Any business, regardless of size, requires a well-structured chain of command to succeed. Without a proper hierarchy, the result is oftentimes chaos, especially during an emergency or in a tough business environment.
The chain of command in a trucking company corresponds to the level of authority necessary to complete the tasks within the organization. This begins with the business owner and then goes down the chain to the truckers, who are the carrier’s front line.
The chain of command policy establishes a motor carrier’s hierarchy. Employees need to know who they report to and what their responsibilities are.
As the business owner, you occupy the top position in the company’s command structure. The operations director, safety director, and sales director report directly to you. Supervisors report to their respective directors (also known as department heads).
For example, the fleet supervisor, who reports to the operations director, supervises the driver managers and dispatchers. They, in turn, manage the company’s truck drivers.
Each company establishes its own organizational structure based on size and needs, i.e., the chain of command. For an organization to function and to avoid chaos, all employees must recognize the structure of the company’s hierarchy when following a chain of command.
How does the chain of command work?
Each person is responsible for a specific area of the carrier’s business.
As an example, the fleet supervisor finds the next load; develops the instructions for that load; and then sends that information to the driver manager, who determines which truck is assigned the load. He or she also puts money on the driver’s fuel card.
The driver manager then sends it to the dispatcher, who communicates to the truck driver the details pertaining to load pickup and delivery.
Upper management employees establish the high-level direction the company takes. And they do this through executive communication with you, the company’s owner, or a general manager.
Creating efficiency through a chain of command
By establishing a strong chain of command, you’ll create more efficiency when reporting problems or communicating with employees or contract truckers.
For example, drivers must report any and all problems to the dispatcher. If a driver’s truck has a tire blowout, the dispatcher arranges for a tire repair truck. If there’s a pickup or delivery delay, the dispatcher is the first to be called.
Escalation to the next management level or higher should only occur if the situation is unusual, or far more serious, i.e., if the blowout caused the truck to be in an accident or in a dangerous situation that could have disastrous results.
These are the only times you, the owner, need to be notified at the time of the incident or directly involved in its resolution. The dispatcher would then generate a report of the tire blowout, which would be filed and then scrutinized by the others above in the chain of command at a weekly or monthly business and incident review meeting.
The art of management
Carefully screen the employees to whom you’re going to delegate the authority to make crucial decisions for your company.
Delegate the day-to-day tasks and supervisory responsibilities to trusted employees. Not delegating authority is a sure way to stagnate the growth of your company.
As the carrier grows, the more ‘hats’ (delegated responsibilities) you can put on other heads, the more easily and quickly you’ll grow your small trucking company to a larger, more prosperous one.
Keep it simple
Think simplicity when developing your company’s chain of command. If it’s too complicated, employees and contractors may ignore the chain of command, and that may affect the morale of supervisors and managers.
On the other hand, if the chain of command is too complex that it only serves to isolate you from direct contact with employees, morale will suffer. Look to strike a balance between the two.
Trucking companies without a clear chain of command create an atmosphere of chaos, which then generates uncertainty and can lead to low morale.
Poor morale can lead to higher driver and employee turnover, which lowers productivity and revenue. And the constant cost of having to hire replacements for those who have quit impacts a carrier’s bottom line.
Build a good chain of command based on responsibilities and abilities—then delegate. It’s your high road to success.