Become a Lumper

On average, truck drivers spend somewhere between 40-80 hours each week driving from coast to coast delivering goods to docks, which will then either get redistributed locally or stored at a warehouse. The last thing truckers want when their loads are labeled "touch" is to unload their 48', 53' or tandem trailers by hand themselves: this is where lumpers, or unloading personnel, come into play. To become a lumper, you'll need nothing more than decent networking skills and muscle.


  1. Determine your physical capabilities. Although some dock supervisors may be kind enough to loan you mechanical pallet moving equipment, it should never be assumed they'll automatically do so. Therefore, you should prepare your body to handle unloading trucks, piece by piece, off each pallet. This process can take anywhere from a few hours or up to eight depending on how full the trailer is - it's best to discuss how much time the trucker has before picking up their next load to determine if you'll need to recruit some assistance.
  2. Locate warehouses locally to you. You may need to trek several miles by car, bus or foot to get to the warehouse location. Yellow Pages, both online and offline, become useful in this situation as does Craigslist or truck driver social media sites. You can find the latter by searching Google.
  3. When you arrive at the warehouse, ask to speak with a supervisor. Loitering or trespassing is strongly discouraged, and could land you in jail. Simply request the opportunity to speak with truckers that have 'touch' (loads the trucker must unload) freight and help them unload their semis. If you're given the nod, ask about any safety rules or equipment needed to be around the dock to help the warehouse remain OSHA compliant. If told to scram, it's best you leave quietly and move on towards the next warehouse.
  4. When trucks arrive, don't bum rush the driver. Some drivers are armed, or may wish to engage in physical combat if they feel threatened. Since they'll need to hand their bill of lading to the dock worker to check while unloading, it's best to hang where the dock entrance is.
  5. Ask the driver if they have no touch, or touch, freight. If the former, you'll need to wait for the next driver because the warehouse crew will unload the goods. If the latter, engage in conversation by asking them if they'd appreciate some help unloading their truck so they can get back on the road. Most truckers will be elated to have such help, especially those with some age.
  6. Agree on prices that are comfortable yet worthy of the physical effort. Truck drivers aren't particularly 'rich', but they'll part ways with money provided you do the work as promised. Some drivers will pay you upfront; some will pay after the work is done, whereas an even smaller group of drivers may buy you lunch and pay you during your meal.
  7. Get driver's contact information. Perhaps they'll call you when they come back into town, giving you residual employment for as long as they're employed by their current carrier.


  • If your body can handle it, or the loads are small, try to unload several trucks in one day.
  • Don't come at drivers with your 'set rates'; if they're willing to hire you, be willing to bargain with them.
  • Try to wear steel toe boots, or at least bring hardened boot caps to comply with warehouse rules. If they're required, politely ask the supervisor if they have boot caps you can strap to your shoes.
  • Always bring a second person, or have one on standby, if an entire trailer needs unloaded by hand. Once you see what 48' or 53' looks like completely packed, you'll see why.
  • A wealth of information about trucks arriving and departing can be found at truck stops. Ask for the driver's lounge and discuss your desires to truckers that aren't sleeping.

Things You'll Need

  • Clothing appropriate for weather and protection of arms and legs
  • Yellow book or directory
  • People/bargaining skills
  • Free time (up to 10 hours)
  • Ability to work unsupervised
  • Some knowledge of trucks and truck drivers is helpful

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