Run a Tight Local Moving Operation

It All Starts With The Way You Dispatch Your Moving Crews

I’ve always said there is a thin line between losing money and making a ton of money in the moving business. As a moving company owner, you can’t afford to run a loose operation, there are too many opportunities for money that should turn into profit to slip through your hands. One of the best ways I know to increase profitability is to run a tight local moving operation. It all starts with the way you dispatch your moving crews.

Back in the day, we used to have busy periods where we would run 25 local trucks per day and service up to 60 moves in a day, and that was just out of one of my locations. I know first hand how running a tight local moving operation can positively affect your bottom line.

5 Steps To Run A Tight Local Moving Operation

  1. Dispatch at a set time – You want to look at “dispatch” as an event that occurs every morning. The idea is to get as many of your trucks and crews out on the road as possible – first thing in the morning.
  2. Truck inventory – It’s not cheap to equip a local moving truck. All the pads, dollies, straps, and packing material that you need are a big expense. You want to make sure that they don’t “go missing” because then you’re forced to buy more equipment. Doing a truck inventory every morning will help alleviate any problem with missing equipment.
  3. Send crews out with extras – You never know when you’ll get to a job that doesn’t have everything packed, this is a perfect opportunity to sell boxes or packing services. Always keep extra material on the truck. You also want to make sure your crew has extra bills of lading and storage contracts just in case another job pops up or a customer decides to come into storage.
  4. Driver calls the office for start time – This is huge for me. You need to make sure that all your local crews are clocking in and out using one clock – the clock in the office. This will allow you to make sure that you are getting paid for every minute you’re on the move.
  5. Driver clocks-out with office – If you let your movers calculate and collect the charges with the customer, I can almost guarantee you’re losing money one way or another. When the office is not calculating the charges and staying on top of where the crew is at all times, you’re inviting the movers to “work off-the-clock”. Meaning they can easily stop the clock early while continuing to work for the customer for tips or directly skimming money off the bill. Either way, you’re losing money.

If any of this seems like a lot of work, that’s because it is. But what other choice do you have? If you’re going to be in business and go to work every day, you want to make sure you’re taking home as much money as possible. And when you run a loose operation, there can be a lot of money slipping through your hands. It’s time to tighten up your local moving operation and start increasing your profits.

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Full Transcript [The following is the full transcript of this episode.]

Have you ever found yourself in a position where you just bought a bunch of equipment for your trucks: Dollies, pads, straps; then all of a sudden, they’re not there anymore? You need to buy more equipment. You have no idea where they went. Or maybe you’ve caught crews that are working off the clock that maybe clocked out at a certain time or continuing to work for the customer. Or maybe you just have jobs that you’re getting to late every single morning because you don’t have your dispatch and your crews set up to be there at a specific time every single day. I wanna share with you my dispatch process because I think it’s one of the things that allowed us to be so successful with local moving over the years. And over the course of the last year, speaking to moving companies, I realize that a lot of companies do this differently. So I want to share with you my process of dispatching local crews in the morning. For those of you who don’t know, dispatch is basically, for me, it’s the process in the morning of giving the crews their job for the day and sending them out. You would have a dispatcher, that’s the person that would be doing it. And this process usually happens every single day, in the morning you wanna get your crews out.

So, the first thing you wanna do is you wanna dispatch at a set time every single day. You want to avoid sending out crews at different times unless you really have to. And I know there are times when that happens, but let me give you an example of how to do this. So let’s say you have five trucks, but you only have three morning starts. Let’s say you have three 8:00 jobs. And the other jobs are scheduled for the afternoon. What you really should do is you should move the other jobs to the morning so that you could send out all five of your trucks. You wanna have all five trucks, if that’s what you have, out in the morning. Because what that does is, that allows you to service more. If you have five trucks on the road few things are happening. Number one, if those trucks are lettered up with your logo, that’s more advertising out on the road for your company. Number two, if a customer calls in at the last minute, you’re gonna be able to have different trucks in different areas to be able to service that job. If somebody calls and says, “Can you move me today?” You’re more likely to be able to do that if you have five trucks out doing, let’s just say, five jobs than if you had three trucks out trying to do five jobs. Maybe one in the morning and then they do another one in the afternoon.

So you wanna have dispatch at a set time every morning. You wanna have your movers show up at that set time. You wanna try to get every truck a morning start. If they also have an afternoon job, great. But always try to get a morning start for each truck and get them out on the road. You want your dispatcher to have one event in the morning. You don’t want them dispatching crews at 6:30 in the morning and then having to do it again at 9:30. You wanna get everybody out in the morning so that your dispatcher can do other things in the office during the day. And if your dispatcher’s you, if you’re starting out like I did and you’re working out of a truck rental yard, you don’t wanna drive to that truck rental yard multiple times. You wanna go there in the morning, get everybody out for the day, and then as they start coming back, you can meet them back there, or they can come back to the office.

Second thing you wanna make sure you’re doing when you’re dispatching your crews in the morning is you wanna make sure you’re doing a truck inventory every single day. We used to have truck inventory sheets, and the first thing a driver would do in a morning is they would come in, they’d get a truck inventory sheet, they’d go out to their truck, and they’d do an inventory of everything that they had on the back of the truck. How many pads, they’d have to count them. How many straps? How many dollies? How many four wheelers? Brooms? Everything that was on that truck. Packing material. Whatever it was, they had to do an inventory. When that inventory came back, we would take it, and we would compare it to the day before. If there was any discrepancy at all, the dispatcher would go out and do a count for himself so that if for some reason there was something missing from the day before, and there was a different driver in that truck the day before, we would charge that driver for that missing equipment. We would need to be able to essentially prove that it was missing. This is gonna help you’re missing equipment problem tremendously. It might seem like a lot of work every single morning to basically have them go out and do an inventory on the truck. They might not wanna do it right away. You need to start doing an inventory every single morning.

Listen, if you don’t have a problem with missing equipment, and you’ve never had a problem with missing equipment, and you buy equipment, and it just stays on the truck, and you never have to buy new pads, and you never have to buy new dollies, then you know what? You don’t need to do it. But I doubt that’s the problem. Because it’s not that someone’s stealing your equipment. That can be the case. But it’s also that they leave it at the house. The customer says, “Can you just leave this padded for us?” They’re like, “Yeah, no problem. Just take care of us, give us a tip.” Instead of, “Let me call the office and find out what the price is for that pad.” Your inventory is expensive. Your pads are expensive, your dollies are expensive, your straps are expensive, and you cannot not have everything that you need on the truck. You don’t wanna penalize your customers because of your lack of inventory control. And what I mean by that is, there’ll be companies that’ll say, “You know what, I’m not buying any more pads. I’m not buying any more equipment.” And they’ll tell their movers, “Go work with what you have.” You can’t do that. It’s your company. You need to make sure that you have all the equipment. Have your inventory control on point, and you won’t have to worry about it. You’ll always have what you need. That’s so important. If you’re not doing that, start doing that right away.

Number three, send crews out with extras. When I say extras, send them out with an extra couple of blank contracts, couple of blank bill of ladings. So that if you do pick up another job, you can just give them the information. They can write it in, they don’t have to come back to the office to get a new bill of lading. They’re out on the road, someone calls in, they want to book a move, you can book it. Give them the information. They’re good. Send them out with storage contracts. What if that next job needs storage? What if the job they’re going to now, they get to the new home, they go to the drop-off, and the customer realizes that something won’t fit, or they don’t like the way that it looks. Wouldn’t it be nice to say, “Well, we offer storage. We can store as little as one piece of furniture, one room of furniture.” If you have your inventory sheets, if you have your storage paperwork, you’ll be able to bring some stuff back to storage. Always have extra storage paperwork on the truck. The next extra you want to make sure you have is packing material. Always have extra packing material on the truck. You never know when you’re going to get to a job, and the customers not ready to go and they need some things packed. That’s extra revenue. A lot of companies won’t put packing material on the truck. Why? Because it always goes missing. Do a truck inventory, you won’t have to worry about that problem.

I’m just telling you, we ran a tight local dispatch operation. If any of this seems like a lot of work, don’t do it. But if you want to run a tight ship, meaning you’re out making money and you’re not losing money, you can’t be in a position where the customer wants packing, and you could actually sell them some boxes, and you don’t have the boxes because you won’t put packing material on the truck because it’s going missing. Do truck inventory every morning. Make sure everything that’s supposed to be there is there. We used to go out and the shrink wrap that was on the truck, we used to get a ruler and measure how much shrink wrap was on that truck. True inventory of everything. Nothing was going missing. Look at your profit and loss statement. Look at how much money you’ve spent on inventory and on boxes. Think about how much more money you can be bringing in from selling some of that stuff and make sure you have it. Make sure you’re prepared on every single job.

Here’s another one that I know a lot of companies aren’t doing. Have your driver call the office with a start time. Call the office to get a start time. Every job on an hourly rated local move should be clocked in and clocked out based on one clock, the clock in the office. If your movers are clocking people in and out, you never know what the real time’s gonna be. You want to know when they get there. They need to call you and say, “I’m here. I need a start time.” You look at the clock and say 8:00 start. They’ll write it on the contract. They’ll start the job, and you know that they’re there. If all your jobs are supposed to start at 8:00, and 8:15 you still have drivers that haven’t called you, you need to get them on the phone and find out where they are because if they’re gonna be late, someone needs to call that customer and let them know you’re gonna be late. Why set that move off on the wrong foot because nobody’s contacting the customer? So, as a dispatcher, and this could be the manager, the owner of the company, whatever role, whatever position you’re in, you’re still… Someone needs to facilitate that dispatcher role. The drivers aren’t there at a time they’re supposed to be there, call, find out where they are, let the customers know they’ll be running late.

Number five. The driver clocks out with the office. We talked about the driver calling in and getting a start time. The driver needs to call in and get a finish time. They need to tell you when they’re gonna be complete. If there’s any extras on the move, it needs to be calculated in the office. You don’t need your movers to calculate this. You don’t want your movers to calculate this. They need to ask you, they need to say, “We’ll be done in 15 minutes,” or “We’re done now,” or “We’ll be done in a half hour. What’s my finish time?” You give them the finish time. They write it in. You give them the charges. Then they go and they bring the paperwork to the customer and collect the charges. This is also a great time for you to get on the phone with the customer, find out how the move went. There’s a big, big reason why you want to clock your crews in and out. Again, 99% of your movers are honest, good, hard-working people. But, there are some, that if you leave the key in the door to the candy shop, they’re gonna go in and they’re gonna take the candy. Period.

You need to run a tight ship or there’s gonna be money dripping out every which way. Movers working off the clock is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Meaning, they go there, they start at 8:00. They call you. They say we’re done at 1:00, but they really stay there until 1:30, 2:00, 2:30, 3:00, working for the customer, either for tips where they’re taking that difference in money. I’ve seen movers come back where they write one price on the white part of the bill of lading and another price on the yellow part of the bill of lading that the customer gets and totally skim money off a job. Not only should you have GPS on your trucks, you need to be on the phone with them. The minute they say they’re done, they need to be done and either on their way back to the office or on their way to the next job. So the finish time means we’re done and we’re ready to roll. So if the finish time’s at 3:00, by 3:05 that truck should be moving.

When you do a finish time, that means the truck should be pads folded, ready to go the way that it showed up. When you show up to the customer’s house, your truck’s neat, it’s clean, the pads are folded. When you leave, the truck should be neat, clean, and pads folded, and that should be done on the time that the customer’s paying for. It should not be done after the fact. So, how do you do that? You don’t actually charge the customer for that time, you just pick up after yourself as you’re going along. Meaning, as you take a pad off a piece of furniture, it should get folded right away and stacked in the truck. Maybe you take a few three, four, five pads off, then bring it into the house, then fold those two, three, four, five pads. But don’t unload the truck, have a big mound of pads that you then have to fold, that you’re either gonna fold on the customer’s time, which isn’t cool, or you’re gonna then leave and show up to the next job with all these pads a mess, or go back to the office with the pads a mess.

You need to keep a tight control over your movers. Too many companies are allowing a little too much rein to say, “Hey, here’s your jobs for the day,” because they don’t wanna be bothered. I talk to companies left and right, they’re getting taken advantage of. Movers are stealing. They’re working off the clock. They’re working side deals with the customers. You have to run a tight ship. You’re in business to make money. You have to make as much money as you can coming in. You gotta plug all the holes at the bottom from the money going out and try to keep as much as you can. Local dispatch needs to be run tight. Follow these five steps, I promise you, you’ll see a big difference in the way that your dispatch is operating. You’ll see a big difference in the amount of money that you’re making and also the amount of money that you’re saving. Until I see you next week, go out there every single day, profit in business, thrive in life. I’ll see you soon.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Kenneth nestor

    I love this article.Louis I’m going to paste a couple of your points then a follow up question if possible.
    1.Movers working off the clock is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Meaning, they go there, they start at 8:00. They call you. They say we’re done at 1:00, but they really stay there until 1:30, 2:00, 2:30, 3:00, working for the customer, either for tips where they’re taking that difference in money. I’ve seen movers come back where they write one price on the white part of the bill of lading and another price on the yellow part of the bill of lading that the customer gets and totally skim money off a job. 
    Your 100%right unfortunately.No supplies,no extra revenue.
    2.This is also a great time for you to get on the phone with the customer, find out how the move went. There’s a big, big reason why you want to clock your crews in and out. Again, 99% of your movers are honest, good, hard-working people. But, there are some, that if you leave the key in the door to the candy shop, they’re gonna go in and they’re gonna take the candy. 
    Question? You have a trustworthy mover who runs the 2 3 truck jobs.The mover also has packing to the bill.Always on the clock when leaving.Finally great with customer’s. Do you give your best mover a little freedom ? Like trust ( which we know is hard ) his character speaks for itself. I’m just asking being a former foremen for f&S. I never disappointed. That being said , don’t you think it’s important to challenge other crew chiefs via weekly bonus or recognition ? Me personally.I love the ” hey thank you for the great job today ” Making my boss proud makes me more motivated. Just your thoughts.
    Sorry so long buddy.
    Ken Nestor
    Moveinit Moving And Storage

    • Louis Massaro

      Sure, if you have a great mover that you can trust you can give them a little more freedom. It’s also important to bonus your movers for a job well done. I love your approach of thanking them for a great day , I think that’s great!