and run all day? Or are you a driver who won’t be caught dead out of bed before 9 a.m. and you’re not doing anything until 10 a.m. after you’ve had a cup of coffee (or three)? Maybe you’re the type of driver who prefers driving overnights because there’s less traffic and you’re a true night owl. 

Either way, you need to tell your driver how you like to run. It will alleviate so many problems from the jump. Your driver manager will be mindful and think twice before they put you on an early morning delivery if there’s no way you’re going to be out of bed before 8 a.m., much less ready to deliver to a customer. 

As soon as you get a new load, check the delivery time. If it isn’t going to work for you, say something. Maybe you don’t have Hours of Service (HOS) to deliver at that time, or you’d really prefer not to have to get up so early. Explain when you can deliver and arrange something else with your driver manager. 

As long as you communicate your needs from the beginning, they’ll be mindful of what loads they put you on moving forward. 


Communicate Your Home Time Expectations

If you’re a true over-the-road (OTR) driver, you’re an OTR driver. That means you aren’t going home every night or even every weekend. In some cases, maybe you’re not even going home every two weeks. A true OTR driver may be going from one side of the country to the other delivering loads. Without bad weather, that’s about one week’s time to get across the country right there.

If you’re mad at your dispatcher because they aren’t automatically routing you home every single weekend, your expectations are probably misaligned. Maybe you aren’t truly looking for OTR driving, and you’d rather pursue a local or regional route. 

On the other hand, if you’re putting in home time requests and you aren’t getting any of them, that’s a problem. 

As soon as you know you have an event coming up that you’ll need home time for — whether’s it’s an anniversary, birthday, holiday or something else — put in a request. Maybe it’s two months before, maybe it’s six months before. Either way, getting that request in early will help your dispatcher out by giving them plenty of time to schedule around your home time.

It shouldn’t go without saying that you also need to be realistic about your home time expectations. You signed up to make good money as an OTR driver, and your dispatcher is trying to help you make that good money by getting you loads. 

If you’re going home regularly, you’re probably not making as much money as you could be. 

If you absolutely need to get home every two weeks, ask your truck dispatcher if that’s possible. They should be honest with you if it’s realistic or not. This is ultimately a question you should be asking your recruiter even before you sign on with a company. 

Last-minute emergencies do come up and as driver managers, we understand. We have family emergencies too. We’ll do our best to accommodate your requests and get you home as soon as possible. 

If you have something going on at home where you can be out on the road but you may need to get home quickly, talk to your driver manager about it. They can try to keep you on loads closer to home so that you can get home quickly if needed.

Respect The Opinion Of Your Dispatcher

The driver-dispatcher relationship is all about mutual respect.

Take a moment to think about the last time you listened to your dispatcher's opinion without judgment. 

Nothing in the trucking industry is black or white. Ever. It’s all gray. 

They’re doing a job too, and they’re doing their best. It’s their job to make you successful. They can’t do their jobs if you don’t work with them. Respect them enough to give their opinion a chance and they’ll do the same for you. 


Adapt Your Communication Style

Adapting to your dispatcher is something you’ll have to work on, just as they'll have to adapt to you and your driving style as part of the give-and-take relationship.

Keep in mind that most dispatchers you work with at medium to large trucking carriers will be working with 30 to 40 other truck drivers. All of those drivers at any given time could be having an emergency with a load or a customer. 

That means you might call and be waiting on hold from anywhere from a minute to two hours. Don’t sit on hold or wait for them to answer. Send them a message or email them. 

If you’re on hold, your dispatcher won’t know you need help. But while dispatchers are on the phone, they’re also multitasking, which means they’re checking email and messages from drivers. They can help you while they’re on the phone. 

If it’s time-sensitive, don’t wait for them to answer the phone; send a message. If it’s really important, a message saying, “You need to call me now, Vicki,” will get my attention, and it’s the same way for other driver managers. Knowing you need immediate attention allows us to reprioritize our tasks and reach out to you ASAP.

Be patient with your driver manager and understand that they’re trying to help you succeed. 

You should also keep in mind that your dispatcher has time constraints and boundaries. Just like you don’t want your driver manager to call you when you’re at home with your family, your driver manager doesn’t want you to call them at 2 a.m. when they’re sleeping. 

Be Honest 

Life happens and we as truck dispatchers can deal with that. What we can’t deal with is dishonesty. 

If you’re late for a delivery because you overslept, I’ll understand. 

However, if you tell me some elaborate story about how you got parked in at the truck stop and the driver went in to eat and take a shower and do laundry and take his dog out for a walk and you couldn’t leave until he was done, I’m going to roll my eyes and I’m going to be upset. I would much rather hear that you stayed up too late playing video games and talking on the phone than hear a lie come from you. 

If you’re honest, we can advocate for you with our customers. Can I tell a customer that my driver got sick with food poisoning and is going to be late delivering the load? Yes. Can I tell them your elaborate story about another driver blocking you in? No. 

It might be a little uncomfortable to tell me that you were up all night running to the bathroom, but I can promise you that I won’t be mad and neither will other driver managers.

Your driver-dispatcher relationship is only going to succeed if both parties are honest. Always. 

Your honesty should come forth in every conversation you have with your driver manager, no matter what it is.


If You Don’t Like Something, Say It

If you don’t like something, like the communication style of the dispatcher, from the start, say so. It’s easier to change a specific behavior from the start of the relationship than it is to change it down the road. 

Maybe you feel like your dispatcher is talking down to you. Maybe you don’t like how much they joke around with you, or you don’t like when they ask about your family. Let them know, then give them a chance to correct the behavior. 

If it still doesn’t change after you’ve given them time to make it better, then maybe you need to consider if you can work with another dispatcher at the company. It doesn’t mean you automatically have to quit. 

Build a Successful Relationship and Career

Learning how to adapt and effectively communicate with your truck dispatcher can go a long way – from helping you feel more content and supported in your position to feeling like you’re heard and respected. 

A strong, communicative relationship is the difference between building longevity at a trucking company and restarting your career with another carrier. Chances are, you’d rather stay with your carrier than jump to another one – losing money, your truck and your momentum out on the road.

At ATS, we pride ourselves on the extensive training our driver managers receive and our mission to create “truth in trucking.” 

We’re here to help you succeed — all you have to do is ask and be willing to trust that we’re here to help. 

We’ve put together these resources that will help you succeed as a truck driver: