Should I Become a Freight Dispatcher?
Freight dispatchers are employed by trucking companies to coordinate shipping operations with drivers, suppliers and receiving customers. They may work with company drivers or may coordinate with other carriers to find available drivers to cover loads of freight. A freight dispatcher schedules truck arrivals for product pickup and delivery and tracks the progress of transit to ensure on-time deliveries. Dispatchers also work with trucking company customers to record freight orders and resolve billing issues. These job duties demand strong skills in written and oral communication, multi-tasking, organization and customer service.
Mostly, dispatchers work in an office environment, though they may be required to help load or unload freight as needed. As such, you generally need to be physically fit and able to lift up to 50lbs, and the work is often more physically demanding than that of other dispatchers in other industries. But compared to other types of dispatchers, those in freight make some of the highest earnings. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that freight trucking dispatchers earned an average salary of $41,430 in May 2015. Are you interested in a career in freight dispatch? Let's look at the steps to take toward a career in this field.
Step 1: Earn an Associate's Degree
While a degree isn't usually required to become a freight dispatcher, many employers strongly prefer that candidates have at least an associate's degree. Employers don't typically list a preferred degree field, though degree programs in transportation, logistics or supply chain management are highly relevant to the industry. Curriculum coursework may include transportation and purchasing logistics, distribution management, import and export management and economics. Students also learn relevant computing skills, such as accounting spreadsheets and database fundamentals.
Step 2: Gain Industry Experience
Though an associate's degree teaches many skills required for a career as a freight dispatcher, many employers prefer one to three years of experience in transportation or customer service. Prospective freight dispatchers can gain relevant entry-level experience as a courier or as a customer service representative in a related field. Some companies also prefer that dispatchers have prior trucking experience, including knowledge of Department of Transportation (DOT) rules and safety regulations.
Here's a quick tip for success: Maintain a clean and healthy lifestyle. Since freight dispatchers and couriers work in a Department of Transportation-regulated industry, they're often subject to pre-employment drug screening and random on-the-job testing. Employees must pass these screenings to gain and maintain employment. Additionally, a healthy lifestyle will contribute to one's physical fitness, which is important for handling freight as needed.
Step 3: Consider a Bachelor's Degree
Many employers list a bachelor's degree as a preference in freight dispatcher job postings. In addition to strengthening a candidate's resume, a bachelor's degree can also be a good foundation for future career opportunities. Bachelor's degree programs in transportation or supply chain management include courses in advanced logistics issues, global logistics management, transportation and public policy issues, and traffic and transportation management.
You may find it beneficial to participate in an internship during your academic career. In addition to coursework, many colleges and universities offer internship opportunities. Freight internships provide students with real-world experience with cargo carriers and freight lines. Students may also make valuable networking contacts that can lead to employment after graduation.
Industry experience is the main requirement for a career as a freight dispatcher. An associate's or bachelor's degree in a related field may provide you with the knowledge and skills to improve job opportunities.