Lumping is a service charge that is sometimes used, most commonly, by big grocery store chains.
Basically, lumping is when a third-party unloads your freight delivery for you, whether it is stated as part of your job or not. Big grocery chains like lumper services. It saves them millions of dollars in staff and labour annually.
Grocery chains are more than happy to allow lumper services in their freight delivery docks for this reason. However, lumping is mostly considered a scam that these chains brush off to the trucking companies. But in the end, it’s important that the truck driver, not get stuck with the lumping bill.
It can be a confusing process, so be aware of this.
Is Lumping Service Legal?
Lumping as a service is not illegal. However, many consider lumpers to be one of the biggest, oldest scams in the trucking industry.
Section 15, Chapter 49, Paragraph 141-03 of the Motor Carrier Act speaks about lumping. It explains when it is considered a legal practice, and when it is considered an illegal practice.
For example, it is not illegal for a big grocery chain to allow a third-party company (lumpers) to unload their freight at their dock.
Where this practice becomes illegal and where truck drivers have the most trouble, is when the driver pays for the lumping charge and is NOT reimbursed.
This is when the law truly has been broken.
It is also common for the lumpers performing the lumping service to not declare their income to the IRS. Obviously, this is an illegal practice.
Related Article > Liars in the Trucking Industry
Why is Lumping Considered a Scam?
Of course, not all lumper services are necessarily a scam. However, lumping does have a very bad reputation.
Say a driver accepts a load with freight stacked 5 blocks, 4 high. When arriving at the receiver, the receiver will want the freight stacked 4 blocks, 5 high. They then expect the driver to re-stack, or have the driver pay the lumper to re-stack the freight!
This matter is clearly between the shipper and the receiver. It should be of no concern whatsoever to the driver. If the warehouse wants the product stacked to a particular height, it is their duty to communicate this information to the shipper. It should be in no way up to the driver to pay for the freight to be res-tacked using a lumping service.
Truck drivers should not be involved in warehousing issues. Truck drivers are hired to drive, not rearrange and unload freight. This is textbook racketeering – creating a solution to a problem that shouldn’t have existed in the first place.
Dealing With Lumpers For Company Truck Drivers
One of the first things a driver should establish when he signs up with a particular carrier is whether or not they are required to unload freight.
Many trucking companies and load brokers will tell drivers that the cost of lumping fees is built into the freight rate.
The driver should ALWAYS be paid by the company to unload the freight, whether the trucking company is paid for it or not.
The law is broken when the driver is not reimbursed the lumping fee.
Tips for Owner-Operators Dealing With Lumpers
As soon as you sign up with a trucking company, be sure that your contractual agreement sets out how lumpers will be handled by the carrier.
Owner-operators should not be expected to pay for unexpected lumping fees.
In the event, the operator does pay for the lumping fee, be certain to obtain a proper receipt which clearly states the details, including the date and cost.
It’s always best to have this as part of the contract, or the trucking company may very well stick the owner operator with the costs, without hope of reimbursement.
So, remember when you are hired as a driver, who is paying for the lumper fees. Hold them to the agreement. Get a copy of this agreement to use just in case you are faced with this issue later on.
Understanding Lumper Services for Canadian Truck Drivers
Canadian drivers are actually not allowed to unload a truck in the U.S. This is taking work away from Americans and is not allowed in the U.S. because it is considered a violation of immigration laws.
If you’re dealing with conflict at the drop off site, don’t hesitate to call the local sheriff’s department. The sheriff should appear on the scene and straighten out any lumper or cargo disputes.
Negotiating Lumper Fees
Sometimes you have the option to use a lumper or lumping service or unload the freight yourself. If you can, negotiate lumping rates down or put a time limit on how quickly they need to get your skids pulled. If they can’t do the job faster than you, then don’t pay them to do it.
Consider whether their fee is worth it to you. Sometimes it can be, if they do a good job. However, it can be a risk. The whole point is to save you time or to give you a chance to rest while the heavy labor is done.
Why Does Lumping Still Exist At All?
Good question. The years of issues with lumping is on the books. However, these matters are not often enforced. It is not uncommon for large grocery chains to be aware of the illegal practices of their lumping service and yet do nothing to make adjustments to their system.
Don’t fund the shipper’s efforts to have HIS freight unloaded by you for FREE!
Luckily, lumping is far less common than it once was. With so many problems with the service in the past, it has faded away, with the exception of some larger grocery chain conglomerates.
Just watch your back and make sure that you have a contract to back you up just in case you get stuck with a lumping fee that you have no responsibility to pay!