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