What is Lumper Fees and Why are They Needed?

For those who are uninitiated about the trucking industry, “lumper” might sound to be a cooked-up word or worse, a possible abuse. But in reality, lumpers are an inseparable part of the trucking industry. Truckers encounter them on a daily basis. So let’s take a look at who they are.

Lumpers are laborers that are engaged in loading and unloading of cargo. They are primarily found in the food and grocery sectors. But you can come across them in other industries, too. Lumpers are outsourced or third-party employees. That means neither the trucking company nor the customers employ them.

What’s the need for lumpers?

LumperThe truck drivers justifiably suffer from fatigue after driving for long hours at a stretch. At the end of lengthy trips, what they need is some good rest. That energizes them and makes them ready for the next trip. But if they have to unload the cargo as well, their fatigue will increase and the next trip would get delayed. This would cause a chain reaction and all subsequent trips would be delayed.

To avoid such an exigency, lumpers are necessary. They do the strenuous unloading work, allowing the driver to rest. Drivers also run the risk of injuries while unloading. Lumpers are professionals and can manage the job much better than the drivers.

After the 1980s, the trucking industry went through deregulations. More companies entered the industry. And as a result of the emerging union laws, dock workers couldn’t enter the trailer. That’s when the lumping service became a separate domain and expanded operations.

Who hires and employs them?

As already mentioned, lumpers are third-party staff members. There are recognized and authorized lumping companies that employ the lumpers. These companies provide proper training to the lumpers to bring them up to the strenuous job requirements. The companies also provide compensation programs to the employees and also keep them under insurance coverage.

However, you would also come across lumpers not attached to any lumping company. These are basically free agents that are self-employed. They themselves strike lumping deals with truckers and the customers.

Are lumpers used everywhere?

Lumper unloading foods from a truckNormally, you wouldn’t get to see lumpers to the same extent everywhere. It varies from industry to industry and their labor laws. The grocery industry has among the largest concentration of lumpers as loading the large quantity of diverse cargo is a challenge there. And timely unloading without damaging the goods is an even bigger challenge.

Some trucking companies insist on the drivers doubling up as lumpers. However, such companies are few in number. The truck drivers are already in a lot of pressure to deliver the goods on time. The lumping job puts further physical and mental stress upon them that is entirely avoidable.

How much can lumpers make?

There is a fixed rate, but Lumpers are normally paid in lump sums. The truck drivers pay them in cash for getting the lumping work done. The trucking company reimburses the drivers and claims the money from the end-customer.

Lumpers on average make anything between $10-12 every hour, though there is no standardized rate for their services. The rates are entirely negotiable and can fluctuate depending on the quantum of the cargo and the urgency of loading/unloading them.

Sometimes, the end-customers might refuse to clear the lumping bills that the trucking company sends them. This can create a sticky situation. The management of the trucking company and the customer should discuss and resolve the situation to prevent it from declining further.

Truckers who are newly-joined or about to join the industry should obtain total clarification from the company management regarding the lumper payment policy. Otherwise, they might end up paying the lumpers from their pockets and not get reimbursed either.

Is lumping service legal?

There are divergent views on this. Most don’t consider it illegal. But many others do. There is a certain grey area here.

The Motor Carrier Act of the USA, in Paragraph 141-03 of Section 15, Chapter 49, talks about lumping. It also mentions under which circumstances lumping might be considered legal and when not so.

A big grocery store can hire a lumping service provider to unload the goods at their warehouse/store.  This will be considered a legal practice. However, in certain cases, it happens that the driver pays the lumper but is not reimbursed. This is considered illegal.

At times, lumpers don’t declare their income to the IRS. This is a clear instance of breaking the law of the land. 

Are lumping services scam?

There are many genuine lumping service providers that are an integral part of the logistics industry. However, in certain cases, lumpers exploit a situation and the activity degenerates into a scam.

Let’s take an example: A trailer is loaded with 10 blocks, each having 8 rows of cargo. But once it reaches the destination, the customer insists that there should be 8 blocks only – each with 10 rows. And they ask the driver to do the re-packing or make him/her employ a lumper to do the needful.

It’s the duty of the recipient to accurately inform the shipper about the packing details. They should communicate it well in advance so that the shipper can do the packing as per requirement. The driver is in no way involved in all this. So make him/her pay for a last-minute re-packing amount to a scam.

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