When carriers deliver shipments, someone has to be there to unload the cargo. Most truckers interact with a lumping service that will load, unload, or restack the shipment. This labor comes at a price and is known to the industry as the lumper fee. The lumper fee’s meaning is to pay the laborers for unloading a shipment, either to a third-party lumper service or an individual contractor.
Where and Why
Lumpers are most commonly found in large warehouses with high volumes of shipments – particularly grocery warehouses and refrigerated products. It varies by industry, but the grocery business is by and large the biggest concentration of lumpers. The lumper service is a critical element in the supply chain, and despite its controversy, makes the entire system move faster, safer, and with greater overall efficiency. Beyond describing what a lumper fee is, I will discuss why lumpers are essential to the supply chain and explain the controversy behind their presence in the industry.
Why the Lumper Service is Helpful
Due to the fatigue and stress associated with driving for lengthy periods, drivers need as much time as possible to rest and recover between trips. For this reason, it is counter-productive to push the physically strenuous task of unloading freight onto truckers. If the unloading/loading process is left to the driver, not only will he likely take longer to complete the task than a well-rested and adjusted lumper would, but it will also cause a delay in the supply chain due to the additional break time necessary for the driver during his next trip (not to mention increased risk of injury).
Unloading and organizing freight in warehouses is a simultaneously complex and physical task, employing a lumper allows for these workers to perfect the system in which they load and unload to a degree that would not be possible in their absence. Designating workers to this specific task saves millions overall through productivity and efficiency. Lumpers will have more experience and expertise that gives them insights on how to best run the unloading process, and because lumpers are less likely to damage the shipment or the trailer the entirety of the process will be completed with fewer errors. Better logistics, better organization, and better maintenance due to the lumper service will save the carriers, the shippers, and the receivers time and money.
So, what’s the problem?
When a warehouse uses a third-party service to unload the shipped materials, the lumper service fee is charged to the carrier. Drivers that want to unload the shipment themselves see the lumpers as a middleman scamming for money over an unnecessary service. However, the carriers will always be either prepaid or reimbursed for the lumper fee, and if the carrier is not reimbursed it is a criminal act. In the United States under Title 49 of the US Code 14103, carriers should have the option to unload their own trucks, but law has been broken if the carrier pays the lumper fee without compensation.
While this legal safeguard exists to protect drivers from paying the lumper fees on behalf of the shipper or broker, there are still vulnerabilities in the process. Due to outdated practices, cash payments, and industry specific checks, it can take a significant amount of time for the driver to be reimbursed. Regarding the possibility of delayed reimbursement, carriers are understandably hesitant to pay the lumper fee. Truckers are tasked with driving the freight, not the loading, unloading, or rearrangement of the shipment, and logically should not be held responsible for paying for the lumper service on behalf of the shipper or broker.
The lumper service in the trucking industry is still profoundly helpful at organizing distribution centers and improving the efficiency of the supply chain. The controversy comes with the payment, but it seems to be the case that streamlining the reimbursement payment to the carrier or directly to the lumper service would largely eradicate problems in this service.
How much is the Lumper Fee?
Unfortunately, there is not a single, standardized rate for the lumper service. It varies based on type of cargo, volume/quantity of the shipment, the equipment needed, as well as the time and location. Generally, the range of the lumper fee is from about $100 to $500. For this reason, it is especially important to establish an agreed upon price before the lumpers load or unload the freight.
The lumper fee is paid to the laborers who load, unload, and restack freight. Carriers are charged for this service and must be reimbursed by the shipper or broker according to U.S. law. The general fee range is $100 to $500 and varies based on the conditions of the shipment. Despite the controversy behind the lumper service due to delayed reimbursement, or absence of reimbursement, the lumper service is nonetheless a valuable element of the supply chain that increases overall efficiency.