What Does a Truck Dispatcher Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image shoes a woman at a desk in front of a stack of logged hours, next to a weather report, wearing a headset. Text reads:

Image by Ellen Lindner © The Balance 2019

The trucking industry relies on safe drivers to complete deliveries, and they're typically thought of as the foundation of the system, but they're not the only employees responsible for its success. Dispatchers play an essential role as well and they're in high demand. 

A dispatcher's job is to schedule drivers to pick up and deliver loads to customers or vendors, but that just scratches the surface.

Truck Dispatcher Duties & Responsibilities

Truck dispatchers have numerous other responsibilities as well. They can vary slightly from company to company.

  • Keep records, monitoring drivers' daily logs for errors or violations and monitoring their working hours and equipment availability.
  • Keep tabs on the weather at all drivers' locations to be able to flag potential issues, typically with the aid of numerous computer programs.
  • Serve as a reliable point of contact to balance drivers' health and safety with customer requirements.
  • Coordinate and manage the most efficient loads to remain cost-effective as a company, combining shipments based on their routes and timeline to minimize how many trucks and drivers are out.
  • Determine the best delivery methods and negotiate rates directly with vendors and customers, and get the necessary documents and permits that drivers will need when shipping chemicals or livestock.

Truck Dispatcher Salary

These figures cover dispatchers in general, but those who work in the trucking industry are paid above the median annual dispatcher salary at about $43,920 ($21.11/hour) annually.

  • Median Annual Salary: $38,790 ($18.65/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $64,940 ($31.22/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $23,880 ($11.48/hour)

Education, Training & Certification

Extensive education is not typically required, but some college background can help you land a job.

  • Education: You'll usually need at least a high school diploma or GED to become a truck dispatcher, but an associate or bachelor's degree is sometimes preferred. A degree in transportation, supply chain management, or logistics can be helpful.
  • Experience: One to three years' related experience, such as in customer service or courier, can sometimes serve in lieu of trucking experience. Prior trucking experience is often preferred, such knowledge of driving and Department of Transportation rules and regulations.
  • Internships: A freight internship can provide you with some real-world experience.

This job often requires pre-employment drug testing because the position is regulated by the Department of Labor. This testing can be ongoing and random.

Truck Dispatcher Skills & Competencies

A certain skill set can make the difference between success and failure.

  • Computer skills: You should be proficient with computer technology, able to learn company-specific programs, and access GPS monitoring programs.
  • Analytical thinking: This can help you assess situations like unanticipated road closures. Should you reschedule or send the driver on an alternate route?
  • Language skills: You should be fluent in English, and knowing a second language as well can be very advantageous and make you a stronger candidate. 
  • Interpersonal skills: You'll be working with drivers, customers, and vendors, not all of whom will necessarily have the same goals in mind.

    Job Outlook

    The American Trucking Association projects that freight volume will increase by almost 30% by 2026. Foreign trade has increased demand, with trucking still the primary method of transporting goods. Drivers and dispatchers will continue to be needed to meet the growing need. It looks to be a stable career path for at least the next 10 years. 

    The role of a dispatcher is often a "stepping stone" job. A good dispatcher learns the ins and outs of the business and will then often have an opportunity to move up within the company, perhaps to a management position.

    Work Environment

    There's rarely any downtime with this job. You'll be taking calls and managing routes all day, so you must be highly organized and able to handle high amounts of stress.

    Work Schedule

    This is normally a full-time position, but dispatchers can literally be on call 24/7, available to step in should a driver become ill or is injured or if some other unforeseen event should occur. Additionally, drivers aren't on their routes only during business hours, so this job isn't always confined to Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    Comparing Similar Jobs

    Dispatch jobs aren't confined to the trucking industry, and this skill set can serve in other industries as well.