Blair Bailey grew up with concrete in her blood. ‘
Well, not literally. But almost.
Her family owned a ready-mix concrete business, where Blair got to work filing papers and working in payroll in her early teens.
Today Blair works as an aggregate customer service representative at Chaney Enterprises, which supplies ready-mix concrete, sand, gravel, stone, blended soils, and related construction supplies to corporate and residential customers throughout the East Coast. She spends her days dispatching drivers and trucks and taking customer orders out of Chaney headquarters in Gambrills, MD.
That’s where she is when she talks to me today, from an open-office space full of customer service reps, dispatchers and supervisors. It’s a noisy area, where employees are fielding orders from customers and assigning delivery routes to drivers.
Some workers like Blair handle customer service and dispatch—at the same time. “Honestly, you have to be comfortable with chaos in our line of work,” she says.
Chaney’s raw materials are used to make ready-mix concrete and are also supplied to both residential and commercial customers via dump truck drivers for construction and decorative purposes.
Dispatchers at Chaney feel a lot of time pressure to ensure that deliveries reach their destinations on time every time. Ready-mix concrete is perishable, so drivers often only have 1-2 hours to deliver it to a site and pour it before the product can no longer be used.
While the aggregates that Blair’s drivers deliver aren’t perishable, Blair still needs to make sure the drivers are on the move and not sitting somewhere.
“I’d like my guys to get four to five loads a day depending on the distance,” she says. “If a driver’s sitting out on a job site for an hour, I might not have time for him to do the last load of the day.”
I caught up with Blair on a typical morning. Earlier in the day, as she drove closer to the office, Blair encountered mixers and dump trucks on the road, headed to the yard at the Chaney ready-mix concrete plant just beside headquarters.
Once Blair settled in at her desk, she checked to see if there were any new orders. Then she analyzed the routes to see if any drivers could be rerouted to cover more orders. After that, she contacted the concrete plants and scale houses to make sure there weren’t any issues that would hinder getting products to customers.
After all that was done, Blair started taking customer calls, while simultaneously listening to her drivers via Zello.
“I’m doing this all day long,” she says. “The drivers need to pay attention, because we’re constantly changing their schedules for the day. We might get a new order and then we’ve got to get in touch with the driver immediately and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to send you this direction because it makes more sense now.’”
It’s not uncommon for rainy weather to cause a job site to close. It happened just the other day. A fleet of drivers was already on the way with materials when the construction site closed. Blair used Zello to contact all the drivers at once and explain where they needed to go instead.
“I wish I had Zello at my last job,” she says. “It makes communication a lot easier. It’s a quick, simple way to get in touch with our drivers.”
In previous places that Blair worked, every time dispatchers needed to contact drivers, they would text or call each individual driver. However, drivers weren’t allowed to be on mobile phones for safety reasons, so they would then need to pull over to check their messages. It was a cumbersome process.
Blair says having Zello makes her work much more efficient.
“Zello is an easy way for our drivers to communicate without having to stop... It’s just an easy one-hit button. We have channels so any driver who logs into that channel can hear all the other drivers.”
Being in constant communication with drivers allows dispatchers like Blair to continuously adjust routes in order to maximize the deliveries in a day.
“It’s my favorite part of the job,” she says. “I always have to be on my toes. It’s exciting.”