If you want to know if you have what it takes to be a Dispatcher, just ask yourself these questions: Do I enjoy juggling many different demands and working on a team? Do I thrive in situations that are moving at warp speed? Do I look at shift work as an opportunity to experience interesting variety in my personal and work life? If you answer “yes,” then consider a fast-paced and exciting career as a Dispatcher.

Job Overview

Dispatchers are responsible for ensuring all routes have a Bus Operator and assigning Operators to routes in a cost-effective manner (i.e. minimizing overtime in assigning make-up hours and pieces of work). Dispatchers cover the major sign-ups and are responsible for all of the small sign-ups (every 3 weeks, weekly and daily). Small sign-ups are necessary to cover shifts due to vacations, illnesses, last minute changes, etc. Essentially, Dispatchers must ensure that all of the service hours are covered and that Operators are assigned their respective hours.

As the primary contact for Operators at the start and end of their shifts, Dispatchers are the “go-to” people. Dispatchers assume a leadership role ensuring Operators have what they need to start their shifts, such as running boards, transfers, and information they might need to know. They fill a mentorship role, often assisting Operators in understanding the Transit culture and other issues. Operators call Dispatch when they are unable to report for work or are running late. Dispatchers track hours and information regarding these absences and also deal with “Failure to Report” (FTRs) on the road and in the garage.

Dispatchers work in areas requiring trust and greater responsibility, such as cash handling (emptying the fare boxes). Checking that Operators have up-to-date and valid licenses is also a Dispatcher’s responsibility.

Working Environment

Dispatchers sign for shifts and work out of one of the five garages. There is a lot of activity and a requirement to juggle several functions at once and make quick decisions about assignment of work.

Summer heat in the garages is a factor in the work environment. Lifting and emptying fare boxes can be more challenging in the summer heat.

Hours of Work

Dispatch must be covered 24 hours a day, seven days a week which makes shift work a necessity. Dispatchers work 8 hour shifts, five days a week. Relief Dispatchers often have to deal with irregular shifts and work/personal life balance can be a juggling act, but working hours settle into a more regular pattern for permanent Dispatchers.

What Dispatchers Like About This Job

  • Opportunities to work on various projects.
  • The variety of roles for Dispatchers.
  • Working with Transit Operators.
  • Teamwork and camaraderie; it is generally a social and supportive work environment.

Unique Characteristics and Challenges of This Job

Dispatch is a fast-paced job and you are dealing with multiple things at one time -  Operators at the counter, ringing phones, answering email and dealing with complaints. Often, there can be information overload. The shift work can be challenging as well.

There are several different Dispatcher competencies and it can be a lot to learn.

The Dispatcher is a mentor, coach and “go to” person for new Operators. Although they are not supervisors, Dispatchers must monitor Operator performance and use sound judgment about when to intervene and when to refer performance or behaviour issues to a Bus Operations Supervisor.

Dispatchers are privy to confidential and personal information.

Success Factors

  • You understand the Bus Operator job and how work is assigned. 
  • You have computer skills.
  • You have excellent interpersonal skills and a genuine interest in people.
  • You have the ability to multi-task.
  • You are even-tempered and able to handle pressure.
  • You have the ability to trouble shoot and deal with grey areas in procedures.
  • You are respectful of others.
  • You have the ability to coach employees. 
  • You are a problem solver.
  • You have effective communication skills.
  • You have a strong work ethic.

Qualifications and Skills

  • Completion of Grade 12.
  • Minimum 3 years experience as an Operator. 
  • Strong knowledge of the transit industry.
  • Knowledge and ability to handle emergency situations.
  • Ability to multi-task with attention to detail in a fast-paced transit environment.
  • Ability to make mathematical calculations rapidly and accurately.
  • Proven ability to work in a team environment with a customer service approach.
  • Proficiency in MS Word and Outlook.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • Positive attitude with strong team member skills.
  • Knowledge of transit standards, policies and procedures.
  • Ability to carry up to 200 fare boxes daily (each weighs up to 20 pounds and must be carried approximately 25 feet). Note: You must successfully complete a functional abilities evaluation relating to fare box collection before an employment offer is considered.
  • A security clearance is a condition of employment.

Union Affiliation

Dispatchers are members of the Amalgamated Transit Union 569. Classification, compensation and working conditions are governed by the Collective Agreement.

Preparing for This Job

Experience as a Bus Operator is a requirement for this job. Possessing proficient computer skills would be an asset. You also must be trained and experienced as a Relief Dispatcher before moving to a permanent position.