Dispatch Software: ITS Evaluation Guide

Dispatch software, sometimes known as Day of Operations software, was initially developed to make the lives of depot staff easier. The software allows dispatch staff to assign work in the form of driver duties, to match vehicles with drivers and then manage the days’ workflow.

This software helps coordinate vehicle replacement due to accidents or breakdowns and driver replacement due to leave and illness. The latest systems allow total management of vehicles and drivers. Vehicle management has evolved from capturing basic data like chassis information and licencing, to managing and scheduling vehicle maintenance, and storing complete maintenance records.

The tight integration between workshop and maintenance systems allows depot staff to see which vehicles are available, look at their repair status, and quickly identify scheduled and unplanned maintenance. These systems also allow drivers to log maintenance issues when they arise.

Dispatch software makes use of a roster for drivers and can either import a roster from the planning software and then attach driver’s names to the various rosters or has the tools to build its own roster from the planned shifts. Many of these software packages now allow for self-management by drivers, making use of kiosks and mobile apps on smartphones. Drivers can book holidays, notify the depot if they are ill, and select the work assignments they want to do. More advanced systems allow drivers to ‘bid’ for their preferred work assignments.

Systems like these allow for the easy reporting of total worked time by integrating with payroll systems or an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution. This dramatically simplifies the financial management and accounting system for operators. Systems can also integrate with other ITS elements, such as using the driver identity on the ticketing system to automatically sign into allocated work on the Automatic Vehicle Location and Control (AVLC) system.


Dispatch software benefits include:

Legal compliance with workplace agreements and legislated requirements. By monitoring driver hours, the system ensures that drivers and operators comply with workplace agreements and do not exceed legislated driving requirements. Working long shifts with inadequate breaks causes fatigue that results in more accidents. Drivers also need a work/life balance, so better scheduled and managed shifts improve this and lead to well-rested drivers who are more alert. Drivers are safer, and operators have confidence they are not inadvertently breaking the law.

Better communication. An operational public transport environment is extremely busy. Key messages can be missed or distorted. With a comprehensive driver management system, everyone receives the same message. There are valuable and auditable records of what was sent and received, when it was read, and any responses.

Easier vehicle and fleet management. Vehicle management, including knowing those not available due to breakdown, repairs, or maintenance, is one of the most significant issues for operational teams. Streamlining this can make operations smoother, with staff knowing what resources are available to run services, with maintenance teams aware of upcoming work. Not only are efficiencies improved, but greater visibility means less stress for depot staff.

Evaluation Guide

When assessing dispatch software, the following questions should be asked:

  1. What level of driver management do you need? Will staff self-manage?
    Allowing drivers to manage themselves significantly reduces the amount of administration time required. While self-management requires initial training, long-term benefits for employees and the organisation are significant compared to existing manual systems. Ensure the system you assess has options for mobile applications or kiosks to allow staff to access the system anywhere.
  2. Will the system integrate with existing payroll systems?
    Not all systems integrate automatically. There are many payroll systems, and it is not possible to integrate with all of them automatically. Make sure the system you choose can integrate with your payroll system or has its own integrated payroll solution.
    The dispatch system needs to integrate with operations, human resources, and payroll to provide up-to-date employee and roster data and ensure compliance with workplace agreements and legislative requirements. It also needs to calculate complex allowances and leave payments accurately. Modern ERP solutions for the transit sector exist that natively integrate all of these functions including Roster, Dispatch and Payroll which provide for superior levels of automation and efficiency. Where the dispatch system is also used for vehicle management, make sure the system has the necessary financial interfaces for providing information to the maintenance and stock control systems.
  3. Does it have an integrated rostering function?
    Driver rosters are often complex, with changes needing to be integrated into operations on the day – both at the depot and potentially along the route. When assessing a rostering function, make sure the system provides a view of driver relief times and provides alerts if a rostered driver has not signed in on time. The system should also provide a list of available drivers on standby.
  4. Does it have a driver management function?
    Most dispatch software lets you see an overview of future driver assignments and how illness, holidays, and other events impact the planned roster. The system should provide a clear view of issues and suggest actions to address them. This should not just be for the day of operation but to plan future days – particularly where additional standby drivers are needed for special events.
  5. Are drivers and vehicles automatically assigned?
    Automatic vehicle assignment to driver shifts saves a significant amount of time and effort for your dispatch staff. Sophisticated automatic assignment and dispatch are based on the vehicle’s depot (yard) location, the vehicle’s maintenance requirements, and route requirements. This allocation should flow seamlessly into the Automatic Vehicle Location and Control (AVLC) system to automate driver sign-in to their duty and the vehicle block.
  6. Does it feedback from real-time systems?
    Real-time systems track the live location of vehicles, their timetable deviation, and any issues. Ensure the dispatch system receives information from the AVLC system to inform the driver and dispatch staff of problems and allow mitigation strategies to be activated.
  7. Does the system track driver hours and workplace agreements or legislation?
    Workplace agreements vary between countries, provinces, cities, and even between depots. Your system must support all workplace agreements and track driver hours against them. This helps meet workplace agreements or legislative requirements and helps avoid overworking drivers, ensuring a work/life balance. Operators can use the system as a cost management tool to manage planned or budgeted hours and overtime.
  8. Does your dispatch software integrate with your workshop and maintenance system?
    Integration between your workshop and maintenance system makes it easy to know which vehicles are available and those undergoing repairs and scheduled maintenance. It also allows drivers or dispatch staff to log issues at the end of the shift easily. Maintenance teams can then address faults, while management has a complete overview of current faults and issues. Integration can be to your existing workshop system or natively as modern transport specific ERPs offer Dispatch, Workshop and Maintenance functions combined with Workforce Management features. Automated data flows between modules ensure sovereignty and accuracy of all fleet records and data.
  9. Does your dispatch system integrate with your fuel bowser system?
    Managing and reconciling fuel use can be a time-consuming activity. To manage one of your major cost items effectively, make sure your dispatch system integrates with your fuel bowser system. This allows the automatic reconciliation of fuel use and the calculation of fuel efficiency per vehicle. It reduces staff workload and allows for the easy identification of anomalies like excess fuel consumption, which usually indicates theft or misuse.
  10. Does the system synchronise your vehicles, drivers, and maintenance across the business?
    Synchronising your vehicles, drivers, leave allocations, and maintenance across multiple business sites significantly improves your operations. This ensures every staff member has a clear overview of their part of the business. Having an integrated system that harmonises this information while providing automatic alerts when an issue arises, for example, a shortage of vehicles or drivers, can make operations easier.

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Andrew Shaw

ITS Project Manager, Trapeze Group

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