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Are your scheduling practices obstructing volunteer driver growth?

Are your scheduling practices obstructing volunteer driver growth?

The needs of modern volunteer drivers can be complex and ever-changing under the influence of gas prices, competition for their valuable time, and how engaged they are in your worthy cause to provide transportation services. That means from time to time, you’ll need to take a look under the hood at your scheduling process to ensure it’s equipped to meet these ever-changing needs.

While this is not a one-size-fits-all, we’ve compiled a list of best practices that can improve your ride scheduling process and ultimately your organization’s ability to provide rides. Check out the below tips on how your organization stacks up and discover new areas of improvement that will keep drivers and riders moving.

As in most all activities of large or small organizations, the 20/80 rule generally applies. That is, for transportation organizations, 20% of the drivers generally provide 80% of the rides. The key is to find out how those desired drivers decide to spend their time and how they want to engage with your organization. If volunteer drivers tend to want to have flexibility in their schedule to decide what rides to take and when then providing ride options to the drivers is the process that makes the most sense. If volunteer drivers tend to like to plan out their weeks or days, then scheduling their time in blocks of time where they can do the volunteer driving is a good choice. Here are a couple of ways that SPEDSTA’s software tools can help:

  1. Volunteer Driver scheduling: in this tool, volunteer drivers provide their schedule to the dispatcher who then will then assign rides to those drivers. A typical example would be Bob being able to provide rides every Wednesday from 10 am to 2 pm. In this case, the dispatcher would assign rides within that time window. Having a way to visualize those rides on the calendar and find “scheduling holes” is a way that SPEDSTA software optimizes the full time of that volunteer. A quick way to assign multiple rides to a single driver also ensures Dispatcher time is used most efficiently. 
  2. Broadcast ride scheduling: in this method, as rides are booked they are immediately broadcasted to all available volunteer drivers. This gives flexibility to the drivers in that they can choose what rides to take and when. There are nuances to using this type of scheduling but the key is to make sure return trips, wait time, travel distance, appointment times, and stops are all handled as part of the scheduling.
  3. Assigned Driver scheduling: in some cases, some available rides are not picked up by Drivers or in the time window of a driver’s schedule. If your goal is to ensure that your services are reliable to the riders and passengers, then the ability to assign rides to drivers is critical. In this case, these assigned drivers can be your most loyal volunteer drivers, taxi services, or even drivers that are on staff. SPEDSTA’s tools allow direct booking along with robust ways to make sure ride cancellations, changes or re-assignment of rides happen smoothly.

Another aspect to consider in the management of volunteer drivers is how communication of ride information happens between dispatcher, driver, and passenger. A couple of options below to consider:

  1. Using printed-out schedules: Some volunteer drivers do not use or have access to technology such as smartphones, tablets, or computers and so having a robust way to print out ride schedules is important. Spreadsheets can be hard to read, so SPEDSTA allows full printing of readable calendars or list view of schedules that can then be provided to these drivers.
  2. Using Gmail, Outlook, and other calendar options: some volunteers stick to their known and familiar calendar tools when planning their activities. Creating and sending calendar invites is a good way to alert them of ride bookings.
  3. Using SMS, Voice Message, Whatsapp, and Emails: these channels are an effective way to communicate with your volunteer drivers not only between dispatcher and driver but also between driver and passenger. Empowering your drivers with these communication tools enables them to manage and handle exceptions that can and will happen during a ride booking. 
  4. Using digital platforms such as smartphones, tablets, and PCs: ultimately having access to a web portal and being able to access ride information anywhere and at any time provides the most flexibility to volunteer drivers. 

By investing in flexible scheduling and communication tools you are actively removing friction for your drivers. This can be the clearest signal that you can send to your volunteer drivers that you truly care about their valuable time.