Nicole began her career with ATS after graduating from college with a degree in human resource management. She was green to the trucking industry and had no idea what to expect but was excited to learn all she could. She spent her first eight years with ATS as a fleet manager with both company drivers and independent contractors. She’s spent her last six years in the operations manager chair. Her first three years as operations manager were spent overseeing both company drivers and independent contractors, but she has been focused on company drivers in recent years.
Everybody’s workin’ for the weekend!
Well, unless you're a truck driver.
When the weekend rolls around, you might not be heading up to the cabin, hitting the beach or queuing up your favorite show on Netflix to binge all weekend. You might still be trucking along. After all, the world depends on truck drivers like you to safely deliver goods and keep the supply chain moving.
But while you might decide to work through the weekend, that doesn’t always mean your fleet manager (or dispatcher) is going to as well.
So how do you get help on the weekend when your go-to person isn’t there?
As an operations manager here at Anderson Trucking Service (ATS), a huge part of my job includes making sure you have what you need to succeed. It includes navigating even the toughest issues out on the road so you can keep running successfully.
In this article, I’ll help you understand what kind of support you can expect on the weekend and I’ll give you tips to help you prepare for those days when your fleet manager is out of the office.
Is There Support on the Weekend?
While every company is different, more likely than not, you won’t be able to reach your fleet manager on the weekend. However, there’s typically some sort of support on the weekends — though it’s limited. It’s often called an extended coverage team and it’s comprised of individuals who can help troubleshoot some basic issues.
That said, you may have some higher-up managers that are working for a few hours on the weekend or are reachable in the most extreme cases — for instance, if you run across a family or medical emergency and need to get home as soon as possible.
There’s also usually some type of road service support team that you can call with mechanical issues.
What Can the Extended Coverage Team Help Me With?
The extended coverage team is usually able to help with emergency situations, troubleshoot basic issues, update customers and pass along necessary information.
They don’t know the day-to-day issues you deal with and they certainly don’t know the minute details of the load you’re under. Because of that, they can’t always give you all the help you need; they simply don’t have all the information. Regardless, they’ll do their best to assist when you call.
However, items like cash advances, load offers or other issues that can be taken care of during normal business hours will need to wait until your fleet manager returns.
5 Tips to Help you Succeed On the Weekend
If you plan to run Saturday and Sunday and you want to operate with as few mishaps as possible, follow these tips.
1. Communicate Proactively During Business Hours
The number one thing you can do to set yourself up for a successful weekend is to take care of anything you need during business hours. If you need details about a load, don’t wait until the weekend. If you need to make a shop appointment, don’t wait until the weekend. If you need a cash advance — you guessed it — don’t wait until the weekend.
Because most shippers and receivers also employ similar business hours Monday through Friday, make sure you call them for important details before it’s the weekend. Don’t wait until you need to pick up or drop off your load to find out there’s a problem!
Extended coverage teams are very much designed to assist you only during emergencies. If you’re calling about something you could’ve done earlier in the week — like scheduling a shop appointment — you’ll need to wait until Monday.
2. Plan Ahead
Know what your weekend plans are well before you reach the weekend.
When you wait too late to make plans, you end up with issues. The more proactive you can be in finalizing weekend plans, the more opportunity you'll have for success.
I recommend having a clear understanding of your weekend plans before the end of business day on Friday. Your fleet manager will work with you to plan out your weekend — whether you’re under dispatch, picking up or delivering a weekend load or waiting on different freight options.
The extended coverage team won’t know these details, which is why it’s important for you to know exactly what you plan to do on the weekend. If things fall apart, then yes, reach out to the extended coverage team. But you should at the very least make a plan and try to follow it.
If you don’t plan ahead, you’ll end up with unnecessary frustration.
3. Trip Plan
Trip planning is always important, but it’s especially important to consider on the weekends.
When you receive a load offer, call the customer (during business hours) to nail down any important details you may need to know. Is there a certain route you need to take? Are they open on the weekends? Do they have overnight parking or facilities?
Again, most customers also have specific business hours so they may not be available all weekend. You need to plan your trips and take care of these details before you reach the customer.
Then, plan your route and your stops. Keep in mind that, depending on what time of year it is, the roads might be busier. In the summer, a lot of drivers are on the road heading to vacation homes. They may have boats or campers that they’re not used to hauling. Be mindful of them on the roads.
Truck stops might be busier on the weekends because more drivers are parked and not running through the weekend. Without a plan in place that includes a few backup truck stops in case your first (or second) choice stop is full, you may end up going out of route to find parking or adding unnecessary frustration to your already stressful job!
4. Call, Don’t Email
If you happen to run into trouble on the weekend and you need assistance from someone, don’t send an email to your fleet manager. Many don’t receive emails over the weekend, so your email will be left sitting until Monday morning rolls around again.
Instead, you should either call in or send a message through your onboard computer (like a Qualcomm). Because your fleet manager won’t be working on the weekend, their number should roll over to the extended coverage team, who can help you troubleshoot your issue. Conversely, your trucking company may provide you with an after-hours number to call.
5. Find Out How Much Support Coverage Your Company Offers
If you’re new to a trucking company, make sure you know what you can expect on the weekends for coverage. Is there a full support team or is it limited coverage?
In fact, when you’re deciding which company you’d like to drive for, it’s a good idea to ask this ahead of time. It may influence your decision on where you end up going.
Trip Plan for Success
Set yourself up for success. Proactive communication is the way to go. Call the customer during business hours to nail down details. Talk with your fleet manager while they’re still in the office.
When you follow these tips, you’ll be a lot less frustrated on the weekends.
Of course, things do come up. Emergencies happen. When unforeseen circumstances do pop up, there’ll be a team that will be there for you.
Trip planning helps you prepare for potential issues that come your way. If you need a refresher, check out this article about how to trip plan successfully.