Drayage 1

Drayage: The Ultimate FAQ Guide

This guide explores yet another important freight terms called drayage.

So, if you want to learn more about drayage, read this guide.

What is Drayage?



Drayage is the movement of a full container load by a truck from a port to a storage facility via ground transport.

This step is very crucial in the supply chain system as it fill in the gaps in the intermodal logistics.

Drayage usually involves a short distance travel.

What is the History of Drayage?

Drayage stems from the word “dray” which is a two wheeled cart which are pulled by horses. During the 18th century, traders used to transport their cargo between the ports to the store houses using horse/camel-pulled drays.

There were no large sophisticated containers that are currently being used in drayage services. The horses would move freight from the rail, canal or port terminals to the storage facilities or destination.

Since the freight was heavy, the horses covered short distances within the radius of the terminals.

In 1910s, diesel powered trucks were introduced and used to replace the horses in the drayage services.

The trucks were able to accommodate large container freights.

Today, trucks and containers used in drayage are modern and tech-enabled making the process more efficient.

supply chain management

Supply chain management

What is the role of Drayage in Shipping and Supply Chain Management?

Supply chain industry cannot be complete without drayage services in between. Drayage covers the short distances in between from one point to another over land within a region.

Every cargo movement from its point of origin to final destination involves several drayage movements.

Some of the major roles that drayage play in the global logistics include the following:

Intermodal Shipping

Intermodal shipping is the movement of cargo from one mode of shipping to another.

It involves a combination of transport means such as ship, rail, airplane or truck.

During long haul intermodal shipping, freight are transferred from one mode of transport to another.

Shifting these containers is done through drayage services from the port to rail station, or rail to truck, etc.

Special containers are used to avoid unpacking of containers during drayage.

Order Fulfillment

Drayage does not only involves connecting intermodal shipping, in some instances, it is used in door-to-door shipping.

In this era of ecommerce, some shippers use port warehouses from where the goods are distributed to their final consumer.

Such shippers usually do not operate from a physical store but use their online stores for business transaction.

A good example is the Amazon FBA, which consolidates its clients’ orders as per geographical regions before distributing.

The distribution is made possible by drayage services.

Cold Chain Transportation

With modern trucks such as reefers, we no longer have to wait for the cold weather to transport cold chain goods.

Cold chain goods can be moved from the port to the next stop or mode of transportation using reefer trucks.

Boost Container Industry

Heavy cargo such as steel, metals, automobiles, can be transported from port to rail station or final destination using specialized containers.

This has been made possible due to specialized drayage services.

How do Drayage Services Benefit Importers?

drayage services

Drayage services

As discussed above, we have seen that drayage services are vital part in the logistics chain that cannot be ignored.

It is the link between the port and the next point for the container, either intermodal point or final destination.

That said, several benefits are therefore associate with drayage service to importers.


Transporting containers both full and empty to their intended spaces away from the port make port operation efficient and smooth.

This is because container overcrowding as well as port traffic congestion is greatly reduced.

Cost Effective

Moving containers by truck is cheaper and time saving since it involves a short distance. Drayage is normally completed within a single work shift.

Using other alternatives such as air freight or renting containers can be very expensive to the importers.


Hiring the services of experienced drayage service providers guarantees your goods security in the process.

This saves you losses that would be incurred if your goods were stolen or damaged during drayage.

Experienced service providers are also able to keep up with any changes in logistics regulations regarding cargo transport.


Again, using experienced and well established drayage service providers who have working systems such as warehouse management systems (WMS) ensures accuracy.

This is because you have end-to-end visibility on your cargo during drayage.

Good working WMS ensures smooth transition during intermodal shipping, besides improving cargo security.

How does Drayage Service work?

Once freight arrive at the terminal ports, drayage drivers collect the shipment assigned to them and hit the road.

They ensure delivery of the shipment within the same work shift.

What is the Difference Between Drayage vs Cartage?



Drayage is the transportation of the whole container from the port to intermodal point or final destination or warehouse.

Cartage is the same as drayage only that it involves smaller units of the container content.

Is Intermodal shipping and Drayage the Same Thing?

Intermodal shipping refers to the use of multiple shipping modes to transport cargo from its origin to the final destination.

Shipping companies are able to plan and select the most efficient method of shipment transportation thus offering quality service.

In order for intermodal shipping to be successful, careful planning must be made beforehand with smooth transition in between.

Drayage on the other completes the chain in the different modes of transportation such as sea, air, rail or truck.

It involves trucking via road networks within a short haul to the different intermodal points.

What is the Difference Between Drayage and Cross Docking?

 cross docking

 Cross Docking

Drayage is the process of moving freight by road network over short distances within the supply chain.

Cross docking is the process of offloading freight from one mode of transport directly to an outbound transportation without storage.

Drayage can be from the port to a warehouse or to an intermodal point or final destination and vice versa.

Cross docking is from the manufacture or port and outbound to the final destination.

While drayage interlinks intermodal shipping process, cross docking is a form of intermodal shipping that is direct, no drayage is required.

In both scenarios, when cargo arrives at the port, it is unloaded, sorted and loaded to the next mode of transportation.

Perishable goods can be comfortable transported by drayage or cross docking.

Why is Drayage Important in Intermodal Shipping?

Intermodal shipping is the use of multiple transport methods like ship, rail and truck to move cargo from origin to destination.

In between the different mode of transportations, there is need to unload, shift and load the container cargo.

Drayage is the connection between any two or more mode of transportation usually done by trucks via the road system.

Drayage seems like a small link in the supply chain system but plays a significant role.

Every year, millions of drayage services are recorded in the cargo transport chain.

Having a well-organized system will ensure smooth flow of intermodal drayage throughout the shipping journey.

What are Drayage Classifications?

There are six categories of drayage services that you can select from depending on your logistics needs.

Drayage classification was done by the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA) as per their handling capacity and efficiency.

Door-to-door Drayage

As the name suggests, door-to-door drayage services is the trucking of goods to the retail customer using road network.

Expedited Drayage

This category of drayage involves shipment of freight that are time-sensitive and need urgent shipment.

Such goods are moved efficiently by road using trucks.

Inter-Carrier Drayage

This is movement of goods from one carrier to another such as form road to rail usually over a short haul.

Intra-Carrier (IMX) Drayage

This is intermodal shipment of freight from one hub to another by the same carrier.

Shuttle Drayage

When the hub of origin is full and cannot accommodated more shipment, some units are transported for a temporary storage elsewhere.

In this case shuttle drayage is used to move the both loaded and empty units.

Pier Drayage

Pier drayage is trucking of goods from previous rail terminal or pier hub to ocean dock or pier using road network.

How do I Choose the Right type of Drayage Service for my Shipment?

Having the right drayage service provider will ensure your shipment get to their intended point efficiently.

Therefore, you need to consider the following factors in order to choose the right drayage service provider.

Request for a quotation in order to get a rough idea of the drayage service charge and any other applicable cost.

The quotation also helps you to know if storage of empty containers, pick-up and delivery fees are applicable.

Check with the service provider if they offer cargo visibility during shipment through tracking.

Expected delivery of goods being transported.

These information will guide you in making the decision.

What does Specialized Drayage Mean in Shipping?

Not all cargo will fit in the general-purpose (GP) containers due to reasons such as size, shape or temperature requirements.

As such, specialized containers are used to ensure that all freight are taken care of as per their specifications.

They include reefers for transporting cold chain goods, open top containers for extra tall goods that cannot be loaded through the door.

Flat rack containers have foldable sides that help secure cargo during drayage.

They are ideal for oversized goods such as out or gauge cargo (OOG) like heavy machinery, construction materials or vehicle trucks.

Another specialized container that can be used is the high cube containers which resembles the GP but is slightly taller.

It is usually 45 feet high with a sinking floor from the front to its center.

One industry that mostly use specialized drayage in their delivery is the beer industry to transport their keg beer cylinders.

They use the low chassis trucks carriages with open sides for easy loading and unloading.

They use barrel ropes to unload the keg barrels, the heavy kegs land on a cushioned barrel pads.

Specialized drayage is important in the shipping industry, you should know the category where your goods fall when seeking drayage services.

How does Drayage Work in Cold Chain Logistics?

Cold chain logistics is the shipping, distribution and storage of cold and frozen shipment.

During pre-industrial era in 1840s, cold chain logistics was handled during cold weather conditions.

Shippers would use ice in shipping their perishable items to prevent them from going stale.

As trucks came into existence in 1910s, cold chain shipping was handled by trucks with ice in them.

They later advanced to modern refrigerated trucks around 1942.

Reefers continue to support the cold chain shipping to date as they help maintain low temperatures during shipment.

They have made it possible to ship fresh produce, pharmaceuticals drugs, fish, meat, horticultural produce, etc. without perishing.

Refrigerated containers are able to maintain the cold temperatures due to the insulation materials used in the containers.

They are also fitted with a cooling system, a compressor and a condenser device which work together to maintain same temperature.

Reefers do not depend on the truck, rail or vessel movement for their functionality.

Therefore, they are able to maintain temperature whether on transit or not.

Drayage services make it possible to transport cold chain goods from one hub to the next without breaking the logistics chain.

What Types of Drayage Containers are available for transporting Cargo?

 type of drayage containers

 Types of Drayage containers

There are a variety of drayage containers that can be used in the short haul of freight during drayage services.

A standard container is available in 20 feet, 40 feet and 45 feet length with a 6 or 8 feet height. These containers differ in sizes and specifications with some being made from steel or aluminum.

Shippers with perishable goods will use reefers; refrigerated containers to ship their goods in order to maintain the cold temperature.

Other available types of drayage containers are;

  • Flat rack
  • High cube
  • Open top
  • Dry container

Each and every container above is meant to make loading and unloading between shipments easy.

Choosing the right container that fits your logistics need will save you time and make drayage efficient.

What are the key considerations when looking for a Drayage Service Provider?

When looking to hire drayage services from a provider, there are a few factors before selecting one.


The location the drayage service provide is crucial as this will impact on the efficiency of their drayage services.

Drayage service provides closer to an intermodal point are like to offer you more efficient services than those located far away.

This is because, the providers are likely to have a professional relationship with the intermodal point.

A good relationship between make quality service delivery easy and achievable.

Secondly, they are most likely to be familiar with the local regulations and practices of the intermodal point.

This helps shipper to prepare adequately for drayage services between the intermodal point and your service provider.

Work Experience

Drayage services form an essential part of the supply chain globally that cannot be mishandled. Working with an experienced drayage service provide will guarantee you smooth movement of goods in the short haul.

Advanced companies use integrated technology that offer clients visibility of their drayage services, this boost clients’ confidence in them.

More specifically, cold chain logistics require extra attention as the good being handled are temperature sensitive.

Settle for a provider who is sure of how drayage operates and who knows how to handle different freights.

Company Infrastructure

Before making a decision on the drayage service provider to settle for, you have to consider availability of their drayage equipment.

This is important because different freight have different container needs.

Having a provider who is well equipped will guarantee you quality services and ensure different goods are catered for.

Work force also go hand-in-hand with company infrastructure, the more labor force the faster and efficient the services.

What are Drayage Charges?

Drayage charges are fees payable for the drayage services offered by the drayage service provider.

They charges are billed separately from the main freight bill usually by the logistics company assigned this task.

The charges are normally for moving containers by trucks over land and within a short radius.

What Factors Influence Drayage Charges?

Some of the factors that influence drayage charges are:

Dimensions of Your Cargo

When calculating drayage cost the weight of your cargo is multiplied by the standard rate per 100 pounds.

Therefore, the higher the weight of your shipment the higher the cost of drayage.

Drayage Classification

There are different categories of drayage such as door-to-door drayage, pier drayage, shuttle drayage, etc.

Each of these drayage classification has its own drayage fee thus their cost will not be the same.

Category of Equipment

Drayage mostly involves the use of an entire container in the transportation process.

Different containers weight differently and have different use.

There are 20 foot, 20 foot with triaxle and 40 foot containers.

A 20-foot container weighs the lightest hence it is the fastest and cheapest to transport, followed by the 40-foot container.

When overweight cargo are being transported a 20-foot container is fitted with a triaxle for even weight distribution across the chassis.

Trucks and chassis used for 20-feet with triaxle are very expensive thus they raise drayage cost.

Drayage Distance

The distance covered by the truck affect the overall cost of drayage.

The shorter the distance travelled the cheaper the drayage fee and vice versa.

How is Drayage Cost Calculated?

Drayage is calculated by weight with a base rate for every 100 pounds.

When using drayage services request the provider to provide you with detailed quotation to enable you estimate your drayage cost.

It is advisable to use the average drayage rate when estimating your budget to avoid under estimating drayage fee.

Whenever you have a weight that is not in 100 denominations, rounding offer will be applied to the nearest 100 pound.

The weight is expressed as ‘CWT’ C is the Roman numerical expression for 100 and ‘w t’ is for weight.

Any loose cargo that weight less than 100 pounds and is transported separately may incur separate 200 pounds minimum charges.

The minimum charges are as per the discretion of the service provider.

For example:

If the drayage rate is USD 70 per 100 pounds and your goods weigh 240 pounds the calculations will be:

240 to the nearest 100 pounds equals 300 pounds. Hence USD 70 X 3 CWT = USD 210.

How do I Minimize Drayage Costs?

The cost of shipping freight is generally high, hence any chance to reduce drayage cost is highly welcome.

  • Have your goods consolidated into one pallet or bigger container and ship together to avoid minimum of 200 pounds charges.
  • Sort out goods into crated and uncrated then transport them under separate bill of lading. This will prevent shipping the entire cargo uncrated.
  • Have small shipment delivered to your hotel address when going for trade shows then carry as hand luggage.
  • Have upright standing shipping containers to avoid stacking charges. Let your provider unstacking of containers before delivering.
  • Take a photo of your cargo as evidence in case of erroneous charges.

What is Border Drayage?

This is transportation of freight across geographical boundaries by trucking.

What is a Drayage Trailer?

This is a truck used in the transportation of the freight during drayage process.

What is Drayman?

The term drayage has several meanings such as:

  1. Conveying freight from the port to warehouse, port to rail and port to final destination over a short distance.
  2. The vehicle used to pick up goods at a border, port or intermodal port or
  3. The fee charged for this type of logistic services

Drayman is therefore a person who carries out drayage services.

What is the Meaning of ‘Dry Run’ in Shipping?

Dry run is a situation whereby a trucker fails to pick up or deliver a shipment despite being scheduled.

Dry run can occur because the shipment wasn’t ready, shipper was not ready for delivery, shipper unaware or any other reason.

Dry run fee is applicable and is billed on shipper’s account.

What are the Challenges of Drayage?

Some of the challenges encountered by drayage service providers include:

Long Turnaround Time

At the sea port, several shipping vessels dock at any particular time, hence leading to port congestion.

As a result, drayman has to wait for longer before collecting the containers for drayage.

Long turnaround time leads to port charges for both the cargo owner and the logistics company such as demurrages, detention, etc.

Wasted time at the terminals lead to delivery delays as well.

Overstretched Resources

When there are several containers at the port, the storage facility gets overcrowded.

Port equipment too are not spared during this time, the cranes, fork lifts and radio shuttles become overbooked.

Getting empty containers become a challenge when the port is congested thus slowing down drayage process.

Shortage of containers especially specialized ones may delay drayage hence leading to extra cost for shippers.

Service providers have therefore come up with solutions to help reduce the impact of the challenges on their services.

Such solutions include; Transport Management Systems (TMS) which can be integrated with supply chain systems to better manage drayage operations.

This system helps the drayage company with back office work automation, customer interaction and information flow.

This way, all parties involved are able to plan ahead and oversee a situation that may delay drayage.

Trucker Shortage

There are few people taking up the job of truck drivers due to their history with low pay and poor working conditions.

However, drayage companies are working to change this by offering attractive base pay and other allowances.

How does Drayage Affect Shipping?

Drayage helps in transportation of cargo from port to warehouse, trade show or even final destination by road.

It fills the gaps in intermodal shipping by ensuring the cargo moves from one intermodal point to another smoothly.

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