Lumpers: Service or Scam?




Crazy truck loadHow many times has this happened to you? You show up at a warehouse to make a delivery. You walk in smiling. You pleasantly hand your papers to the receive and say, “Hi, I have a delivery for you.” The receiver looks at your paper work, then asks, “Do you need a lumper, or are you going to unload it yourself?”

Your smile is suddenly gone as you realize that your day may have just been ruined. A whole bunch of thoughts and questions race through your brain as you wrestle with this unexpected problem. Is the product heavy? Do I have to re-stack every box, or just break each skid down to a certain level? Will a lumper get me out of here quicker than I could?

How much money will it cost? Do I have enough cash on me? Will it cost more than my company is willing to pay? Will they purposely try to make it difficult for me if I decide to unload it myself?

Many trucking companies will pay a lumper more money for unloading than they will their own driver.



Most lumpers will demand anywhere from $60.00 to $350.00. While most companies are willing to pay lumpers what ever they ask, they will only pay their drivers about $40.00 to $80.00 (in most cases) for the same exact job. Companies claim that they do this because they want to discourage drivers from wasting all their energy on physical labor, so that they have more energy to drive, when they leave. However, I question their motivation. Why should it matter who does it? if a company is willing to pay a lumper $150.00, then they should offer their driver $150.00. Its only fair.

Then there’s the time factor. It almost always take a much longer time to get unloaded when skids have to be broken down or re-stacked. To me, this is warehouse work and should be done in the warehouse, after the truck is unloaded and gone. It just doesn’t make sense to re-stack a skid, or break it down to two skids while on a truck, because for one thing, you will then have to move two skids instead of one. Plus, you are making a truck wait, while you do warehouse work.

Good shippers and receiver know this and they get trucks out of their docks quickly.

Then there’s the union factor. Some union grocery warehouses won’t even step into your trailer. It’s “not their job.” While lumpers are flying around on forklifts and electric hand-trucks, drivers are given broken down hand-jacks to move skids and no room on the dock to put things. A driver who has never been to a given warehouse, can’t possibly know where things are. But try to ask a union warehouse worker for a few skids or a hand truck, or anything. They make it as difficult as they can for you, if you don’t hire their over payed lumpers. And even if you do hire their lumpers, they do their re-stacking on your trailer and it still takes all day.

Granted, some warehouses have height limitations. If you look around, you will see that all the shelves, where they stack the skids are only four or five feet high. So naturally everything has to be broken down to fit on these shelves. But shippers should know this and load accordingly. Or warehouse workers should do it- on the dock.

One solution I have found is, when negotiating with lumpers, put conditions on your deal.

For example, when a lumper says he wants $80.00, I look at my watch and say “I’ll give you a $100.00 if you get me out of here in less than one hour.” They’ll usually answer back, “That’s impossible because I have to re-stack everything.” Then I will say, “Do warehouse work on your time. Pull all my skids off first, then sign my bill, then I’ll pay you and leave, then re-stack. What’s the difference? Why make me wait? It’s not worth paying you if you can’t save me some time.” Usually that works, but not always.



Lumpers are some of the hardest working people you will ever meet. They do indeed provide a service. One that is needed and appreciated by truck drivers. Yes, they make good money, but they also earn it. It’s back breaking work, especially heavy boxes, like canned foods. I don’t know how they do it, truck after truck. Thank God most trucking companies will pay them for you. You really should conserve your energy for driving.

I define a good lumper mostly by his speed. If he can get me out of their quickly, while I sit in my truck and catch up on paper work (or rest) and surprise me by bringing my paper work out to me (sitting in my truck) sooner than expected, I would say it is worth the price. But when it takes all day (causing me to lose a days pay) and on top of that, I have to pay for it, that puts them on my black list and I will never haul another load to them again. Especially when they treat me like a second class citizen and give me a broken-down hand-jack, when lumpers are using electric ones and purposely making things difficult for me, like not telling me where empty skids are, etc.

As for me personally, I like to get a little exercise (and extra pay) once in a while and will occasionally unload light things. But, when I have a heavy product and I am tired, I am very happy to see lumpers.

It’s up to us drivers to help train them to our way of thinking. They will never understand how important time is to us, until we explain it to them and offer them incentives to get us out quickly. As for the hard-headed, rip-off, slow ones, with attitudes; keep a list and never go back.

That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.





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