Truck dispatchers: the hidden gems of the supply chain

Early morning starts make it easier for dispatchers to organize everything before the day's chaos begins

Truck dispatcher Brian Smith prepares everything for his day at 4:17 a.m. before it gets hectic at Musket Transport in Mississauga. Anya Eland/Toronto Observer

As you stop by your favourite brunch spot, eat strawberries and sip on a mimosa, you’re probably not thinking about the chain of people involved in getting that food to your table.

Dispatchers are the hidden gems of the trucking industry. They’re the behind-the-scenes players who make sure truck drivers are delivering their loads at the right time to the right location. Without dispatchers, clients wouldn’t receive their products, and consumers like us wouldn’t receive our goods.

Brian Smith, 46, has been in the trucking industry for 30 years. He works for Musket Transport Ltd., a Mississauga-based trucking and logistics company. Smith is currently the dispatch manager for the U.S. and oversees the shipment of ocean containers. Toronto is also a large customer for Musket, which delivers citrus products to the Ontario Food Terminal — a major produce distribution centre for the Greater Toronto Area and large parts of Ontario.

“My father was in the trucking industry and I always wanted to follow in his footsteps,”

 – Brian Smith

Smith graduated from Mohawk College as an architectural technologist. Trucking wasn’t his first career choice but he always had a sentimental connection with it, he says.

“My father was in the trucking industry and I always wanted to follow in his footsteps,” says Smith. “I continued working in the trucking industry after being a student employee at 16.”

On this quiet rainy morning, Smith is diligently working alone in his shared office space to make sure everything is in order until the next wave of dispatchers come in around 6 a.m. He usually starts his day at 4 a.m. before anyone else arrives at the office because it gives him time to organize paperwork before distractions roll in. During the daytime, it can get extremely loud and hectic in the office with drivers and clients calling dispatchers for assistance.

“It’s always going and it’s important for me to come in early, because I just want to get set up for all my guys, prior to them getting awake and on the road,” he says. “Trucking is a 24/7 business.”

The fast-paced industry makes organization a priority since anything can go wrong; drivers can experience delays because of traffic, changes in orders and loads.

“The most challenging (thing) is not having the support staff in early,” says Smith. “The dispatcher has to learn to deal with any situation that comes up.”

In Canada, the transportation industry represents 4.7 per cent of Canada’s GDP and the trucking industry is the biggest in freight transportation. In 2016, Canada’s trucking industry generated revenues of $37.9-billion involving 61 million shipments.

There are about 268,000 truckers in Canada with an average age of 53. The industry faces a shortage of drivers, with fewer young people entering the business. According to a study commissioned by the Canadian Trucking Alliance, the industry will be short 48,000 drivers by 2024.

Krys Labanowicz, 48, a truck driver for 24 years, delivers goods between Canada and the east coast of the United States.

“Dealing with truck dispatchers, I have had the pleasure to work with professional people,” says Labanowicz. “Our dispatchers are respectful and they understand that we are a team.”

“In order for the driver to deliver the load on time to a customer, the dispatch has to make sure everything is ready, especially the paperwork.”

Despite the multitude of responsibilities and the 11-to-12 hour work days, Smith says he enjoys his job as a truck dispatcher.

“The most rewarding part would be knowing I’m helping in the supply chain in the world,” says Smith. “My job is important to get products on the store shelves.”

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Posted: Jun 10 2019 12:24 pm
Filed under: Features Toronto at 4 a.m.