For years, the logistics industry in America has been struggling with an increasing shortage of professional truck drivers. Independent studies show the same results: the number of trained and licensed commercial drivers is predicted to continue trending downwards over the next five or more years. This is resulting in a strain not only on dispatchers responsible for moving freight but also on current drivers in the industry who have to work harder to meet the demand. Due to this problem, dispatcher-driver relationships are becoming increasingly difficult, but what can be done to address this?
- Open Communication: As with any relational challenge, open communication between both parties is vital. Drivers obviously have important needs to attend to, like their health and time with their families. However, the industry is requiring more and more from drivers because the number of products being moved is constantly rising. A system of open, and frequent communication has to be established to set a foundation for sustainable route management and low driver-turnover. Keeping drivers connected with their dispatcher will help drivers feel supported by their dispatcher and reduce the sense of isolation often felt by commercial truck drivers. It also helps the two roles view each other more as partners than adversaries.
- Route Planning: Shared Milk-Run route planning is able to bring a high level of efficiency to the logistics industry because it takes the transportation needs of multiple companies and consolidates them along a singular route. Businesses are now having to pay premiums to have their products moved ahead of their competitors and this trend will only continue to rise. As fewer and fewer drivers are available, it is important that expert route planners are attentive to detail and optimize routes. Shared routes make the most of every mile driven and each square inch of trailer space, moving more freight with fewer Route planning will help take the strain off of drivers by giving them a better idea of where they are driving and how long they will be on the road. This will allow for a better relationship between the drivers and their dispatchers by improving organization and reducing driver workload.
- Driver Retention: Keeping good drivers on the payroll is absolutely necessary with the strain the industry is facing today. Capable drivers who work safely and efficiently are being solicited for more employment opportunities than ever before. Retaining these drivers and bringing in more drivers like them is an essential piece in avoiding the negative impact of the driver shortage. This retention will only be possible if the desires of the drivers are prioritized. Carriers with a lower driver turnover rate can provide more reliable and flexible freight transportation for their customers. They see the ROI in providing competitive pay, benefits, frequent home time, and a culture of respect to this vital workforce. Retaining more drivers takes the strain off of the dispatcher-driver relationship by giving the dispatcher a consistent, reliable workforce as well as more time to build a healthy rapport.
Between the increasing demands of the industry and the lack of drivers to meet those demands, the relationship between dispatcher and driver has become frayed. Repairing that relationship is an industry-wide dilemma. For businesses, without new hires coming in, their current drivers have had to shoulder the burden of the increase in transportation needs. This has forced dispatchers to focus more on the bottom line and less on the driver. Simply put, for current drivers to have a less demanding workload, there has to be a system of open communication, strong route planning done by experts, and there needs to be a greater emphasis on driver retention. Until that is done, there will continue to be a disconnect between the needs of the driver and the needs of the industry.