5 minute read

The Transformation of Lumping in the Unloading Space

May 10, 2023

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers and manufacturers were bracing themselves for an economic meltdown. However, demand for goods increased, and it hasn't petered out. That said, businesses must streamline and accelerate inbound and outbound goods to meet their delivery deadlines. Warehouses are particularly an essential part of the supply chain, and any practices that can help enhance the efficiency of cargo transportation can give warehouses a competitive advantage, especially those with high-efficiency operations and low-cost transportation.

One effective way of improving efficiency in freight transportation is lumping – a term used to describe the loading and unloading of truck cargo by individuals/workers other than employees of trucking companies, oceanic carriers, and receivers. It's a form of warehouse staffing that can significantly help businesses in various ways, including:

  • Meeting high demand in peak seasons
  • Increase units per hour flow
  • Alleviate the headache and costs of managing the in-house workforce

Lumping services have played a crucial part in the trucking industry, but things have changed over the past few years. Motor carriers have become more concerned about the economic factors associated with operating their businesses and the increasing competition in the market. As a result, most of these companies are now offering more services to their customers – including loading and unloading – at competitive rates to cover their costs. 

What Does Lumping Mean in the Freight Transport Industry?

When a carrier docks at a cargo collection point or receiving location, they require loading and unloading services. Suppose the shipper or receiver doesn't have the staffing to handle the job; in that case, they hire a lumper service, which charges them a fee. Basically, a lumping service is when a shipping company or receiver hires a third party to provide workers to help load and unload cargo from a trailer/container. It is a common practice in several businesses in the supply chain, especially in the warehousing industry. 

Lumping: Etymology and Why It's Used Today

According to Etymonline, "lump" was used as early as the Middle Ages to describe a "mass of material, solid but irregular in shape." However, if you look up the word online (when used as a verb), it means "deal or handle a material in the lump." 

Despite the murky origins of the word, some experts say the term was coined by laborers carrying "lumps of cargo – which referred to some quantity of bulk goods, such as grain, sugar, and other cargo. Other quarters believe that "lumping" originated from the back pains that workers suffered after unloading too many pallets. 

That gives us a rough idea of its relevance in cargo handling because loading and unloading involve handling bulk freight to and from a warehouse. One common factor in all those definitions and opinions is that "lumping" revolves around handling goods in bulk. The contemporary "lumper" is usually a laborer who unpacks trailers and containers at a loading dock, although the term is also used to describe workers involved in unloading ships. 

How Has Lumping Changed Over the Years?

Lumpers have existed in one form or another since the logistics industry began in the mid-1920s when businesses started using pallets for storage. That created the need for lumper services to unload trucks once they arrived at their intended receiving destinations. Before 1980, finding and paying for workforce people solutions for lumping was the driver's job. During that time, they would hire individuals looking for work on the docks to unload the cargo, enabling them to get much-needed rest after a busy journey. 

As the industry became increasingly deregulated in the early 80s, many motor carriers wanted to avoid paying or reimbursing drivers for the costs incurred when hiring lumbers to unload their own cargo. They simply stuck to their pay-per-mile rates since freight rates were significantly plummeting. On the other hand, drivers weren't going to work only to unload cargo for free. At the same time, most grocery stores and docks had stringent union laws that forbade dock workers from entering trailers and containers. That's where third-party lumper services came into play. In addition, the unemployment rate was very high, making it easier for drivers and dock workers to find motivated lumpers. 

Today, most lumping work occurs at unloading sites, with some third-party lumping firms providing extra services besides loading and unloading: warehousing, temporary staffing, and brokerage solutions. But that brought about another problem for drivers:

Why Does Lumping Have a Bad Reputation in Some Industries? 

Of course, most lumper services are professional businesses, but unfortunately, some bad players tarnish the industry's reputation. 

Consider this example: a driver accepts to transport cargo stacked in 5 blocks, 4 high. After arriving at the receiving destination, the receiver insists that the freight be stacked 4 blocks, 5 high, yet they don't want to pay the driver to re-stack the cargo using lumping services. 

That should be an agreement between the carrier and the receiver, not the driver. If the receiver wants their cargo arranged in a specific manner, it's their duty to agree with the shipper on the best model to use to ensure the availability of the money needed to hire lumper services without involving the driver. Placing that financial burden on the driver would be textbook racketeering. 

Benefits of Using a Third Party Lumping Service 

Partnering with a digital-focused warehouse lumping agency ensures you have lumpers on time to handle unloading jobs at your warehouse during high-demand seasons. Apart from protecting drivers from paying lumper services out of their pockets, hiring lumping service providers has several advantages:

  • An easy solution for your short-term and seasonal work
  • Alleviates the hassle and costs of handling labor and workforce management in-house
  • Saves you the costs associated with staff recruitment: background checks, reviewing resumes, conducting interviews, and the related paperwork
  • Offers opportunities for hiring the right talents on a full-time basis
  • Alleviates costly employee turnovers

Eclipse IA: Transforming Your Modern Supply Chain Workforce

Eclipse IA is dedicated to helping supply chain businesses enhance their inbound and outbound efficiency by bridging the gap in staff availability, as well as loading and unloading times. We provide onsite flexible warehouse solutions that align with your business's unique needs. You don't have to worry about where you'll find temporary staffing for your next lumping job; we offer warehousing workforce solutions to help you get the right talents for your job, efficiently recruiting and managing them for enhanced warehouse efficiency and safety backed by data-driven insights. 

Additionally, Eclipse IA offers Customizable Technology Solutions (CTS) and cloud-based data reporting software that delivers the data you need to track your KPIs; as they say, what you can measure, you can manage. Our online portal enables clients and carriers to perform virtually all warehouse management tasks in a single, easy-to-use platform. You can track warehouse service activities, documented damages, online receipts, trackable POs, and many more.

With our advanced cloud-based online tool, you get the following critical features:

  • Dock Management System (DMS) – The DMS feature is designed to improve your inbound flow. It offers real-time tracking for all inbound loads, manage timestamps, upload daily schedules, log all inbound truck transactions, and a live dashboard that displays all warehouse activities on multiple monitors. 
  • Performance Reporting – Our performance reporting tool delivers the critical metrics that matter to you, so you can better manage your business. You'll have every data within reach easily, wherever you are, including employee availability, turnover rate, overtime hours, volume number (on loads, pallets, and jobs handled), and custom reports. 
  • Mobile-First Geo-Fenced Time Keeping – One concern drivers express is the low turnaround times between docking and leaving warehouses because of slow lumping services. Our online platform can enhance accountability at the docking/unloading site by offering geo-fenced time-keeping through mobile. It provides employees with the exact location, so they must be onsite before punching in or out. It also saves them time as they can quickly punch in and out on their smartphones instead of waiting in queue. 

Wherever your business depends on light industrial workforce, you can expect Eclipse IA to be there. Our team is highly knowledgeable and experienced in the supply chain sector, ensuring you have on-time staff to handle your warehouse needs, whether temporary or full-time. Contact us today to speak to one of our knowledgeable associates. 

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