At first glance, it appears dispatching should be a no-brainer. You have an order that needs a vehicle and a driver. How hard can it be? Choose an available vehicle and driver and you're done. Right? Wrong!
There is much more involved to effective dispatching. It includes proper use of people and vehicles, adherence to DOT Hours of Service laws, choosing the best vehicle and driver for the job, and being able to look at the big picture to put together an entire puzzle for the day.
I ask my dispatchers to never tell any client we are sold out, even if we are. I might be able to rearrange some things or farm a job out to another company. I have a handful of people who have the knack for looking at the dispatch screen and moving everything around to make it work.
There are certain points where we have to consider that a day is really sold out because there are no options. An example would be prom night, and you know all your local subs are sold out too. Bringing vehicles in from out of town would exceed the value of doing so. Or, you have a road show taking up all the vehicles in town and a three-hour job can easily turn into an eight-hour job and you have no control.
In the best scenario, you drop off a passenger at the airport, and 30 minutes later you have an arrival at the same airport. You might drop off at a hotel and have a pickup at the same hotel an hour later. Those are perfect trips. Back-to-backs, as we call them. The ultimate is when you get a drop-off two or three hours out of town and you have passenger to bring home. You get to charge both clients full fare, reduce your payroll and fuel expense in half. These are the icing on the cake, the Holy Grail! In order for this to happen, the dispatcher must be keenly aware of every single pickup location and drop-off location on the shift and approximate times to be able to connect these dots for the big picture.
We had an advance reservation last Saturday for a 10 a.m. hotel pickup with a drop off at LAX. That's a two-and-a-half hour drive from us. That puts us arriving at LAX about 12:30 p.m. At 9:45 a.m. the same day, we had an order come in for a pick-up at LAX at 2 p.m. This was the ideal back-to-back situation. Hold the driver at LAX for an hour and a half and fetch the arriving passenger for a ride back (oddly enough to the same hotel). Bill both clients for five hours at about $300 a ride and make $600 gross revenue. Pay the driver for eight hours, buy one tank of gas, and both jobs cost you about $150 in hard costs.
Too bad the dispatcher was asleep at wheel and dispatched a second vehicle to the airport at 11 a.m. At least the two drivers were able to wave and smile at each other as they passed each other in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 405 freeway near Getty Center in Los Angeles.
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