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Self-Dispatching for Owner-Operators: A Simple Guide

As an owner-operator in the trucking industry, managing your own dispatch can be a daunting task. However, with the right skills and tools, you can take control of your operations and increase your profitability. In this guide, we will walk you through the process of self-dispatching, highlighting the key points, challenges, and strategies for success.

What is Self-Dispatching?

Self-dispatching is the process of finding and booking your own loads, rather than relying on a third-party dispatcher. This approach allows you to maintain control over your operations, negotiate better rates, and streamline your communications with brokers and shippers.

Benefits of Owner-Operator Dispatching

Control Over Your Business

By self-dispatching, you maintain complete control over your operations. This autonomy allows you to make strategic decisions that align with your business goals and preferences, such as choosing loads, routes, and schedules that best fit your needs.

Cost Savings

One of the most tangible benefits of self-dispatching is the reduction in costs associated with dispatch services. Typically, dispatchers charge about 5% of the total invoice value or a fixed weekly fee that can exceed $1,000 per month per truck. By managing dispatch yourself, you can save these fees, directly increasing your profit margins.

Direct Relationships

Dispatching your own truck, enables you to build direct relationships with brokers, shippers, and other stakeholders in the logistics chain, which can lead to better rates and more favorable terms.

Faster Operations

Handling your own dispatch means you can manage and streamline communications and operations without the need for intermediaries, resulting in quicker turnaround times for booking loads.

Tailored Choices

You can select loads that precisely match your preferred routes, cargo types, and schedules, allowing for a more personalized and efficient working experience.

Enhanced Knowledge and Skills

Owner operator dispatching requires you to be knowledgeable about market rates, negotiation, regulations, and more, which enhances your skills and understanding of the industry

Increased Job Satisfaction

Having control over every aspect of your business can greatly increase your job satisfaction, making your work more fulfilling and enjoyable.

Additional Responsibilities in Self-Dispatching

Finding and Booking Loads

As an owner-operator, your first task is to identify and secure loads that match your equipment type and driving preferences. It's crucial to explore various sources to expand your options, which enhances your chances of finding the most suitable and profitable loads.

Negotiation

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Scheduling and Routing

Efficiently managing your schedule is crucial. You'll need to coordinate your pickups and deliveries meticulously, ensuring that you select the most effective routes for both time and fuel economy.

Stakeholder Communications

Regular interaction with key stakeholders, including freight brokers, and the contact points at shipper and receiver locations, will be part of your daily routine. Maintaining clear and continuous communication is vital for smooth operations and to address any issues promptly.

Paperwork Management

Handling all related documentation is a significant responsibility. This includes managing all paperwork from the point of booking a load to post-delivery processes. Ensuring accuracy and timeliness in your paperwork will help prevent delays and possible legal complications.

Compliance

Adhering to transportation regulations and safety standards is non-negotiable. This includes managing hours of service diligently and securing necessary permits related to the loads

Tools and Resources Needed to Dispatch Own Trucks

Self-dispatching can be a rewarding but challenging process. Here are some essential tools and resources you'll need to manage your dispatch operations successfully:

Dispatching Skills and Practice

Acquiring the right skills is crucial for efficient dispatch management. Consider taking online courses that cover essential topics such as using load boards, document management, understanding freight rates, and mastering negotiation techniques. These courses typically cost between $200 and $500 and are a worthwhile investment in your operational success.

Access to Load Boards

Load boards are critical tools for finding freight and planning loads. Popular load boards include DAT, Truckstop, and 123Loadboards. We particularly recommend DAT Power, which is renowned for its comprehensive listings and reliability. It is one of the oldest and most frequently used load boards in the industry.

Smartphone or Tablet

A smartphone with at least a 6-inch screen or a tablet is essential for accessing apps and documents on the go.

Mobile Number

It's advisable to use a dedicated mobile number for your trucking operations to handle the high volume of calls typical in dispatching. This can be either an alternative number or a business-specific number, which helps in maintaining professional boundaries and organization.

Email ID

Set up a separate email address for your trucking business to maintain professionalism and ensure that all communication with brokers, shippers, and other stakeholders is streamlined and organized.

Bluetooth Headset

A good quality Bluetooth headset is indispensable for managing calls safely while driving.

Strategies for Finding Loads

Finding lucrative and reliable loads is one of the main responsibilities  and a common challenge for new self-dispatching owner-operators. Here are several strategies to help you locate loads that meet your business needs:

Use Load Boards

Load boards are invaluable tools for finding loads. Platforms like DAT Power offer a vast array of load options with detailed information about rates, locations, and shipper/broker credit ratings. This makes it easier to find loads that match your equipment and preferred routes.

Network with Other Truckers

 Leverage the experience and connections of your fellow truckers. Asking for advice or leads from friends in the industry can uncover opportunities that are not advertised on mainstream platforms. This community-based approach can also provide insights into which brokers and shippers are reliable and easy to work with.

Build Relationships with Brokers

Establishing a strong professional relationship with freight brokers can be highly beneficial. By consistently delivering loads on time and maintaining a professional demeanor, you can become a preferred carrier for a broker. This often leads to more frequent load offers and the possibility of negotiating better rates.

Attend Industry Events

Participating in trucking industry events, conferences, and seminars is another excellent way to network and connect with potential load providers. These events are also great for staying updated on industry trends and best practices.

Use Social Media and Online Forums

Join trucking forums, social media groups, and online communities. These platforms can be great resources for tips on finding loads and for connecting directly with shippers who are looking for reliable transport services.

Direct Contact with Shippers

As you gain more experience, consider reaching out directly to shippers in industries that you're interested in serving. Establishing a direct line of communication with shippers can lead to more stable and profitable load arrangements without the need for intermediary brokers.

Local Business Outreach

Don’t overlook the potential of local businesses in your area that might need shipping services. A direct partnership with local producers and manufacturers can secure consistent loads and reduce the need to travel far for pickups.

Load Booking Process

Booking loads in the trucking industry can be likened to planning a strategic road trip. It involves several critical steps to ensure profitability and operational efficiency. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the process:

  • Finding the Right Loads: Start by identifying loads that match your specific requirements, such as type of cargo, preferred routes, and schedule compatibility. Utilize load boards, direct shipper contacts, and freight brokers to find the best opportunities.
  • Gathering Load Details: Once a potential load is identified, contact the brokers or shippers directly to gather all necessary details about the load. This includes destination, cargo type, weight, pickup and delivery windows, and any special handling requirements.
  • Negotiation: Negotiate the terms and rates of the load. This step is crucial to ensure that the load is profitable and meets your operational costs. Discuss rates, payment terms, and any detention or layover fees to avoid future disputes.
  • Completing Booking Paperwork: Fill out and confirm all necessary paperwork required to book the load. This typically includes rate confirmations, bills of lading, and any other contractual documents.
  • Confirming the Load: Formally accept the load by signing the necessary agreements and confirming the pickup and delivery schedule with the broker or shipper.
  • Load Pickup: Proceed to the pickup location, ensure that the cargo matches the documents, and adhere to all safety and handling protocols during loading.
  • Delivering the Load: Transport the cargo to the specified delivery location on time. Maintain communication with the broker or shipper regarding any changes or delays during transit.
  • Submitting Paperwork for Payment: After delivery, submit all required paperwork, including proof of delivery, to the broker, shipper, or a factoring company if you're using one to expedite payment processing.
  • Finding the Next Load: While en route or shortly after delivery, begin the process of finding your next load to minimize downtime and maximize earnings. Continually monitoring load boards and maintaining communication with your contacts can help streamline this process.

Remember, you need to act fast and book loads. You’ll need to call up all the brokers while you’re parked or resting. If you’re working with a broker for the first time, you’ll need to set up quickly. They’ll send you a broker packet, fill that out, and send it back to the brokers.

Understanding Your Rate Per Mile (RPM)

Rate Per Mile (RPM) is a critical metric in the trucking industry that measures how much you earn for every mile you drive. A higher RPM means more revenue, which is essential for covering operating costs such as fuel, salaries, insurance, and maintenance.

RPM

RPM = Rate of Load/(Deadhead Miles + Loaded Miles)

Rate of Load

Rate of Load = This is the payment offered by the freight broker for transporting the load.

Deadhead Miles

Deadhead Miles = These are the miles you travel to reach the pickup point.

Loaded Miles

Loaded Miles = These are the miles from the pickup point to the delivery destination.

Before booking a load, consider the following:

1. Current Market/Lane RPM:

Tools like DAT Power load boards can provide real-time data on the RPM for specific markets or lanes. This information is crucial for understanding what rates are competitive.

2. Your expected RPM

To determine your target RPM, consider using a monthly average calculation which incorporates all loads you've transported up to the current time. Freight rates can vary significantly, often with higher RPM on some routes and lower on others; averaging these can help you set realistic expectations and goals.

Maximizing Your RPM

  • Research: Stay informed about the going rates in your lanes by regularly consulting load boards and industry reports.
  • Negotiation: Sharpen your negotiation skills to secure better rates from brokers or shippers. Understanding the market and your operational costs is key to effective bargaining.
  • Efficiency: Optimize your routes to minimize deadhead miles and maximize loaded miles. Efficient routing reduces fuel and time waste, thereby increasing your RPM.
By mastering these elements, you can enhance your RPM, ensuring that each mile you drive is as profitable as possible. This strategic approach not only helps in managing current operations efficiently but also aids in planning for future growth and sustainability in the competitive trucking industry.

1. Time Management for Owner Operator Dispatching

Effective time management is crucial for successful self-dispatching. Here are some tips that can help:

  1. Plan Ahead: Try to plan your loads and routes a few days in advance. This can help you avoid last-minute scrambles for loads and allow you to optimize your routes.
  2. Leverage Technology: Use dispatching software and apps to streamline your operations. These tools can help you find loads, plan routes, and manage paperwork more efficiently.
  3. Set a Schedule: Allocate specific times of the day for dispatching tasks like finding loads and negotiating rates. Stick to this schedule as much as possible.
  4. Prioritize Tasks: Not all tasks are equally important. Identify your most critical tasks and tackle those first.
  5. Avoid Multitasking: While it might seem like you’re getting more done, multitasking can lead to mistakes and inefficiencies. Focus on one task at a time.
  6. Take Breaks: It’s important to take regular breaks to avoid burnout. Short breaks can help improve focus and productivity.
  7. Continuous Learning: Stay updated with industry trends and best practices. This can help you find more efficient ways to manage your time and business.

Remember, effective time management is a skill that develops over time. Be patient with yourself and continuously look for ways to improve.

2. Optimizing Your Trucking Routes

Optimizing your trucking routes is a key aspect of efficient logistics management. Here are some strategies to help you optimize your routes:

  1. Use Route Planning Software: Sophisticated route planning software uses algorithms to analyze data and generate optimized routes based on various parameters such as vehicle capacity, traffic conditions, and delivery schedules.
  2. Gather Relevant Data: Collect data on road networks, traffic patterns, and potential obstacles. This information can help you choose the most efficient routes.
  3. Use Advanced Technologies: Leverage technologies like machine learning, AI algorithms, and geospatial analytics to analyze large volumes of data and make more accurate predictions.
  4. Consider Vehicle Type: The type of vehicle you're driving can impact your route. For example, trucks may need to avoid certain roads due to weight restrictions or low bridges.
  5. Track Your Time: Keep track of your hours to manage your workload and comply with official regulations for long-haul trucking. Your existing ELD devices will be useful in this aspect.
  6. Monitor Your Vehicles: Telematics systems monitor your vehicles in real-time. This allows you to adjust routes as needed.

Remember, route optimization is a continuous process. Regularly review your routes and adjust as needed to ensure maximum efficiency. Happy trucking!

3. Challenges of Self-Dispatching

Own truck dispatching, while offering many advantages, does come with its own set of challenges. Here are some potential disadvantages:

  1. Time-consuming: Self-dispatching can be a time-consuming process. It involves constantly searching for loads, negotiating rates, and managing paperwork. Constant monitoring is required as Loads are short-lived.
  2. Requires additional skills: As a self-dispatcher, you’re not just driving, but also dealing with operations. This means you need to have or develop skills like negotiation, financial management, and decision-making.
  3. Paperwork Management: Handling all related documentation is a significant responsibility. This includes managing all paperwork from the point of booking a load to post-delivery processes.
  4. Building relationships: When you’re starting out, it can be tough to build relationships with brokers and shippers. It takes time to establish trust and reliability.
  5. Regulatory compliance: As an owner-operator, you’re responsible for ensuring that all your operations comply with transport and safety regulations. This can be complex and requires a good understanding of the laws and regulations

Remember, dispatching is a tough nut to crack if you don’t understand the market. But once you self-dispatch your first few loads, you’ll get the hang of it. Try to learn from dispatch courses available on the internet. We even have a free dispatch boot camp for new owner-operators who want to learn dispatch. Happy trucking! 

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