Psychology 409a - March 6, 2006
Demands of Dispatchers on Truck Drivers
By Aaron Kenna Reich

Peter Rothe, Editor (2002). Driving Lessons: Exploring Systems That Make Traffic Safer. (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press). pp. 142-159

Instructions for this activity are found at:
Instructor: Dr. Leon James

Outline for Chapter 10: Dispatchers and Drivers

I. Demands of the Dispatchers

  • Dispatchers for all kinds of truck drivers place very high demands on their drivers. These drivers drive for a living and need to be time-efficient and are expected to obey the dispatchers. It is both the dispatchers' demands on truckers and the truckers' response to dispatch commands that require attention for analysis of traffic safety.
  • Retaliation is commonly understood as a significant feature in the world of trucking. Truckers that complain of fatigue from long drives may end up being assigned even longer drives by the dispatcher the next time around. The efforts of the dispatchers are directly correlated with the profit and expenditure that are essential to maintaining their respective companies. Therefore, at times they are forced to push their drivers to go faster and farther to maximize profits. Dispatchers support safe driving in principle, yet it is common for dispatchers to encourage the truckers to compromise speed limits and traffic regulations.
  • Many dispatchers exercise their control over drivers in excessive and coercive ways. The good thing is that the severity of threats against truckers has lessened over the last couple of years. Further, there are some dispatchers who are compassionate to the needs of the truckers and have a kinder, gentler approach toward dispatching. However, this is not yet common. Some of the common punishments on truckers who oppose heavy demands include suspension, entry into personnel file, outright dismissal, loss of pay and loss of year-end bonus. Most dispatchers pressure truckers to complete a trip in a certain time, which demands that the truckers speed.
  • Despite all these obvious and clear pressures imposed on the truckers by the dispatchers, it is very seldom that the police investigate a dispatcher's role in a truck crash.
  • II. Bending the Laws

  • Unlike average civilian drivers, commercial drivers commonly believe that traffic laws and regulations are elastic and can be stretched or bent in order to meet their needs. To maximize profits, drivers will often travel for longer hours than specified by the law or carry freights that are over the weight limit. When these drivers are in a rush, the law and safety is often overlooked. Especially when there is a high demand of loads, the adherence to the laws and the importance of safety are minimized.
  • Many drivers cheat on their log books so they can drive more hours than they are legally allowed. Indeed, many drivers affirm that it is common trucker practice to cheat on log books. Some truckers keep two log books and make up the times they think appropriate. Many truckers will tell police officers they have lost their log book rather than show them a tampered log book because the penalty is less severe. Dispatchers support the notion of adjusting the logbook records yet stay silent when confronted about these issues.
  • Some dispatchers encourage drivers to avoid weigh stations along their travels. In the eyes of most dispatchers, it is best for the truckers to try to bring the load anyways. Most truckers accept the heavier loads because they know the dispatchers will just find another driver who will accept it.
  • Further research needs to be done that investigates the dispatchers that pull the strings of risk-taking truck drivers. In most cases, it is the pressures imposed on them by the dispatchers that causes them to drive the way they do.
  • III. Related Links

    1. Truck Driving Safety - This safety offers very technical advise to truck drivers for safe techniques on driving. There are numerous facts and what-to-do-if situations that seem very beneficial for truck drivers to know. The advice on these pages is mostly mechanical, but is benefical to road safety nonetheless.

    2. CRASH - Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways - This is a link to information from the Truck Safety Coalition. There is much up-to-date information about the laws and regulations for truck drivers and practical advice for safe operations. This link also provides information for non-truck drivers for driving safely around truckers. This web site is under construction, so please check back in the coming weeks for more information.

    3. Truck Safety - Preventing Accidents - This is similar to the first link in that it provides mostly mechanical tips on safe truck driving. However, there are some tips that deal with the cognitive and affective domains of the self in regards to making safe decisions while driving. At least, it is important to have sensorimotor skills as a truck driver.

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