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Truck Dispatcher How to become, career path, income potential

What is a truck dispatcher?

Truck dispatchers are responsible for organizing the freight that trucks carry. Truck dispatchers keep everything running smoothly by coordinating the pickup and delivery of various loads between suppliers, drivers, and clients. Some dispatchers work for companies, and others are contractors and work independently. 

Strong communication and organization skills are required because the dispatchers constantly get information to drivers and monitor schedules to ensure deliveries remain on time. Truck dispatchers document the freight orders, deal with any open billing issues, and track logbook hours. When problems arise during a route, the dispatcher is the one that will help reroute the truck. 

Depending on the company’s size, some dispatchers also help load and unload cargo or oversee the loading process. There is also some negotiation on transport rates with suppliers and vendors. Truck dispatchers manage various tasks surrounding freight getting from point A to point B, including keeping the drivers healthy and staying organized at all times.

Qualifications and eligibility

Truck dispatchers need at least a high school education or a GED. Training programs are available for truck dispatchers to learn the specifics of the rules and regulations. In addition to education, a few skills are essential for this role. Strong communication, organization, and excellent problem-solving skills are used daily in this role. A basic understanding of mapping software comes in handy as well. 

Work environment

Many truck dispatchers work from a home office, which allows for some flexibility. Other dispatchers work at a centralized location for their company. Most of the day is spent on the phone and working on the computer, so it’s important to take breaks, stretch your legs, and move a bit. Having a good desk setup is crucial, so spending eight hours a day in the chair is comfortable.

Typical work hours

Truck dispatchers can have some long hours because they must be available whenever the drivers are on a route. For larger companies, they might have an on-call schedule, but if you’re managing your own group of carriers, you’ll need to be available if there are any issues. A driver could get ill or injured, requiring problem-solving to keep things on time.

Income

In the dispatcher career path, truck transportation is the field with the most jobs in the market. The annual salary fluctuates based on location, experience, and how large your portfolio is. To get an idea, the BLS lists the top-paying areas for dispatchers (showing the annual mean wage). The top five include:

  • District of Columbia – $66,200
  • New York – $57,780
  • Alaska – $55,620
  • Connecticut – $54,900
  • Washington – $54,300

Steps to become a truck dispatcher

1. Finish high school education or equivalent

Becoming a truck dispatcher requires at least a high school diploma or a GED. It’s easy to jump right into this career after high school with some additional training, so it’s a great opportunity for people who do not want to go on to a four-year college or university. 

2. Consider an associate’s degree

While an associate’s degree is not a requirement for many companies hiring truck dispatchers, it is a beneficial add-on for those who want to add more to their resumes. Getting your degree in logistics or transportation would be helpful in your career. You’ll be equipped with more information ahead of time and feel more prepared to dive right in.

3. Take a truck dispatch training course

Before you apply for a job, it’s good to go through a specific trucker dispatcher training course. These are a few options to consider that range from just a few hours to a few weeks. Adding these to your resume and successfully completing them will help you feel more prepared for your interview. 

  • Take the Trucker Dispatcher Training Course from Udemy. There are video courses covering many of the basics for an entry-level position. Learn about the types of trucks, loading, and necessary procedures. 
  • For more in-depth training, check out this Truck Dispatcher Training course. This course provides a certificate of completion at the end of the 45 lessons. This is a good option if you are not obtaining an associate’s degree.
  • Sign up for the Dispatchers and Load Planners Series from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA.) This covers safety information and regulations that can be important to know as a dispatcher.

4. Gain experience

Truck dispatchers can benefit from some experience in the trucking industry before becoming a dispatcher. There are two main areas to gain experience. First, getting any job that works with trucks will give you some insight into this industry. Help with loading, shipping, or freight of some kind is a great way to meet some people and see the process in action. Second, it’s good to have some experience in the regulations and rules of the transportation department (DOT.) This is harder to get on the job, so ensure you have researched and understood the rules in your area. 

5. Apply for jobs

Once you’re ready to look for a job, search the job boards online. If you are already working at a company with truck dispatchers, it’s a good idea to let the managers know that you’re hoping to move into a role like that so they can keep an eye out for openings for you.

Types of truck dispatchers

The types of truck dispatchers revolve around the different types of trucks that they work with. Some dispatchers work with all types, whereas others might just specialize in one. The more experience you have, the more opportunities you’ll have to grow your business or move up the ranks at your company.

There are six main types of trucks that dispatchers work with. Dry vans are the common, basic, enclosed trailer that carries palletized goods. Box trucks, also known as cube trucks, are similar to dry vans, but the size and shape are different, so there are other things they can transport. 

For larger freight and cargo, the options are flatbeds or step decks. Flatbed trucks are open on the back. They can carry wide loads. Step decks have a trailer that has two levels, so it can carry taller items without needing to get special permits. 

Some companies need to transport goods that aren’t just wrapped on pallets, so there are trucks for those situations as well. Reefers are refrigerated trucks that control the cargo temperature and allow the proper venting and airflow to carry foods and perishable items. Tankers are special trucks that can transport liquids and gasses safely. 

Tips for becoming a truck dispatcher

Truck dispatchers should all complete a training course before applying, but there are a few other tips to help land the perfect job. Try some of these tips out for the best chance at success:

  • Practice your telecommunications skills. A lot of the job is spent talking to drivers and helping them through situations, so strong communication skills are crucial.
  • Work on negotiation strategies. You will sometimes be responsible for negotiating freights between vendors, and you’ll want to ensure you secure the best rates. 
  • Learn the local, state, and federal laws around freight transportation, weight limits, and safety rules. Stay on top of this information if there are any changes.
  • Get comfortable with mapping and scheduling software. Many programs offer free introduction courses on their websites, so start with those and get familiar.
  • Understand load boards and how they work. It’s the online marketplace that connects shippers and carriers. Being able to do quick searches will help when in the role.
  • Become proficient in a second language. Many truckers speak something other than English as their first language, so being able to have conversations in another language could make you more desirable.

Position trends

Truck dispatchers will continue to be a growing need for companies because freight volume is not slowing down. Trucking is still the primary mode of transporting goods, so as foreign trade demands increase, there will be more and more volume. Being a truck dispatcher is a solid career path with plenty of room for growth and stability. 

Career path

Truck dispatchers have two main options to get started. They can work independently and build their network. With this option, it’s up to the dispatcher to grow as large as they want. There are opportunities to expand and add dispatchers down the line as well to work for you.

The other option is to start as a truck dispatcher with a company and gain some experience. After a few years, there may be opportunities to move up to management positions and oversee some of the dispatchers and the operations. Freight and logistics are growing fields, so will be plenty of chances to explore other paths and move up the ladder. 

1. What questions do you ask new clients to get to know them?

Customer service is important as a truck dispatcher. The first time you work with a supplier, it’s a good idea to meet their expectations and ensure that you can meet their needs with your available resources. Find out what deadlines they have and how much shipping they plan on doing. 

2. Do you have experience with any transportation management systems?

Showcase your experience if you’ve worked with a trucking company before. Even if you don’t have experience as a dispatcher, you may have used different systems to log in and complete your specific tasks. If there is anything familiar to you, share it with your potential employer. 

3. Why do you want to become a truck dispatcher?

Share your reasons for entering this industry. Do you love solving puzzles and working on logistics? Are you interested in how goods are transported? Do you have big ideas for ways to improve the industry? Show some excitement for becoming a truck dispatcher.

4. Describe the daily routine of a truck dispatcher.

During your training courses, you got a glimpse of some of the daily responsibilities of truck dispatchers, and you might have even shadowed someone during an internship. This is your chance to showcase what you know about the job and lay out ways that you might go about your day. You might not know just how much time each task takes, but you can still make a list.

5. What are the most important qualities of a successful truck dispatcher?

Brag about yourself a bit with a question like this. Describe the qualities you have that would make you a great dispatcher. Talk about your communication and problem-solving skills. Share the qualities required to complete the job.

6. How do you plan the most time-efficient routes?

Getting goods delivered on time is one of the most important roles of a dispatcher. Planning the routes and working with drivers are the responsibilities of the truck dispatcher. If you have experience working with mapping software, this is a great time to share that and discuss your planning methods. 

7. Are you familiar with the DOT regulations for driving?

Understanding the safety requirements and regulations laid out by the local, state, and federal government agencies will greatly impact your work as a dispatcher. Talk about websites you check or courses you’ve completed in this area. 

8. What types of truckloads do you have experience with?

If you have experience in the trucking and freight industry, describe some of the work you’ve done and what kinds of trucks you’ve worked with. Each unique type of truck has specifications on how much it can hold, and what kinds of goods it can transport, so the more you know about each type, the more desirable you are to a potential employer.

9. How do you stay on top of changes in the industry?

Government agencies can change rules and regulations to go into effect right away, so it’s important that you follow the correct agencies to stay on top of any communication about changes. Whether it’s Twitter accounts or monthly checks of certain websites, share how you stay on top of this information.

Truck dispatcher FAQs