THE DEFINITION

From “Just What is a Train Dispatcher?” Copyright © 1992 Thomas A. White

Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary - unabridged defines a dispatcher as:

1. A person who dispatches. 2. A transportation worker who sends out trains, buses, trucks, etc. according to a schedule.

The term Dispatcher has popular connotations of the rather famous character Louie on the TV sitcom TAXI, or the answering service worker who takes calls for and possibly schedules work for a tow truck, plumber or TV repair service. On a larger scale, a trucking company employs dispatchers who match loads with equipment and personnel; seeing that trucks are kept fully loaded as much as possible while ensuring that all freight is picked up and delivered on time. A metropolitan transit authority or bus line will have dispatchers to oversee service and ensure that if a bus falls behind schedule it is allowed to skip stops and regain schedule so that there is not a long gap in service followed by an overly crowded bus followed closely by an almost empty bus. The truck line or transit dispatcher may also serve as communications operator, calling for mechanical personnel, on-the-road supervisors or emergency services such as police and ambulances. The emergency services themselves employ dispatchers who send the appropriate and closest personnel and equipment to each call while ensuring that no part of their assigned area is left unprotected for ensuing calls.

Another popularly known transportation employee, one not defined by the dictionary, is the Air Traffic Controller. The air traffic controller wearing a radio headset, staring intensely at the radar screen or in an airport tower with field glasses watching for traffic and issuing instructions to air traffic to prevent collisions or to help planes find the runway in inclement weather has been frequently depicted in documentaries and entertainment movies. The air traffic controller is the picture of stress and stories abound about those who suffer job related mental distress. The controller-caused collision is a nightmare which can come about from a lapse in attention and concentration as planes move toward each other at hundreds of miles per hour.


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