Freight FAQs: What is a Lumper?

Freight FAQs: What is a Lumper?

October 9, 2021

This post is part of a series answering frequently asked questions about words, processes, phrases, fees and other aspects of the transportation and logistics industry.

Who are Lumpers? 

Lumpers are critical to the freight and logistics industry. Drivers and warehouse workers have most likely delivered or received freight from lumpers. Their role may not be widely understood, however. Here, we hope to shed some light by defining what a lumper is and what you can expect at the dock door.


What Is a Lumper?

A lumper is someone who unloads cargo from a truck when it arrives at a warehouse. These are third-party individuals who are often hired by a warehouse or shipping company to provide the labor and experience required to move large amounts of freight daily. The origin of the name is murky. Some say the word started from workers carrying “lumps” of cargo. Others believe that it refers to the slang “lumping” of carrying heavy loads. Others insist that the name came from the back injuries workers incurred after unloading too many pallets.


Lumpers are third-party individuals who are often hired by a warehouse or shipping company to provide the labor and experience required to move large amounts of freight daily. However, not every company hires lumpers. Lumpers are most often used by food and grocery distribution warehouses across the country. Unloading perishable or frozen cargo requires special handling that lumpers are specifically trained to accomplish quickly and accurately.


What Does a Lumper Do?

A lumper’s main responsibility is to unload cargo quickly, efficiently and carefully. Yet, they’re also responsible for placing cargo inside the warehouse in an organized manner and other tasks such as tearing down boxes. When a truck arrives at a warehouse, the lumper takes over to unload the cargo. This may require the use of equipment such as pallet jacks, hand trucks (dollies) and even forklifts, if necessary. While the lumper unloads the truck, this allows the trucker to catch a few moments of rest before getting back out on the road. It also helps speed up the shipping process, which benefits all parties involved, including the trucking company, the warehouse staff and the distributor of the product.


Can Drivers Unload Their Own Trucks??

Truck drivers can unload their own trucks if their trucking company allows them to do so. And some truckers get paid to unload their trucks themselves. Unfortunately, truckers can become injured and miss out on critical rest if they choose this route. For liability reasons, some carriers choose not to allow their drivers to unload their own freight. In these cases, lumpers are used instead.

If you are a truck driver, it’s best to reach out to your company with questions about the lumper process.


The Basics of Lumper Fees for Logistics Professionals

Lumpers charge fees for their services, as they should. After all, they’re doing a lot of the heavy lifting (literally). Whether you’re a trucker or another logistics professional, it’s best to understand this type of assessorial fees so you can be prepared.


What Are Lumper Fees & How Much Are They?

Lumper fees are the charges assessed for unloading the cargo from a truck. And since lumpers are third-party entities, it isn’t the warehouse or distribution company’s responsibility to ensure they’re paid. Instead, truck drivers are expected to pay the lumper fee to unload their goods. Drivers should then keep their lumper receipts in order to be reimbursed by the broker or carrier.

These fees vary depending on the amount of work and hours the lumpers put into unloading the cargo. A standard lumper fee can range from $100 – $500, impacted by the size and type of load. An average lumper fee could be around $300.


How Do You Pay a Lumper Fee? And Who Pays It?

Fees include the labor for unloading the cargo as well as any additional tasks such as reloading the truck trailer. Once an unload and reload (if applicable) is complete, the truck driver will pay the lumper and will later receive reimbursement from their trucking company. 

The driver can pay using fleet checks, fuel cards, credit cards or cash. In a perfect world, the driver knows in advance what the lumper fee will cost and can easily pay in a way previously determined with the broker or carrier. Unfortunately, lumper employment varies wildly so drivers are sometimes surprised by fees and need to secure a lumper receipt for reimbursement.


Why Are Lumpers Still Used?

Put simply: lumpers save companies and distributors millions each year. Instead of hiring their own internal warehouse staff, they hire third-party individuals, which reduces labor costs. For example, by using third-party help, they don’t have to pay payroll taxes or for workers’ compensation insurance. Also, some carriers would rather pay lumper fees than pay increased insurance premiums or liability payments for risking driver safety by unloading their own freight.


Why Is There Negativity Surrounding Lumpers?

Lumpers are often seen in a negative light within the industry. In an industry where time is money, adding anything else to the supply chain can cause people to worry about delay. Most of the time, the negativity around lumpers has to do with their work. Some drivers object to the concept of a lumper fee. More often, truck drivers and trucking companies are unhappy with the fee payment process.  

The Commercial Carrier Journal notes that carriers cover lumper fees and then get reimbursed by the shippers. This process is ultimately less expensive for shippers because they pay the carriers instead of incurring more administrative and overhead costs by processing those costs in-house.

Some carriers still use paper checks and cash, which results in an overwhelming number of fee receipts for drivers to track. Unfortunately, this means truck drivers will often need to wait for their reimbursement. Some drivers may not even get paid at all. Luckily, technology continues to improve and now truck drivers can accept contactless payments via mobile devices instantly. And some platforms, such as RoadSync, provide instant documentation of fees and digital receipts to shorten payment time.


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