Three levels

June 1, 2007
JUST AS the managers emphasize driver training at Miller Transporters Inc, they have established an extensive training program for their dispatchers,

JUST AS the managers emphasize driver training at Miller Transporters Inc, they have established an extensive training program for their dispatchers, said Ray Riley, safety director.

Riley shared some aspects of the dispatcher program at the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) Safety Seminar April 3-5 in New Orleans. Miller Transporters, based in Jackson, Mississippi, is the 2006 winner of the prestigious and coveted NTTC Outstanding Performance Trophy with an accident frequency of 0.300 per million miles.

The carrier divides the dispatcher program into three levels in which dispatchers receive the information in groups of five or six. The first two sessions are conducted in Jackson at company headquarters.

The first level includes a week-long session during which dispatchers get to know other people in the company, including the Miller family members who own the business, as well as their peers in dispatching. As the week progresses, the dispatchers are taken to lunch by personnel from the various company departments.

The camaraderie that develops during the sessions has proven to be an asset in employee relations. “We have seen almost immediate results in improved communication between the dispatchers and drivers and other company personnel,” Riley said.

Dispatchers learn about company history and safety philosophy. They also are introduced to incident root-cause analysis during the first level of training as part of the emphasis on safety.

In a following year, dispatchers take part in the second level of training, which continues to have a strong emphasis on safety. “We involve all of our people in the safety department in this part of the training,” Riley said.

Topics include hours-of-service rules, accident costs, hiring procedures, fatigue management, incident response, security issues, and harassment prevention.

“Safety at our company is a core value rather than a priority because we think priorities can change while safety is constant,” Riley said.

On the second day, personnel from the operations department conduct sessions, emphasizing rules and procedures. Billing and pricing information is presented on the fourth day while the fifth day is spent in program evaluation. Dispatchers take a tour of the maintenance and central dispatch operations.

“It's in this sequence that we begin to see some leaders evolve,” said Riley. “It's at this time that we see the ones who have the drive to succeed. People seem to be more willing to step up and say ‘I can handle that.’ For instance, one veteran dispatcher showed special aptitude, and we realized that we had overlooked some of his skills.”

By the time another year has passed, certain dispatchers have been invited to take part in the third and advanced level of the training. They attend a management program provided by Purdue University and typically are readied for promotion to other positions within the company.

The dispatcher program appears to have reduced the carrier's dispatcher turnover rate, which fell 10% in the first year following the program's inception. “We've also seen much more teamwork between the terminal employees,” said Riley.