What Does a Freight Dispatcher Do?
A freight dispatcher’s job is essentially to manage freight on behalf of a carrier. That includes using load boards and personal connections to locate freight that needs to be shipped, speaking to brokers, conducting negotiations, and eventually dispatching drivers and setting up their routes. In many cases, the position also includes some back-end work like reviewing truck drivers’ logs and tracking their hours.
A freight dispatcher is often confused with a freight broker, but the two positions have different and distinct roles. A broker is a legal entity that serves as a middleman between the shipper or manufacturer (who needs their freight moved) and the carrier (who can move that freight). The freight broker is legally allowed to represent both the carrier and the shipper at the same time, but they should never have a personal investment in either side.
Unlike a freight broker, a truck dispatcher is directly affiliated with a carrier and is consistently working on their behalf. Even if you are an independent freight dispatcher, you are still essentially an employee of whichever carrier you are currently working for and whenever you conduct negotiations with a freight broker, you do so on behalf of the carrier. Unlike brokers, freight dispatchers are not legally allowed to represent shippers or manufacturers.
A freight brokerage business is required to have freight broker authority through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and a freight broker bond (surety bond), among other requirements.
How to Become a Freight Dispatcher
People often wonder, “How do I become a semi-truck dispatcher?”
The answer to that question begins with a follow-up question: are you looking at becoming a truck dispatcher for another employer or as an independent business opportunity?
If you simply want to become a truck dispatcher for another company, then the process is much the same as it would be for finding any job. You can look on job boards to see if there are any open truck dispatcher positions that interest you, or you can approach individual carriers and express your interest in becoming a freight dispatcher. You can ask if they’d be willing to train you or if they can offer you some kind of entry level position.
Requirements will vary, but many employers will at least want a high school diploma or GED and some customer service experience. Many people are perfectly happy working as an employee of a single company rather than as an independent truck dispatcher.
However, things get even more interesting for those who view becoming a truck dispatcher as a business opportunity.
If you want to become an independent truck dispatcher, the first thing you need is education. People often think they can jump right into starting their own business, but the truth is that you need to start with training that focuses both on the basic information around truck dispatching and how to promote your company.
Once you have a grasp of truck dispatching and of how you want to operate your business, you can follow these steps to become an independent truck dispatcher:
Step One: Register Your Business
Starting out as a truck dispatcher begins with choosing your name and officially registering your business. When naming your business, the key is to be short and to the point. I recommend that you include terms like “independent dispatch” or “dispatching services” in your name so that it will be easier for people to find you. Having a clear name also means potential customers will know exactly what your business does when they come across it. Too many dispatchers use names like “trucking” or “logistics,” which don’t actually give any information on what their business does.
Once you have a name for your business, you need to apply for your Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the IRS and determine your business structure. Options include a sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC), corporation, or partnership.
We typically recommend applying for an LLC or Inc. structure.
You should also create drafts of some of the contracts that will be essential to your business function. That includes the service agreement, where you state what you are charging and what services you will provide for that fee, and the dispatcher-carrier agreement, which ensures the carrier’s insurance will protect you from liability if something outside of your control goes wrong with the freight you negotiated.
Having drafts of these documents ready means you’ll be able to start working for your partners faster.
Step Two: Establish an Online Presence
Establishing an effective online presence and marketing strategy means building a website and creating accounts across various social channels. Try to pick a website name that includes your business name but is short and easy to remember.
You can check to see if your desired domain name is available from sites like Wix and GoDaddy. You can even register your site with them as well.
Once you’ve registered your domain name, you can create a Facebook page with the same name for Facebook and Instagram advertising. You should also consider making a YouTube channel. With a YouTube channel, you can demonstrate your knowledge and build your authority with subscribers.
Most importantly, your website will help make the case as to why any potential clientele should do business with you.
There are five things you need to keep in mind when building a website:
The homepage: As soon as someone lands on your website, they should know what your business does and what you have to offer. Some people like to put a welcome message on their homepage and make users scroll to learn more, but if your message isn’t front and center, potential partners may leave your site before actually learning what you do. Your homepage should draw users in and make them want to learn more.
The sales pitch: This is where you go into greater detail on what exactly you do and how you stand out from the competition. By the end of your sales pitch, your prospective clients should be ready and excited to do business with you.
Be a likeable Business Owner: Independent truck dispatchers often like to hide themselves on their websites. However, if you’re the owner of a business, your face or at the very least your name should be front and center on the website. This creates a sense of connection for the prospective client and can help to build rapport. Trucking is all about personal connections and by having a likable business owner visible on your website, you are more likely to create those connections.
The value of your service: You want to make your prospective client feel like they’ll lose something if they leave your website. This again gets to the idea of your messaging and highlighting how you stand out from the competition.
The social proof: Your website should have some form of testimonial on it. If you’re a new independent dispatcher just starting out, you may not have any carriers who can recommend you yet. That’s okay! Even if all you can get are recommendations from friends, family and people you know in the industry, whether they are social media followers, mentors and teachers, that’s better than nothing and can help you seem more trustworthy to a potential clients.
Step Three: Get a Load Board Subscription
Working as a truck dispatcher means finding quality, relevant loads for your carriers. To do that, you’re going to need a subscription to a high-quality load board where you’ll be able to access thousands of freight listings from across the country. While there are some free load boards available, you really need to invest in a paid subscription board if you want to find quality freight for your carriers.
Be sure to find something to match your carriers’ needs.
Step Four: Start Making Connections
While load boards are a great way to find loads for carriers, real success in the trucking industry is all about making connections. You not only want to start finding carriers as soon as possible, you also want to make connections with shippers and brokers. A good place to start is with an online directory, like DAT Directory, Trucking Planet and Quick Transport Solutions that makes it easy to find any resource you could want. The directories we mentioned provides contact information so you can reach out to them and start making connections.
How to Find Carriers and Loads as a Freight Dispatcher
Once you have created your business, you need to start finding carriers and loads. When it comes to finding carriers and small trucking companies to work with, there are a few approaches you can take. These include:
Using a directory, like Trucking Planet and DAT Directory, lets you contact carriers and tell them about the services you’re providing.
Paid ads on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Google help you share your message with targeted audiences.
A factoring company can send emails to its contact list promoting your services. If a carrier is already working with a factoring company and finds itself in need of a truck dispatcher, seeing that email could be all you need to get a new client.
Facebook groups for carriers in the transportation industry can be a good place to promote your business for free. You can join and get your name out there by commenting or creating posts offering your independent truck dispatcher services.
Once you have carriers, it’s time to start finding loads. If you have a subscription to the load board of your choice, you can start using it to find loads right away. You can either post the trucks you have and let the system find a match, or you can perform a search. Just put in all the information about the truck you’re trying to get loaded including the type, any special features it may have, and the lanes, pick-up, and destination you are looking for.
With most subscription load boards, you can save your searches so you don’t have to reenter the information each time you search for loads for the same truck. You can even set alerts on your searches so that if there isn’t a perfectly matching load right now, you will be notified as soon as one is posted; Which shouldn’t take that long with hundreds of thousands of new loads being posted daily.
Once you find a load that matches your carrier's needs, you can begin negotiations with the broker.
How Do I Become a Successful Freight Dispatcher?
Running a successful freight dispatch business is hard work, but if you follow the steps we've provided you should be able to find resources that can help your business thrive.
Important tips for becoming a successful truck dispatcher.
Tip One: Find a Mentor
We firmly believe that a good mentor can be the key to a successful freight dispatch business. Our instructors all had a mentor when they started and now we all act as mentors for our students. In fact, the students who have had the greatest success scaling their freight dispatch companies are the ones who have made the most of having a mentor and have never feared reaching out whenever they have a question or problem.
No one is born knowing how to become a freight dispatcher; There is always a learning curve that leads to success.
Tip Two: Invest in Your Continued Education
Picking the right education resource is critical to success and The RBBS Logistics Learning Centers is a great resource. As you all will discover; This course goes beyond the basic facts of freight dispatching giving you the knowledge and insight you need to effectively implement those facts into your business.
The knowledge we provide on marketing and promoting is critical because you could be the best freight dispatcher in the world, but if no one knows about you, that achievement is useless.
Getting Started on your Freight Dispatching Business
If you want to learn more, you can check out our YouTube channel