Fleet Dispatching: What is It, Why It Matters, and How to Improve it

keyKey Takeaways:
  • Fleet dispatching is the process of organizing vehicles and drivers or technicians to accomplish delivery or service appointments.
  • A fleet dispatcher must ensure standardizing dispatch processes, embrace fleet dispatch technology, master organizational skills, and prioritize consistent communication with on-field personnel to optimize fleet dispatching.
  • Fleet dispatch software optimizes routes for your delivery or technician team to save transit time and fuel consumption. It also enables tracking your field staff to identify issues, address them, and ensure on-time deliveries and service request fulfillment.

Fleet dispatching serves as the linchpin of logistics and service industries that lays the foundation for seamless field service or delivery operations. While you may consider it merely dispatching vehicles and drivers to designated locations, it is much more than meets the eye. 

Fleet dispatching involves navigating intricacies such as routing, job scheduling, driver assignment, vehicle tracking, and load planning. It is no less than an art that takes time, experience, patience, and skills to master and has the potential to make or break your dispatch operations.

Therefore, businesses, especially field service or delivery-based, are pivoting their fleet management approach to stay competitive in the face of ever-evolving dispatching demands. 

This is the reason why the fleet management industry is growing by leaps and bounds.  

To your surprise, the global fleet management market size is estimated to reach $55.6 billion by 2028 at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 14.2%.

This blog discusses the concept of fleet dispatching, its importance, and what a fleet dispatcher does. It further enlists the effective strategies to increase your fleet efficiency and how dispatch software can help. 

So, let’s embark on the journey of exploring all you can about fleet dispatching.

What is Fleet Dispatching?

Fleet dispatching is the process of managing and coordinating a fleet of vehicles, such as trucks or cars, and the drivers or technicians who operate them.

This process is one of the crucial factors in transportation, logistics, or service industries. This is because it contributes to timely and reliable delivery and service request fulfillment indispensable for customer satisfaction. 

Here are the key components of fleet dispatch:

  • Route planning and optimization: It involves creating the most efficient routes for drivers or technicians while considering factors like traffic conditions, distances, and delivery priorities.
  • Job assignment: It consists of assigning jobs, including deliveries or service appointments to drivers or technicians, depending on factors like their location and capacity. 
  • Real-time monitoring: This entails tracking drivers or technicians in real time to ensure they are on their assigned routes and following predefined schedules. It may involve using GPS tracking and communication systems.
  • Communication: It includes maintaining regular communication with your on-field staff to get up-to-the-minute delivery or service updates and address issues proactively.

So, fleet dispatching involves managing a combination of human and non-human resources to achieve a great delivery experience or optimal service quality.  

Now that the meaning of fleet dispatching is clear, let’s understand what constitutes a delivery fleet.

What Constitutes a Delivery Fleet?

A delivery fleet is typically the backbone of a delivery or field service business. Its composition can vary based on your business-specific requirements. 

However, the three common elements that make up a delivery fleet are as follows.

1. Vehicles

Vehicles are pivotal to transporting goods or equipment and hence, form a crucial part of service or delivery logistics.

A fleet can consist of vehicles, including 

  • Trucks: These are the primary vehicles used in the transportation industry, especially in delivery businesses. Depending on your type and volume of goods, their size and capacity can vary. 
  • Vans: These offer greater flexibility while navigating urban areas and are more suitable for local deliveries or service operations.  
  • Bikes: In crowded neighborhoods where using vans may not be feasible, bikes can be a good alternative to delivering goods or fulfilling service appointments.

2. Field staff (delivery drivers/technicians)

Delivery drivers and technicians are the qualified and trained professionals employed to either deliver goods or handle service requests from clients. They are the people on the ground who serve clients. Your scale and volume of field operations determine your count of delivery drivers and technicians.

3. Fleet management software

A reliable fleet management system helps automate different dispatching facets like creating optimal routes, scheduling your in-field teams, and assigning routes to them. Providing you with complete control over your dispatching operations helps increase fleet dispatching efficiency.  

Moving ahead, let’s find out why fleet dispatching is important.

Why is Fleet Dispatching Significant?

Fleet dispatching forms the cornerstone of seamless delivery or on-field service operations. 

It enables you to: 

  • Ensure the optimal allocation of vehicles and on-field drivers or technicians to boost your operational efficiency and reduce delivery or service costs.
  • Optimize routes and achieve timely deliveries or service request fulfillment to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention rate.
  • Align deliveries or service appointments with your customers’ preferred time windows to minimize vehicle idling
  • Make swift route/schedule adjustments to tackle unprecedented events like road blockages, accidents, or vehicle breakdowns, ensuring adaptability and resilience.
  • Adhere to driving regulations with complete visibility into your drivers’ or technicians’ movements and behavior, promoting their safety and preventing penalties.

Following the role of fleet dispatching, the next section elaborates on the roles and responsibilities of a fleet dispatcher.

What Does a Fleet Dispatcher Do?

A fleet dispatcher primarily focuses on various areas, as follows.

1. Route planning & optimization

As a fleet dispatcher, you are responsible for route planning. It involves adding a list of stops and typically creating the shortest route to reach them. Further, you need to implement route optimization that helps optimize these routes as per different constraints, including drivers’ availability, shift patterns, and customers’ preferred time windows. 

These optimal routes not only reduce fuel consumption and travel time but also ensure timely deliveries or service request fulfillment aligning with customers’ preferences. It helps improve your service or delivery logistics management and elevate your customer experience.

2. Assigning vehicles and drivers/technicians

Assigning vehicles and drivers is another core area you should focus on as a fleet dispatcher.  It involves reviewing the routes you schedule and assessing factors, including delivery/service deadlines, vehicle capacity, and requisite skills. Based on these factors, you can assign a route and an appropriate vehicle to each driver.

It also entails leveraging historical data to evaluate individual drivers’ or technicians’ performance, interest areas, or familiarity with a region or customer. It helps you optimize your route assignment, achieve timely deliveries or service appointments, and increase operational efficiency.

3. Real-time tracking and communication

Your role as a fleet dispatch manager demands tracking your delivery drivers’ and technicians’ movements to stay informed of their progress. It involves leveraging technologies like GPS real time tracking to know their exact location and predict the estimated arrival time for the next stop more accurately. 

Another aspect is setting up proper communication channels to streamline interactions with your on-field staff and customers. For instance, if you reassign a route to another driver or technician or change the sequence of stops, establishing communication platforms to inform them is your job. Similarly, if you foresee any potential delivery or service delay, your duty is to inform your customers along with a detailed reason to maintain transparency and trust.

4. Vehicle management

Vehicle management involves overseeing the vehicles in your entire fleet used in delivery or service operations. Managing vehicles may require you to create vehicle maintenance schedules and ensure timely servicing to keep vehicles working optimally.  

Your vehicle management responsibilities may also include conducting regular vehicle inspections to ensure legal compliance with safety and environmental regulations. Last but not least, it involves managing vehicles’ life cycles by replacing aging vehicles, taking into account factors like maintenance costs, depreciation, and technological advancements.

5. Decision-making and problem-solving

It involves quick decision-making to address issues and minimize their impact on delivery or service appointments. Let’s say you get a call from a driver who reports a mechanical issue with their delivery truck. As a fleet dispatcher, you need to assess the situation and decide the course of action quickly. It may be assigning the scheduled delivery to another driver or sending the repair team to address the problem immediately.  

Another aspect is quick problem-solving capabilities to address sudden, unprecedented service or delivery logistics management problems. It also helps address internal conflicts, differences of opinion, queries, or concerns to keep everyone on the same page and foster collaboration.

Moving ahead, the next section enumerates the strategies that fleet dispatchers must follow to refine dispatching.

8 Proven Strategies to Elevate Your Dispatching Efficiency

While the exact approach to managing your fleet may vary based on your industry and specific dispatching requirements, you can follow these eight general practices.

1. Standardize your dispatch processes

To begin with, defining clear dispatch processes is important. Be it receiving orders, following service or delivery protocols, or managing customers’ expectations, you should document each step meticulously in your workflow. For instance, you can set detailed guidelines on how to prioritize time-sensitive deliveries, communicate unexpected delays, and tackle them. 

These well-defined guidelines for each step involved in dispatching help create a standardized framework for your team to follow. When everyone is aware of dispatching guidelines, it reduces the chances of confusion or errors, ensuring high consistency and efficiency.  

2. Refine your organizational skills and pay attention to detail

As a dispatcher, mastering your organizational skills and giving attention to detail are indispensable. You should make sure you handle multiple dispatching areas and processes efficiently and don’t end up overlooking something. Besides, developing attention to detail is crucial to increasing your dispatching processes’ effectiveness and reliability. 

For example, if you receive a delivery order, you must review it thoroughly and consider factors like size, weight, and applicable handling specifications. This attention to detail will help determine the right type of vehicle to deliver the order on time while preventing errors.

3. Train your drivers or technicians

Regular training sessions are crucial to keep your field staff competitive. For drivers, you can set up comprehensive training programs to help them learn about standard operational procedures and safety protocols. It paves the way to safer driving practices, minimizes accident risk, and hassle-free navigation in different road conditions. 

Similarly, training technicians involves making them aware of the latest industry trends, technological advancements, maintenance/repair procedures, and diagnostic tools. They can leverage this knowledge to resolve your customers’ issues quickly and enhance their service experience. It also cuts down the time each service appointment takes, increasing the number of stops covered and hence, overall fleet dispatch efficiency.

4. Emphasize constant communication and feedback

Ensuring constant communication is essential to know how your on-field team is progressing with field service operations (deliveries or service appointments). It also helps you prevent the chances of missing any crucial updates that may affect your overall delivery operations. So, you should define communication channels to stay in touch with your drivers or technicians and respond to their problems or queries quickly.

Another facet that you must focus on is regular feedback. Your drivers and technicians sometimes experience unique challenges and issues during deliveries or service appointments. They may have valuable insights gained from their on-field experience that may help improve your workflow. So, you should consider seeking their suggestions or ideas, evaluate them thoroughly, and incorporate the suitable ones to increase your fleet dispatching efficiency.

5. Set realistic expectations

In a bid to scale dispatch operations, you may end up overlooking the humane aspect and set unrealistic delivery or service targets. It leads to unwarranted strain on your field agents. If not checked, it may lead to exhaustion, fatigue, and a decline in their productivity.  

Therefore, ensuring you align your delivery or service appointment targets with reality is important. For that, you should evaluate your drivers’ or technicians’ skills, familiarity with a route or job, proficiency levels, and the complexity of the assignments. Accordingly, you can assign jobs that can tap into their maximum efficiency without overworking them.

6. Foster continuous improvement through learning

Staying abreast of evolving industry standards and technological advancements in the dispatching sector is vital to optimizing your fleet operations. So, you should seek opportunities for professional development. For that, you can participate in different training programs, attend industry seminars, and track the evolving trends.

Implementing the knowledge and insights you gain from it can help finetune your dispatch operations and elevate efficiency. You can also consider inviting feedback from your stakeholders, including seniors or colleagues, to identify your strengths and weaknesses that you can work on. Life-long learning coupled with working on feedback can enable you to excel at dispatching.

7. Embrace fleet dispatch technology 

Implementing a combination of advanced dispatch technologies can play a pivotal role in transforming your fleet efficiency. Consider computer-aided fleet dispatching software, for example. It is specialized software that can help you organize work orders and allocate delivery and service resources efficiently, improving dispatch operations. 
Another technology that you may consider is real-time GPS tracking. It lets you track the status of your deliveries or service appointments via a digital interface, eliminating the need for frequent call-ups. You can also use live tracking to determine and deliver the estimated times of arrival (ETAs) notifications to your customers via email or text. Nowadays, various route planners like Upper are equipped with GPS tracking to help you stay abreast of your fleet’s real-time progress.

Tired of Constantly Calling to Track Your Field Staff?

Say goodbye to outdated methods by adopting the Upper route planner, complete with GPS tracking. Integrate it now for instant insights into your field staff’s movements, proactive issue resolution, and optimized dispatch operations!

Moreover, you can integrate route optimization software with your fleet dispatching software. It enables you to create optimal routes based on traffic, delivery/service windows, and drivers’ or technicians’ availability.

8. Schedule deliveries and service appointments ahead of time

The success of a service or delivery dispatcher relies heavily on planning routes with multiple stops and scheduling them in advance. This is because it helps you identify staffing needs and whether you have sufficient drivers or technicians to meet your operational demand.

Besides staffing considerations, you may also need to allocate jobs involving specialized or heavy equipment carefully. For example, let’s say you work for a lawn care company. You may need to consider the availability of the equipment required, like a leaf blower or lawn mower, while scheduling jobs. 

Now that you have understood the best fleet dispatching tips, it is time to find out how fleet dispatch software can help you refine your strategies further.

How Can Fleet Dispatching Software Streamline Your Fleet Dispatch Management?

Service or delivery fleet dispatching software can prove to be beneficial for your dispatch management in several ways. Right from planning routes to scheduling drivers or tracking them in real time, this software can help you do it all. 

Here are the 8 main benefits it provides.

1. Helps create optimal routes

Planning routes manually for all the vehicles in your fleet can be challenging due to the complexity involved and the effort you have to put in. On the other hand, dispatch software leverages sophisticated routing algorithms to create the most optimal routes for your delivery drivers or technicians. It, in turn, helps decrease the field staff’s time on the road and maximize route efficiency as they can cover more stops in less time.

Let’s consider Wishlist Delivery, a food delivery business based in California. By integrating Upper’s route optimization software, it managed to add 250+ stops swiftly and create optimized routes effortlessly. It helped reduce the time spent on route planning by 83% and achieve timely deliveries to secure 15% gains in profit.

2. Enables advanced scheduling

Dispatch system software lets you import a list of addresses in your system and enter multiple drivers’ or technicians’ details, including start and end locations. You can further pick multiple drivers for each route schedule to let the software auto-assign addresses based on their start and end points.

It’s Time to Upgrade Your Scheduling Game, Dispatchers!

Embrace advanced route scheduling with Upper’s route planner. Simply import addresses, input your field agents’ details, and watch as the software efficiently schedules routes for your drivers and technicians well in advance!

You can also use it to archive some recurring routes for future reference and prevent the hassle of creating them every time. This automated planning and scheduling of routes lets you send precise ETAs, enabling seamless deliveries/pickups or service appointments.

3. Allows for real-time route or schedule adjustments

Being able to tackle unforeseen situations like traffic jams or bad weather that can hamper your pre-planned routes or schedules is essential for you as a fleet manager. A dispatch system notifies you immediately in case of any such issue. 

You can then act proactively to adjust the predefined route or schedule to avoid potential delays. It ensures most of your delivery orders and service appointments are on time. It not only helps enhance your customers’ service or delivery experience but also encourages them to reorder your products or services, boosting your repeat business.

4. Lets you accommodate breaks in your team’s schedules

Delivery drivers and technicians are also ultimately humans. So, it is imperative to schedule breaks in their delivery routes to avoid fatigue and exhaustion. Dispatch system software allows you to configure your drivers’ or technicians’ break hours and assign deliveries or service appointments accordingly. 

It helps you comply with labor laws regarding maximum legal working hours. It also prevents your drivers or technicians from getting overworked, jeopardizing their health and safety. Moreover, a rejuvenated and happy delivery or service agent is more likely to be productive, making it a win-win situation for both you and your team.

5. Tracks your drivers and technicians

Dispatch software comes with the feature of live tracking to track technicians’ or drivers’ locations and movements along their routes. It lets you know where they are and what their next stop is. 

You can also see the number of stops they have covered and whether they are on time or running late. Using this information, you can plan for incoming orders or service requests accordingly, adjust routes in case of any issues, and convey accurate ETAs to your customers.

6. Facilitates optimal load planning

Factoring in vehicle constraints like the maximum permissible number of boxes and volume is vital to optimize each vehicle’s payload capacity. Dispatch system software lets you set parameters for each shipment, like the maximum number of items, weight, and volume for your vehicles.

It can then auto-dispatch these vehicles on the routes that maximize their payload capacity utilization. It also helps maximize the number of pickups and deliveries on a route by optimizing the utilization of space in each delivery vehicle while avoiding overloading.

7. Ensures tracking of your fleet’s dispatch efficiency

Tracking and analyzing your fleet’s key performance indicators is pivotal to assessing how your fleet is performing. These metrics can include vehicle utilization, maintenance costs, downtime, route adherence, and on-time delivery or service appointment completion. 

They can further include monitoring missed and delivered stops per driver in a week or month. All these KPIs help gauge your fleet’s dispatching performance, identify the areas of improvement, and work on them to increase efficiency.

Stay Ahead of Your Fleet’s Performance with Advanced Reporting!

Explore Upper’s Reporting & Analytics feature to monitor the performance of every route your drivers or technicians undertake. Analyze daily task completion, delays, or missed assignments to gain insights into your fleet’s overall performance and make informed decisions to optimize efficiency.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some tips for optimizing fleet dispatch include standardizing your dispatch process, implementing route optimization, training your drivers/technicians, setting realistic expectations, and implementing advanced fleet dispatch management technology.

The challenges of fleet dispatch and last-mile delivery include technology-related challenges, driver resistance, and unprecedented events such as traffic, accidents, and weather conditions.

A fleet dispatcher’s job entails managing drivers and technicians, their hours of service, breaks, and vehicles’ maintenance schedules. It also involves creating routes for field agents to travel daily and monitoring their performance.

Fleet dispatching means sending delivery drivers and technicians on different routes based on order volumes and service requests.

Scheduling, coordinating, and managing vehicle drivers is called vehicle dispatching. In local deliveries, it may include coordinating the packing, vehicle loading, and delivery schedules as well.

Financing and purchasing vehicles is the first step. Fleet maintenance and compliance, accompanied by covering every aspect involved in transporting a product or service to the end customer, can be a part of the fleet process.

These are the essential features to look for: (1) GPS tracking, (2) Route optimization & scheduling, (3) Customer notifications, (4) Proof-of-delivery, (5) Mobility, and (6) Integration capabilities. Software like Upper provides an open API to allow seamless integration with any existing business systems.

The job of a fleet dispatcher entails the adaptability and agility to deal with ever-changing delivery and field service requirements and ensure fleet dispatch operations run smoothly. 

In the world of modern-day logistics, where meeting customer expectations is undeniably pivotal, managing your fleet manually is simply out of the question. So, it is high time you integrated a robust fleet dispatching system and transformed your dispatch efficiency.

Author Bio
Rakesh Patel
Rakesh Patel

Rakesh Patel, author of two defining books on reverse geotagging, is a trusted authority in routing and logistics. His innovative solutions at Upper Route Planner have simplified logistics for businesses across the board. A thought leader in the field, Rakesh's insights are shaping the future of modern-day logistics, making him your go-to expert for all things route optimization. Read more.