Responsibilities

The dispatcher oath:

I will work my best to ensure all passengers arrive at their destination on time.

Dispatchers have many jobs, but above all else, its most important to get the passenger to their appointment on time. Additional responsibilities include:

  • Efficient vehicle usage — Utilize the fewest vehicles required to get all passengers to their destination on time. This conserves costs, as well as allows for additional capacity for adhoc and will-call trips later in the day.
  • Schedule shortest routes — Passengers prefer getting to where they need to go quickly. Their route should be the shortest route possible, within reason.
  • Communicate — Dispatchers will be in constant communication with all members of the team (drivers and operations managers), as well as external parties such as passengers. Dispatchers must communicate the status of trips, special requirements for the trips, and be able to get a lost driver back on track.

Scheduling Theory

Schedules are typically created a day or more in advance. For example, you may start scheduling Wednesdays trips on Monday. The best schedules meet many criteria.

Requirements for a schedule

  • All passengers arrive or depart their appointments on time.
  • Drivers have adequate drive time between dropping off one passenger and picking up the next. Don't forget to consider traffic and load/unload time too.
  • Vehicles must be capable of carrying the passenger they are picking up. For example, if a passenger has a wheelchair, the vehicle must have a wheelchair lift.

Schedules should also...

  • Utilize the fewest number of vehicles. By giving all trips in a small region to a single driver, that driver can be more efficient servicing those passengers, than if he was having to drive across multiple regions.
  • Include breaks for the driver, as required by company policy and/or local laws.

Scheduling Board

The scheduling board is the heart of DispatchBot. This is where you will create schedules and dispatch from. We will focus on the scheduling aspects right now.

As trips are created, they will show as unscheduled, on the left. We call this area of the board, the unscheduled queue.

Each column represents a vehicle. We will drag and drop trips onto these columns in order to schedule the trips.

Each row represents a block of time. The board will show from midnight at the start of the current day, to midnight at the end of the current day.

Queue Mode

Enabling the queue mode of the scheduler board will allow you to more easily schedule your trips. In this mode, DispatchBot will automatically set the pick up and drop off time based on the passengers requested time and the estimated driving time.

Additionally, when using the queue mode, trips will stack on top of each other, like a list. Earlier trips will appear higher up on the stack. This display lets you easily see the sequence of trips the driver will be performing.

Note: It is not required to use queue mode to schedule your trips. You may just as well use the scheduler mode if you prefer.

Scheduling Trips

To schedule one of these trips, we drag it from the unscheduled queue and drop it onto the vehicle we want to assign it to.

DispatchBot will automatically set the pick up and drop off time based on the passengers requested time and the estimated driving time.

The trip will be colored red, indicating that it's status is Scheduled. We will go over trip coloring more when we discuss the dispatching.

The passengers name, mobility aids, and pick up and drop off time will be visible on the trip. Hovering your mouse over the trip will reveal additional information.

Pro tip! At the bottom of this dialog is a link to view the driving directions of the trip. Next to this link is a quick view of the estimated drive time and distance.

If you need to adjust the pick up or drop off time, click one of the times on the trip. This will bring up a dialog window, allowing you to adjust the times as needed.

Monitoring On-time Performance (OTP)

The dispatcher oath:

I will work my best to ensure all passengers arrive at their destination on time.

DispatchBot will automatically alert you when a trip is not meeting on-time performance (OTP). OTP is when a driver picks up the passenger too late/early or drops the passenger off to late/early.

Trips not meeting OTP will display with a bell icon. When hovering over the trip, the dialog will indicate how many minutes late the trip is running. Adjust the trip's pick up or drop off time until the trip satisfies all OTP requirements.

You can customize OTP thresholds in the general settings of your account.

Vehicle Capacity

DispatchBot will automatically alert you if you over-book a vehicle by highlighting the tour header in red. Hovering over the warning icon will give a tip on when the vehicle is over capacity and why.

DispatchBot can check mobility aid capacities as well. For example, if your van can hold 5 passengers, but only 3 wheelchair passengers, DispatchBot will alert you if you try to schedule 4 wheelchair passengers.

You can adjust the vehicle capacity by editing the vehicle (More -> Vehicles). Mobility aid capacities can be configured directly on the vehicle page. The vehicle total capacity is set when editing the vehicle.

Scheduling Efficiently

The most important rule when scheduling is to get the passenger to their appointment on time. The second most important rule is to make efficient use of the vehicles. Drivers should not be driving back and forth between cities.

DispatchBot makes this easy with Heatmaps. Heatmaps allow you to define geographic regions and assign a color to that region. The Scheduler Board can color code trips by these regions, thus making it very easy for a dispatcher to visually detect when a drivers schedule is inefficient.

Setting up your Heatmaps

To get started with this feature, go to More -> Heatmaps, and create a new heatmap. When creating a heatmap, you are asked to provide a location for the center of the region. You should enter a cross street as this will yield best results. For example, 7th and Stewart St, Seattle, WA. In this example, any trips within a 5 mile radius of this intersection will belong to this heatmap, unless there is a closer heatmap.

Pro tip! You can combine multiple heatmaps to form larger geographical regions. Simply create multiple heatmaps, and give each the same color.

Create as many heatmaps as you desire. There are no limits. You can always adjust your heatmaps later too.

Enabling Heatmaps

On the Scheduler, select the 'Color trips by geography' option. This tells DispatchBot to color-code trips using your heatmaps.

The gradient of the trip shows what colored region the trip starts in, versus what colored region it ends in. A good schedule will transition the same color into the next between trips. So if trip A ends in the green region, trip B should start in the green region.

Also note that trips in the unscheduled queue will show the region color to the left of their address.

Scheduling Drivers

Drivers should be scheduled after your trips are scheduled. This way the driver's shift can be optimized for the day's trips. Drivers may need to come in earlier or later, depending on the schedule that day.

To schedule a driver, click the 'Drivers' tab. All available drivers will appear in a list. Drag and drop the driver onto the board where you want the driver to be scheduled.

Drivers are shown in a creme color on the scheduler board. They can be dragged and resized around the board. The length of the driver block represents the length of shift.

You should adjust the driver's shift to accomodate all the trips he must pick up, and enough time to get to the first pick up location. If the schedule requires multiple drivers, you can assign multiple drivers to a single vehicle.

Driver Breaks

If your drivers are working a full shift, they will need a break (consult your local laws). Don't forget to schedule these in! You can schedule a driver break by clicking on the gear icon of the driver shift, and choosing to add a break.

Driver breaks will show in black on the board, and should not be scheduled over with a trip. Make sure to give the driver enough time to get to his next pick up, after his break.

Dispatching Theory

As trips are being performed by the driver, there are often changes and adjustments that are needed to be made throughout the day, in order to keep everything running smoothly. This is called dispatching.

Here are some common things that occur while dispatching:

  • Reschedule later trips when a driver begins to run behind schedule, so that the driver can get back on track.
  • Schedule on demand and will-call trips as the need arises.
  • Be on constant look-out for problematic situations and taking corrective actions before they become an issue.

Successful dispatching requires constant and clear communication with the rest of the dispatch team, the drivers, and sometimes the passengers too. DispatchBot provides many of the tools you will need to keep everyone in sync automatically.

Dispatching Board

The same board we use for scheduling we will use for dispatching. When disaptching, we want to choose Color trips by status and Calendar mode. This will present the days trips in the best format for dispatching.

Trip Statuses

DispatchBot will color-code trips by status. This gives you an obvious visual indication of the status of the trip.

  • Scheduled trips appear red.
  • When the driver is on route, the trip will be orange.
  • When the passenger is picked up the trip will be yellow.
  • When the passenger is delivered to their final destination, the trip will be green.
  • Any canceled, or no-show trips will be shown as grey.
Note: The canceled status should be used when the passenger notifies of the cancelation ahead of time. The no-show status should be used when the passenger provides no notice. It is impossible to know of a no-show before the driver arrives at the pick up location.

DispatchBot allows you to hide trips in certain statuses. When dispatching, it is convenient to have canceled and no-show trips hidden, so that they are not adding 'noise' to the board. You can toggle the visibility of trips in a certain status by toggling the checkbox next to that status.

Status Updates

If the driver is using the DispatchBot mobile application, trip statuses will update automatically. However, the dispatcher can manually change a status by clicking the status in the trip popover and choosing a new status.

Some status changes will prompt for additional information, such as the time of a pick up, or a vehicle odometer value. These fields are optional, but when given, DispatchBot is able to produce better end-of-day reports.

The Timeline

On your dispatch board, you will find a red horizontal line going all the way across the board. This line denotes the current time.

Any trip appearing fully above the line should be delivered (green). Any trip appearing near the line should show the driver as on route (orange), and any trip appearing on the line should show the passenger as picked up (yellow).

If any trip does not meet that definition, then you have found a problem trip, and it must be dealt with, which is discussed in the next section.

Rescheduling Problem Trips

When you have identified a problem trip, it must be fixed as soon as possible. This is so that drivers have time to react to the change, and still get to the passenger on time. Depending on the nature of the change, you may need to notify the passenger too.

With the trip identified, drag the trip to a more suitable location.

Some things to keep in mind when rescheduling trips:

  • Does the driver have enough time to get to the passenger?
  • Does the driver have enough to perform this new trip and still get to this next trip? If not, you may need to reschedule more than one trip!
  • Does the vehicle you are assigning it to have enough capacity to carry the passenger? DispatchBot will give you a warning if not.

Once the trip is placed in the new location, both drivers, using the DispatchBot mobile app, will automatically be notified of the trip change.

Will-Calls

Will-call trips are those trips that you know you have to do today, but the passenger isn't sure what time they need to be picked up. Once the passenger calls and says they are ready to be picked up, its your job to dispatch this trip to an available driver.

Mark the passenger waiting

Your will-call trips will be shown as unscheduled in the unscheduled queue on your board. Find the trip belonging to the passenger that just called. Clicking the cog icon, choose the 'Mark Passenger Waiting' option.

The system will prompt you for what time the passenger needs to be picked up. Enter the appropriate time. This is important so that DispatchBot can help monitor the progress of the trip for you and alert you of any problems.

Scheduling the will-call

Once the trip is marked waiting, DispatchBot will automatically provide you a number of suggested schedules for the trip. Choosing one of these will automatically schedule the trip to the place you chose, or you may schedule the trip as any normal trip.

Introduction to Trips

DispatchBot allows trips to be created in a variety of ways — balancing flexibility with convenience. Trips can be imported directly from your broker(s), they can be automatically created as subscription by DispatchBot, and they can be created manually.

Creating a trip manually

Most often you will be creating trips manually when a passenger calls in over the phone or emails you their trip details.

Click the 'Create Trip' button from the scheduler page. The trip form will prompt you for all the pertinent trip details. Some of these are optional, but we will go over all of them.

Passengers

The passenger name field will auto-complete with existing passengers, or if no passenger exists yet, you can create a new passenger. You can enter multiple passengers for a single trip to create a shared ride.

If you select an existing passenger, their mobility aids will be auto-populated. You can adjust these for each trip as needed.

Request Types

Pick up
The passenger is asking to be picked up at a specific time. For example, they expect to be done at their doctor’s appointment at 2:00PM so they need to be picked up at 2:00PM. This is typically used for the return trip home.
Drop off
The passenger needs to be dropped off at a specific time. For example, they have a doctor’s appointment at 1:00PM so they need to be dropped off at 1:00PM. This is sometimes referred to as the inbound trip.
Will-call
The passenger will-call dispatch when they are ready to be picked up. These are typically for return trips when the passenger does not know when their appointment may end.

When selecting the requested date and time, you should enter what the passenger is requesting; not the schedule time. For example, if the passenger needs to be at their doctor appointment at 2pm, the request type should be a drop off, and the request time should be 2pm, indicating that the passenger must be dropped off by 2pm. You can later schedule it at whatever time you need to.

Important! It is important to set this request type and time accurately, so that DispatchBot can keep track of on-time performance and warn dispatchers if the trip is running late.

Previous Trips

Any previously used addresses for the selected passenger(s) will appear here for you to select and automatically populate the Origin and Destination locations. If they are new passengers you will enter the address manually.

Return Trips

For convenience, DispatchBot provides a simple way to automatically generate the return trip. Click the Save and Generate Return Trip button at the bottom, to save the current trip and generate a second return trip. You are able to customize any details on the return trip prior to saving it.

Recurring trips

Subscriptions work like a recurring meeting or appointment on your calendar, but instead of an hour long staff meeting that happens every Friday at 9AM, you can have DispatchBot create your trips automatically. Subscriptions are useful for trips that happen at the same time on the same days each week, such as dialysis appointments.

To create a subscription trip, start by creating a new trip. At the bottom of the trip details page is a section for Subscriptions.

Click on Add a Subscription and enter your subscription details. You can select the day of the week (with frequency) as well as start date and end date.

If the trip has already been scheduled, you can choose to have future instances of this trip auto-scheduled to your choice of vehicle.

You can add additional subscription criteria for additional days of the week.

DispatchBot will now automatically create trips on your specified days using your previously used times and will continue to generate these trips for you until you tell it to stop.

Importing trips from your broker

DispatchBot allows you to quickly and easily import trips from a number of brokers such as Logisticare, MTM and Access2Care.

Follow your specific broker’s instructions on how to access trips from their portal and download them to your desktop.

Click the Import Trips button from the Scheduler, or from More -> Imports -> Import Trips.

Select your broker type and the account you wish to import the trips to. Your broker type and account type will typically have the same name, but does not have to.

Using the file selector, choose the file you downloaded from your broker. You can now click the Import button to have DispatchBot import your trips.

DispatchBot will read your broker file and create trips accordingly. This can take several minutes, during which it is safe to navigate away from the page. Your trips will automatically begin to appear on the Scheduler, ready to be scheduled.