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What Are They Thinking?

By on January 1, 2008

Sometimes it seems dispatchers reward certain drivers with the best routes and punish others. How are assignments determined?

The dispatcher’s goal is to minimize empty miles for drivers, says Dr. Peter Swan, assistant professor of Logistics and Operations Management at Pennsylvania State University. Larger carriers like J.B. Hunt use a computer program that looks six hours ahead and lets dispatchers know when a load needs to be picked up, who is going to be there, and if the driver is due for a rest or day off.

Central States Trucking in Bensenville, Ill., also uses a computerized dispatch system, but it’s not as sophisticated. “If something the computer decided doesn’t work for a driver, he tells us and we take care of it,” says President Doug Grane.

Dispatchers at smaller companies match routes to drivers. “They have to dole out a lot of bad news,” says Swan. “Sometimes truckers get ugly freight and bad loads and each dispatcher has his or her own way of deciding this.” Swan suggests building a good relationship with your dispatcher.

Why do some shippers ask to see my CDL? It displays my social security number, so I worry about identity theft.

“Shippers have the right to ask anything they wish,” says Clayton Boyce, vice president of public affairs at the American Trucking Associations. “There is no legal requirement that drivers must show their CDL to a shipper, but many do so voluntarily since 9/11.” If ID is requested and you refuse, the shipper might deny you the load.

Asking for identification happens more with certain types of loads like food or hazmat, says Frank Nolan, vice president of carrier services for Ameriquest in Cherry Hill, NJ. “Whether or not the shipper asks to see your CDL is strictly up to them and I doubt that it exposes drivers to identity theft more than any other situation would.” Concerned drivers should obtain another form of photo ID that doesn’t include their Social Security number.

What causes law enforcement to inspect a truck?

“We’re more likely to inspect if a driver does something that draws our attention,” says Inspector Rick Laberge of the Wisconsin State Patrol. Stopping at a weigh-in-motion scale when the sign clearly says to roll through is one giveaway. “The driver may be new or just nervous, but he could also be driving impaired with drugs or alcohol,” explains Laberge. If they have reason to suspect you’re overweight, that justifies inspection.

Lt. Ron Castleberry of the Florida State Patrol says a moving violation such as speeding or changing lanes abruptly could also provoke an inspection. If you’re in total compliance with both safety regulations and the law, there’s no reason to worry.

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