Lumper fees: Sometimes a little push-back works

| August 06, 2013

LumpersOwner-operators responded in a big way to Wendy Parker’s telling of her first experience of a lumper fee on the long road with her owner-operator husband, George. Of particular note was Riley, Kan.-based Gordon Alkire’s account of an early-mid-1990s experience at a dock (find it under Parker’s post here — Alkire posts as “Mousekiller”), as well as the accounts that follow.

Some receivers, particularly in grocery distribution, commonly outsource to lumping services independent of their core business. All the same, forcing a carrier to pay a service for unload without reimbursement is illegal under Title 49 of the United States Code, § 14103, on the loading and unloading of motor vehicles; owner-operators/carriers should retain the option of unloading. If they do not, and they or their employing carriers aren’t being compensated for the lumper fee by either shipper or receiver, then the statute has been violated. The section places responsibility on the shipper/receiver to compensate and/or assist vehicle operators/owners for their work unloading or loading when such assistance is required. As stated, coercion to pay out of pocket for shipper/receiver assistance is prohibited.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association took the SuperValu company to federal court in recent years over the company’s insurance requirement for carriers not utilizing lumping services at their docks. Find more about the case here in the court opinion text, which came down in favor of the receiver.

In 2012, OOIDA began collecting information from drivers in a lumper-focused portion of a member survey, finding that the issue of lumping fees remained a big one at grocery-warehouse locations. Sixty percent of total survey respondents “indicated that they have used lumpers, with 36.5 percent being required to use lumpers when they would have preferred to unload themselves,” survey results read. Among survey respondents paying lumper fees, “nine percent do not receive any reimbursement.”

Reader responses:
Chris Harkins: Lumpers are the sole reason I do not ever haul anything that you might find in a grocery store! Last time I had a run-in with them was about 10 years ago at McLane North East in Contoocook, N.H. I had a midnight appointment which I arrived on-time for with just six pallets of pretzels. I handed in my paperwork and was given a door. I was then approached by the lumper “service” and told it would cost me $50 to get unloaded. I said, “No thanks, I’m all set,” and used my own pallet jack and placed the six pallets in a neat row so they could be counted and inspected for damage. After an hour of waiting I inquired about what was taking so long. I was then told that the pallets needed to be broken down and restacked onto smaller pallets. I just laughed. I was then told that the lumper “service” could do it but it was going to cost me $150 now. Again I laughed. I took my pallet jack and reloaded the 6 pallets back onto my trailer, went up front and asked to see my paperwork. The dispatcher gave it to me and I turned to walk out the door. He started yelling at me to get back there because they needed that product. I said, “Apparently not enough to sign for it and get me on my way without some sort of payment to your lumper service.” … It was not 15 minutes later that I got a call from the broker asking what was going on. (It’s now 2 a.m.) I told him what just happened and he told me I had to go back and just to pay the lumpers and he would pay me for it. To which I replied, “Not without an additional $200 for a redelivery tomorrow. So there better be a rate confirmation on the fax before I get home, and when I come back tomorrow, if they mention lumpers I’m out of there. Well, it’s amazing how fast things went the next night.”

Craig Vecellio: Normally, I pull a flatbed, and lumpers are among the reasons. One time when flat freight was low, I got put on a dry van delivering to a grocery warehouse in Jersey. When I got there … four of them [were] sitting at a table playing cards, and they wanted me to wait 15 hours to unload. “Where’s the pallet jack?” I said. “I’ll do it.” They said, “No no no, this is a Teamsters shop, you can’t do that!” I said, “I usually flatbed, I’m used to handling the load,” and started pulling boxes off the pallets by hand…. I got unloaded.

Jon McLaughlin: I just tell them that I did not just show up with this load and ask them if they wanted it. That somebody for the company ordered it and that I will not pay to have their order unloaded. If they want it, they will unload it…. That has worked several times. Or I call the load broker and tell them that it is their responsibility and that I was not paid enough for this. Now when I go to load, I check what the commodity is and ask if a lumper fee is involved. If so, I decline the load.

  • No Reform

    Yep..the OLD SCHOOL receivers can be RUDE, Obnoxious, Demanding, trying to DOMINATE and CONTROL the driver and be TIME CONSUMING with NO regard for the truck driver. It can be a NIGHTMARE..and a good place to Lose your Job..if you are a company driver…after you EXPLODE and tell them think of them! LOL.

  • No Reform

    Some of the Receivers have Modernized from the Dark Ages..and are surprizingly “Driver Friendly”…shocking but true…being offered a Break Room to get refreshments and
    directions to a CLEAN restroom!!! No talk of lumpers as the forklift rushes in the trailer quickly unloading!!!! Not often..but it does happen…..

  • jimib41

    when i was hauling my own auth….i told the receiver sign for the one or 2 pallets (that i already had off,trl was still full) after the lumper service told me they had to do it….i walked away saying i wouldnt…receiver said no come back that lumper doing for free lol

  • Tony Scovell

    espesially fred myers in portland they used to really be a pain in the ass for lumper service.

  • Kendall Oakleaf

    Run that cheap freight and deal with IDIOTS day after day do something about it !!!!! Quitchur

  • Mr.Fred

    I believe it was at Kroger in Dallas, the reciever gave me a herd time about unloading. The company would not pay lumper fee so I unloaded it, at company rete.Got it off and they would not come to the dock to count it. Called the dispatcher, he said “I’ll see what I can do. Called him back in 30 minutes, he told me to call him later. That was the day of pay phone. Kroger had a pallet of will call items by the phone. Ever time I made a call I ran my 5” blade thru a box og goods on the will call pallet. Relieved some stress.

  • Dave Mason

    Here at CVS in Houston lumpers charged us $410.44 to ulnload our Swift trailer- the comdata check was cut and the money is then charged to the original shipper. Thank goodness for that. Swift added that to our card with a po# and swift gets reimbursed from CVS. Wow what a racket. Other drivers here are charged $470+..the gate guard had no idea how much until I told her. She was surprised it was that much. We would have to drive 500 miles as lease ops to earn that much. Company drivers 3 times that.

  • Wolfie

    I usually don’t mind a small Lumper fee here and there especially when all I want to do is hit the sleeper after a long drive. My current load delivered to 2 places, the first was a small place in a small town, the first charged $40 to unload half the trailer, the second (Sysco of Jackson, MS) wanted $285 for the other half. I do get my reimbursements, but it typically takes a while before I see it.

    I’ve pondered the cycle of the Lumper fee. If the service lumps the load, they charge us, we charge or companies or brokers, they charge the shipper…. Where does it go from there, does the shipper charge the buyer? And the only only left to reimburse them, Is the consumer. And that’s why a gallon of milk is more expensive then a gallon of gas.

  • manueldiera101 .

    Yes sir, you are totally correct. I believe the company there was Roadlink or Pinneacle Logistics right? Yea, I have been there before and remember those prices. Since there isn’t too much that can be done about this (CVS inbound works that way), a buddy of mine and I were thinking of setting up an independent operation where we would charge less and give the truck driver a rebate directly of 20%. If it’s a necessary evil, at least we can do it better and help out the driver that way.

  • manueldiera101 .

    Hi, Mr. Fred. You are right the Receivers can be that way and also, not sure if you know but out of the money that the lumpers pay, over 50% of that goes directly to Kroger before it is split between the lumping company and the guys that actually unload the truck. As I replied to Dave Mason up top, a friend of mine and I are setting up something different, where we charge less and give the truck driver a 20% rebate automatically in cash. Again, if it’s a necessary evil, at least we can put some of that money back into the driver’s pockets. Please contact us if you are ever in Houston or San Antonio. 210-577-8231. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.