What I Learned from a Canadian Trucker

Over a year ago, around the time that I was enrolled in the Flashpoint program at Georgia Tech, I was doing some research for MyLumper when I ran into a truck driver at the Petro truckstop.   I approached him to ask a couple questions, and he was more than happy to sit down and share his story.

Oh ya, hey?

He started by telling me his name was Marc Laurent* and that he was from Canada, though the accent beat him to it.  He was the quintessential Canadian: modest, friendly and in a great mood to talk.  I first asked him, “Why did you become a trucker?”  He responded, “I did not become a trucker, I became a traveler.”   I must have had a puzzled look on my face as I asked him to explain.   Marc went on and told me that he always had yearned to travel all over the United States and Canada, but didn’t have the bank to support such an endeavor.   Then one day he saw a semi truck drive by with a huge American flag on it.   To him, that wasn’t just a flag on a truck, but rather it was a symbol of freedom in every sense of the word.

He could suddenly see himself navigating through some of the most scenic roads, bustling  cities and rolling hills of North America.  Free from anyone telling him what to do in a traditional office setting, while still making a good living.

“… I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.”

That was when he decided to enroll into a program that would teach him how to drive a truck.   He said, “Throughout the whole process, it never crossed my mind that I was becoming a trucker; to me I was becoming a traveler who could roam free.  I’d tour around in a beautiful rig with a sleeper, making some deliveries of the products that people needed to go about their daily lives – and get compensated for it.”   He said, “I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.”

In my conversation with him I noticed a couple things.  He never used the words ‘work’ or ‘job’.   If that was his alternative reality, then that’s something I would like to see more of in the trucking industry.    Marc was happy, excited and loving the experience.   For a guy who has been driving almost 20 years, he was still in the honeymoon phase of his profession.

“I love what I do, but …”

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask him to tell me about any bad experiences.   After all, I was there to find out how we could add value to the trucking industry and to help hard-working people like Marc.

I asked him, “As a refrigerated driver, what has been your experience dealing with lumpers?”  He then started gushing about how those men and women make what he does so much better.   He went on to say, “I love what I do, but I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it as much if I had to worry about taking thirty to forty thousand pounds of anything off my trailer on a regular basis.  I wouldn’t have the time to enjoy my own down time!”

Reality Bites

He also told me about a bad experience he had.   He was making a delivery in California when he was asked to pay his lumper fee.  Since he never had any issues getting reimbursed before, he went ahead and paid for it after trying unsuccessfully to get in touch with his dispatcher.   He assumed everything would be okay in the morning once he sent in his receipts.   He told me he was shocked when his dispatcher said that he would not be seeing a reimbursement because he didn’t have prior authorization.   For a calm, well-mannered guy, I could tell he was furious even recalling the story.  He continued, “Since then, I’ve stopped working for that particular company and actually had to take them to court.  In Canada, the law in such a situation is very favorable to Truckers like me because I’ve kept my receipts.”

Our “Raison d’être” Moment

It was my turn to tell him about what we were building and how the new technology at MyLumper solves this very problem.  No longer will truckers have to call dispatch for their lumper fee payments or keep track of all those paper receipts while on the road.   He right away extended his encouragement to me and I could see that I had struck a chord.  

Maybe this insight can enable Trucking companies to present themselves in such a way to better recruit great people who possibly never thought about becoming a professional truck driver before.  People who instead see themselves more like Marc – a traveler with a desire to explore the open road of this great country, knowing they have the technology to avoid previous delivery ‘roadblocks’, making for smoother travels.  

Still paying Lumper Fees with Cash or Checks?  We can fix that.

*(not Truck Driver’s real name)

Akmann Van-Mary

The Tireless Role of The Modern Lumper

The Tireless Role of the Modern Lumper

Definition of lumper according to Merriam-Webster

lumper

noun | lump·er |ˈləm-pər |

“a laborer who handles freight or cargo”

I’m not going to pretend that I know better than Merriam-Webster, but if you asked – I could confidently tell you that this definition is glaringly incorrect and lacking the full, modern meaning.

Before my in-depth research in the industry allowed me to spend a tremendous amount of time with this group – some of the most patient and hardest working people in the freight handling industry might I add – that definition would have stood, but not anymore.

Experts from all areas of the trucking industry will often focus on hot topics such as driver shortages and the limited amount of hours that drivers are allowed to be on the road – While government regulators always counter those arguments with the multiple dangers of driver fatigue.   Neither side has ever considered the true cause.   Which individual ties all those challenges together, and without proper attention this person also possesses the power to bring a troubling situation from bad to worse?

If you said the freight handlers or lumpers, you would be right. With all due respect, let me explain.

  • On one side, if drivers always have to handle their own freight, mathematically speaking – they would then be spending less time on their routes. The physical effects can also be quite taxing on their health.   Given that 7% of drivers are women, and many others work tirelessly with physical ailments and limitations – this demanding duty could really force them to limit their options when choosing which loads to pull.

 

  • On the other side, the government is not entirely wrong in their argument. Without the freight handling industry, driver fatigue would be a bigger problem. You can simply imagine that a driver spends all day driving a forty thousand pound load for miles and miles with the biggest reward in mind – A chance to finally rest at the end of his route.   This peace ends quickly when he hears upon arrival that he has to pull and count all that freight in the trailer.

In my opinion, some of the safety records that most trucking companies, shippers and the rest of us on the interstate are currently enjoying, should be credited to the freight handling industry.

Those guys on the docks of America go to work everyday, many times in temperature controlled facilities, where they have to be freight handlers and therapists for drivers that have been driving all day with no one to talk to – all while making sure the products that we use every day are in perfect condition.

If you pay much attention to this post, you can see my struggle with the terms Freight-Handler and Lumper. A few decades back, the term lumper was attached to a couple of guys (legal or illegal) standing on the street corner, who would then be “hired” by a trucker to help unload a trailer. (I will not argue that was the case some of the time.)

But to think that the system has not grown into a legitimate industry would be a case of ignorance. It’s a well-formed and organized service with regulations that protect the men and women doing the work. I have witnessed firsthand the supervisors of those companies handing out benefit packages to their employees. Needless to say, it’s come a long way.

I have the opportunity every day to speak with people from the logistics industry, from the guys handling the freight, all the way up to the executive at management level. I am here to tell you that they are loyal servants of the supply chain as a whole, and they deserve our appreciation and respect.   Furthermore, they deserve an update to the definition of the word Lumper, so once again they can use the title if they so chose with pride and honor.

Akmann Van-Mary

MyLumper | mylumper.com

 

How my pain became my greatest mission: Why MyLumper?

I love writing about trucking and technology, but lately readers have been filling our Inbox with questions about the company – So here’s a bit more about us.

Day and night across the United States, tens of thousands of trucking dispatchers repeatedly get the same phone call from their drivers

“Hey Dispatch, I need an express-code…” Whether it’s for a fuel advance or lumper payments, the calls are frequent and the need for funds to be covered quickly is always of high importance. In order for the shippers, carriers and 3PL’s to handle the high volume of calls, they must either maintain a 24-hour call center, or the owner of the smaller shipping companies has to personally answer these calls – no matter what time of day/night they come in.

I suffered this firsthand and have been woken up many times throughout the night during my 10 years as an owner of a 3rd party logistics company. I felt that the current system was severely inefficient and costing the industry a lot time and money.

I couldn’t bare it any longer and that is why I left to build MyLumper.   With MyLumper, we have developed a digital payment network that eliminates the need for around the clock calls or outsourced call centers. It also reduces docked time for the drivers, and minimizes fraud risk for the shippers.

Though I have almost two decades of experience working in the industry, I wanted to be sure that we fully understood the problem and its root-cause in order to build the right solution for all parties involved. Several steps aided us in our progress this past year:

  1. As a company, we joined the Flashpoint program at Georgia Tech, which enabled us to conduct a tremendous amount of studies with Drivers, Shippers, 3PL and Lumper companies of all sizes.
  2. We spent countless hours working with lumper companies and various warehouse employees to understand the intricacies of their day-to-day activities. From the dockworkers to the accounting managers, we sought to clearly understand how we could add value to their daily lives.
  3. Thanks to companies like Petro, we were able to have great access to a large pool of drivers, allowing us to listen and understand why they have such disdain for the current system.
  4. We also interviewed a great number of shippers from various backgrounds. From the Fortune 50 style companies, down to the guy with just six trucks – ensuring that we didn’t just build a one-sided system that only benefited a select few. We also knew we needed something that helped all shippers become legally compliant in regards to 49 U.S. Code § 14103 – Loading and unloading motor vehicles https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/49/14103.

    In the end, the solution that we’ve created is something that we can be proud of; knowing that the struggles I went through and so many others still face, is no longer the only option. The trucking world today is growing by leaps and bounds – and we are proud to bring this technology to a very well deserving industry.

    Akmann Van-Mary

    MyLumper

    Special thanks to Petro

     

5 Reasons Why This Part of Trucking Industry is Changing

It’s a bit like getting a text message from your grandmother.   At first, it may be kind of hard to get used to, as she used to only call you from her home phone using a rotary dial – but now she’s on all social networks and is able to get an Uber when leaving her doctor’s appointments.   There really is no one left standing still when the currents of technology start moving.   The Trucking Industry is no different.   Outdated methods, policies and procedures are slowly but surely being upgraded and revamped to better serve a dedicated and deserving workforce. The biggest industry breakthrough will have a multi-faceted effect on the way Lumper Payments are made and received.

 

Safety and Liabilities:

We are seeing a trend in which companies that charge unloading fees are now moving away from cash. One logical explanation for this: Security and Liability – as warehouses are not generally found in safe locations. Before today, they may not have had another choice; however one thing we hear when we meet with distribution companies is that they see no apparent reason in this great digital age to continue allowing their partners to accept cash or checks at their facilities.   The instant electronic payment option is a natural upgrade to protect the industry.

High Churn Rate:

Some Freight Handling/Lumper companies themselves came to the decision to no longer handle cash because of high churn rate, stemming from an increased incidence of theft and fraud.   In order to improve security for their staff, workers have been forced to create varying routes to the bank when making the daily deposit, in addition to reshaping other general practices in accepting payments on the docks.

Competitive Advantage – Leveling the Playing Field:

When cash or check is your only option, it creates serious difficulties for some shippers trying to remain competitive with the rest of the market, as most drivers will often turn down loads that requires them to either carry unsafe amounts of cash or wasting valuable time waiting for check authorizations.  Because of new technology, Drivers can now accept any load without the worry of the loading and unloading conditions on that particular route.

Loss of Time:

Read one of the latest white papers by CH Robinson, as well as one from JB Hunt entitled, “660 Minutes”. They both reveal that one of the largest causes of lost time for truckers on the job is due to loading and unloading delays.   Therefore, shippers are put under strong pressure to reduce the time drivers spend at each warehouse. Current time-wasters include processing lumper payment checks over the phone – swallowing up a minimum of 15 minutes per transaction [MyLumper research study through Georgia Tech – FlashPoint 2015], and searching the area for an ATM – as carrying large amounts of cash on the road is extremely dangerous for drivers.   Lumper companies will benefit from the new digital technology, as it allows them to move drivers in and out quicker than ever.   Now they will have the ability to accept every single transaction – leaving cash and checks a thing of the past.

Paperwork and Visibility:

We are all in the paperless age from phone bills to bank statements – and Shippers are no different. For this industry, digital records are essential – as carriers will soon no longer be tied to matching countless receipts with their corresponding invoices, nor will they need to rely on busy truck drivers to preserve these important documents. Large carriers continue to experience difficulties in keeping up with paperwork, so for this reason among others, paper records have been seen as a negative. Partners are intent on finding better ways to issue payments, while at the same time ensuring good, clean accounting records that can be maintained for years to come.

There’s no arguing that Trucking is absolutely essential to our livelihood – so why force it to adhere to the antiquated ways of life that you yourself have happily left in the past?   Remember paying with a check at the grocery store? It feels like an embarrassing lifetime ago. With electronic payment system companies like MyLumper, freight-handling fees are processed digitally from the driver’s smart phone, right on the docks – saving over 83% of the time it takes for those check authorizations to finally spit out an answer. Let’s come together and support new technology and bring some real relief to the trucking and freight handling industry.

Akmann

MyLumper

It’s a Great Time to be in Trucking

This is a great time to be in trucking – though if you’ve been in this industry as long as I have, you will feel as if companies like Amazon, Uber and others are a bit late to the party.   I mean this in the sense that people nowadays are much more aware of the value of logistics and supply chain in general.  It used be that you would order a special product and wait patiently for either FedEx or UPS to schedule the delivery.   Now our shopping lives have evolved in such a way that everything from the furniture in our kids’ rooms, to all the food in the refrigerator are easily parts of our modern, on-demand delivery life.   Want laundry detergent? There’s a new Dash Button for that.   Need it today? Go check your front door; it’s likely already there.   All thanks to an ever-evolving industry with diligent engineers and truck drivers moving them along.

More than ever, companies are making greater efforts to not only consistently hire new drivers, but to do what it takes to keep them onboard as well.    At the last Connected Fleet USA conference, I had the honor of being on the discussion panel for this very subject of driver retention. I took the time to discuss the value of new payment technology – as that’s where we as a company are striving to do our part in remaining meaningful to some very large fleets in the industry. By providing a way for their drivers to issue easy and instant payments throughout their trips, whether it is for a lumper fee or a repair and so fourth, our hope is that this innovation will allow for safer and less stressful conditions for the men and women hauling loads each day.

Logistics is one those sectors where the phrase ‘better late than never’ does not apply, except in the case of improving the technology in the space itself.  We are to see that the door is now wide open for companies to bring their brightest minds to solve the challenging needs of the trucking industry and we personally couldn’t be more excited to be a part the solution.

The next time you put on that new shirt, watch your kids play with their favorite toys or bite into that apple – please remember the warehouse workers, the lumpers and the truckers whose jobs exist to make sure that you’re never disappointed when you reach up into the shelf to pick up that special item on your shopping list.

Akmann

MyLumper

The Real Driving Force Behind Amazon’s New Fleet

Lately there’s been a great deal of buzz surrounding Amazon’s decision to buy a fleet of the giant’s branded trailers.   At first I had no interest in commenting on the matter, but after I received a few emails – I’ve decided to offer my opinion on the subject.

It’s no secret that Amazon as a company has already been engaged in the transportation industry for quite some time now – maybe not carrying the same visibility as a Walmart truck on the interstate, but their presence has still very much been out there. The truth is, any company that ships and houses as much as Amazon does – is in part a logistics company.  After all, their whole business is correlated with their logistics costs – Air/Sea/OTR/Rail.

The reason this is not a move toward trucking:

Amazon has all the means to acquire many strategic and well-run trucking companies to create a top-notch transportation division without having any piecemeal investment in the sector, especially something so relatively insignificant as buying a few thousand trailers. There’s no real reason in my opinion for a company that size to test the waters of trucking with trailers that still require the power from a third party to pickup and deliver to distribution centers.  Walmart has one of the largest private fleets because early on they knew that if they wanted to be a dominant player in their industry, owning such a fleet was absolutely essential. Therefore, I believe that the day Amazon decides to own a fleet, they will take the route of acquisition and nothing else.

The way I see it: I read the Amazon announcement as a warehousing play. It’s far more of a supply chain shift, rather than a trucking move. Let’s go ahead and call it what it really is: A very flexible set of readily accessible small warehouses on wheels that are available to be dispatched at any given moment. This saves the giant an enormous amount of dwelling time, since those trailers will probably be pre-loaded with products ready to be deployed wherever they are needed in relativity to supply and demand, i.e. the (FEMA Model).   The branding is just icing on the cake, seeing those 53-foot trailers rolling down the US highways.

I may find myself in a situation very soon, needing to apologize for getting this whole thing wrong and I will not be too proud to stand corrected at that time. However, I asked the vintage Magic Eight Ball in the Amazon warehouse if I was onto something and it responded, “Signs Point to Yes.”   Can’t argue with that.

Akmann Van-Mary

MyLumper