Lumper Fees in Trucking: Are They Good or Bad?

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Lumping is the trucking industry term for the process of loading or unloading freight by anyone other than the shipper, receiver, or the truck driver. Lumpers are most commonly found in the food sector, working at grocery warehouses and cold storage facilities, although they could be employed elsewhere as well. Lumping companies fill a gap in the supply chain where truck drivers would otherwise be responsible for unloading or sorting their loads. In exchange for their unloading services, lumping companies charge a lumper fee.

What Are Lumper Fees?

When a shipper or receiver hires outside labor to assist with the loading or unloading of the trailer's contents, the carrier is assessed a lumper fee. Lumpers are frequently employed by organizations such as supermarket wholesalers and food storage businesses. The shipper, receiver, or consignee is responsible for reimbursing the truck driver or carrier for lumping fees. It is important for truck drivers and carriers to understand that they are not required to pay out of pocket for lumping fees without being reimbursed. According to Title 49 of the United States Code, § 14103 it is illegal for any entity to force a truck driver or carrier to unload via a lumping service without reimbursement. A truck driver or carrier should not be forced to unload the freight themselves, or be forced to use a lumper service without reimbursement. 

Importance of lumper fees

In the food distribution industry, receivers often subcontract to lumping companies that are unrelated to their primary business. Grocery chains, food wholesalers, and storage facilities benefit from lumping services by reducing the demands of maintaining and managing staff whose sole job is to unload trucks and sort freight. Truck drivers benefit from lumping services because it frees them from the responsibility of unloading the shipment themselves. Further, by using a lumping service, a truck driver is less prone to injuries that may occur during the loading/unloading process. Drivers can have more time to rest and save time in instances where they are unfamiliar with the warehouse. 

How do lumper fees work?

Lumper fees should be arranged ahead of time as part of the shipping contract. The carrier and/or broker should ensure that either the shipper, receiver, or consignee have agreed to assume responsibility for the lumper fee, and that the agreement is included in the contract. The driver or carrier will be reimbursed for the fee as part of the contract settlement. 

The process should work as follows::

  1. The driver arrives at the warehouse.
  2. The driver checks in at the shipping/receiving office.
  3. The shipment is unloaded by lumpers.
  4. The driver is given the total amount due for the lumping fee.
  5. The driver uses one of their company approved methods for paying the fee. Common methods include Comcheck or T-Check so that the money never comes from the driver's pocket. Other times,  a company or owner-operator may use alternative methods of payment such as CT Credit
  6. With unloading complete and the lumping fee paid, the driver receives a signed copy of the BOL and is free to depart for their next load. 
  7. If the reimbursement request is approved, the shipper or receiver will issue payment to the trucking company for the lumper fee.
  8. If the reimbursement request is denied, the trucking company and shipper or receiver will work together to resolve the dispute.
  9. The trucking company maintains records of lumper fees and reimbursement, in case of any future disputes or audits.

How Are Lumper Fees Calculated?

How much is the average lumper fee?

The average range of lumper fees is $25 to $500. The contract the lumper service has with a shipper, carrier, or warehousing facility influences the rate.  The quantity of labor and hours spent by the lumper personnel factors into the rate as well. 

How are lumper fees determined?

The final price is determined once unloading is complete in order to take into account any additional charges for separating pallets and/or products, restacking freight, and reloading the trailer due to multi-stop shipments.

How are lumper fees paid?

Usually, the driver must pay for the lumper service in-person as part of finalizing the load’s paperwork. However, by law, drivers are not personally liable for covering the expense. An arrangement for reimbursement between the carrier/broker and the shipper/receiver/consignee should be in place as a part of the load contract. 

Most Common Issues with Lumper Fees

Lumpers are a necessary part of the supply chain. They keep freight moving smoothly on and off the trailer load after load. Furthermore, they reduce overhead costs for carriers and food industry companies, and help drivers save time by removing the mantle of responsibility for unloading from the driver. 

Negative experiences, although rare, do occur. The most common complaint is the cost of the lumper charge itself. When it comes to reimbursing lumper fees, disagreements are common in instances where contracts are poorly written. 

Reimbursing the driver for the lumper fee has been problematic and is another area of complaint. Many in the trucking industry and the food industry still rely on antiquated paper-based payment systems including cash, sector-specific checks, and lumper receipts that can be laborious to process and reconcile. The analog payment management is also more prone to human error. Consequently, drivers could wait a long time for payment or, in the worst situation, never receive reimbursement. If there is no payment, the driver should file a report to the appropriate government officials as failure to reimburse a driver for lumping fees is illegal. 

Lumper Fees vs. Other Payments

Lumper fee vs. sort and segregate fee

The lumper fee is for unloading the freight. Sort and segregate is a separate service carried out as part of the unloading process. When a consignee requests that a shipment be sorted and segregated, it results in a lengthy, time consuming process where a load may be arranged, packaged, count verified, barcoded, and entered into the warehouse inventory tracking system. 

As the consignee is seeking the extra service, sort and segregate expenses are normally their responsibility. The charge, however, may occasionally be divided between the transporter and the consignee. Before the package is delivered, it is crucial for all sides to discuss and fully agree on who will be in charge of paying these expenses. The intricacy of the sorting and segregating process, as well as the size and weight of the shipment, are additional factors that should be taken into account when determining these costs.

Lumper fee vs. paying the driver

Carriers prefer to use lumpers out of concern for their drivers and for practical business reasons. They see it as a way to keep their drivers rested and ready for their next load. Using lumpers also minimizes the chances a driver will be injured during the unloading process as the carrier has no control over the safety policies and practices of a warehouse. Using lumpers is also a recruitment tool for carriers as they can advertise “no-touch freight” to attract more drivers. 

Lumper fee vs. driver assist charge

A driver assist charge occurs when a driver is required to physically unload a trailer. The method for assessing a driver assist charge is the same as assessing a lumper fee. Like the lumper fee, the company is legally required to compensate the driver for the driver assist charge . Because of the potential for driver injury, insurance claims, and subsequent lawsuits, it’s usually in everyone’s best interest  to keep drivers out of the unloading process entirely. 

Wrap Up

Lumpers have been a part of the supply chain for a long time. Despite being a decades long practice, lumping remains one of the most controversial aspects of the food distribution and trucking industries. However, lumpers provide an important contribution to our nation’s supply chain. They take pressure off of drivers and carriers, keep warehouses organized and functioning, and reduce overhead costs. Lumper fees are a fair method of compensating companies and workers who take up the responsibility for unloading and loading shipments in a safe and timely manner. 

It is important for owner-operators, carriers, and brokers to fully understand the laws concerning lumping and toensure they and the companies they do business with are legally compliant to avoid costly fines and lawsuits. Keep in mind that lumper fees cover loading and unloading. There may be additional charges like sort and segregate, so it’s important to carefully review your contract information before signing. 

CloudTrucks is dedicated to assisting owner-operators with the day-to-day challenges that come with being a truck driver while operating a business. We offer a full suite of products and services to put your driving career in the fast lane. For example, we have a credit solution that helps drivers cover lumper fees while they wait for reimbursement – CT Credit

Don't miss out on the opportunity to streamline your trucking operations and maximize your earning potential. Sign up with us today and experience the benefits of our unbeatable rates, expert backend support, fast and secure payments, and much more.

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