August 8, 2016

The dispatcher profession

valerie bourret
by Valérie Bourret

Dispatcher – Assisting Drivers on Highways and Byways!

Over two years ago, Hugo St-Laurent swapped the steering wheel for a phone and a computer. For him, it was the next logical step in his career path. As a former truck driver with full knowledge of the trade, he now guides his colleagues on the road, who appreciate his quick-thinking and extensive knowledge of transportation.

Interview with Hugo St-Laurent, Dispatcher for the Montréal Area

What Is Your Professional Background?

I started driving trucks at 19, at first delivering soft drinks. Then after a short period in a factory, I started working in oil transportation when I was 21 years old – I was one of the youngest. I was also hired by an American transportation company for which I drove trailer trucks. I was then recruited by Bourret, where I was a truck driver for several years.

What Led You to Work as a Dispatcher?

Trucker schedules are rather irregular, long and often require you to be available on weekends. As I wanted to start a family, I was willing to try something else professionally in order to have more personal time, so I applied to be a dispatcher. I now cover the Montréal region, from the industrial sector of the West Island up to Cornwall. I know this region well as I worked there frequently as a trucker.

What Does a Typical Day Looks Like?

Every morning, I arrive between 7:00 and 7:30 am, and I leave between 17:30 and 18:00. During this period, the truckers under my responsibility can reach me on the phone at any time. Dispatching includes coordinating daily deliveries and pickups done by our drivers.

How Many Drivers Do You Manage in a Day?

On average, between 25 and 30 drivers.

What Are the Other Related Duties?

I have to anticipate the requests of regular customers, know why a freight item was not included in their delivery, find a way to speed up deliveries, fulfill the requests from drivers, find alternative routes to avoid Montréal traffic, and so on. If a delivery is late, I ask the customer service employees to contact and inform the client.

How Does Dispatching Work Affect Drivers' Work?

I have to be fair when managing drivers' schedules. For example, if one of them finished up late the night before, I try to get this particular driver back home sooner the next day. Whenever possible, they should all work the same number of hours. If they have personal appointments, I always try to accommodate them.

What Kind of Problems Do You Have to Manage?

It's variable. For example, one time, one of our drivers arrived at a customer's facilities and the pallet to load was too long for the trailer. I had to find a way to deliver the freight even with this unforeseen issue!

What Skills Are Required to Properly Do Your Job?

You have to be quick-witted. I have to respond swiftly to unanticipated replacement of drivers and delays due to mechanical failures on trucks. This job requires a lot of management and logistical skills!

Are You in Communication with Other Dispatchers?

Yes. For example, if some drivers in the east section of Montréal have time, we can give a route in the west section of the island to one of these drivers by contacting his or her dispatcher to expedite deliveries. The goal is to have a trailer returning full to Drummondville.

What Are the Main Challenges of a Dispatcher?

You should know how to synchronize multiple items and always have a plan B. We can make estimates, but we must still be prepared to change plans at any time in case of accidents, poor road conditions, etc. Planning and recalculating is part of our daily life.

Since our systems allow us to see where our truckers are, we have to properly estimate at what time they can make their deliveries and pickups and when they will be completed, how much time it will take to travel from one sector of the City to the other... it's like that all day!

What Is Your Advice to Someone Who Wants a Career in This Field?

You must like challenging yourself each day. It is important to react quickly in all circumstances and put in every effort to find solutions to the various problems that may occur. We must be able to make quick and cost-effective decisions for the business.

As you can tell, my dispatcher job is not monotonous; it’s stimulating!

You Are Interested in a Position with Bourret?

You have the experience and skills to meet the challenges of a dispatcher's position or another job for Transport Bourret? Please, send us your application now!

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