What is drayage? Drayage is an essential logistics industry service and can play a role in the complete supply chains. Learn about how drayage plays a role in the logistics process and this necessary step can work for you.

Understanding the drayage process and its origin can help you make the most of this logistics service. Drayage is a logistics term that involves shipping goods a short distance via ground freight. Drayage can help fill the gaps in intermodal shipping. The term drayage refers to a niche shipping service needed to move large containers for a truck, ship or rail. In shipping, drayage is a critical step in moving freight.

What is Drayage Service?

Simply put, the term drayage refers to a  specialty logistics service that carries freight over a short distance. It is an essential part of intermodal shipping. Drayage is part of the container shipping industry. According to the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA), there are more than 60 million drayage movements each year in North America.

The term drayage also refers to a niche shipping service needed to move large containers for a truck, ship or rail. In shipping, drayage is a critical step in moving freight. How does freight get from a rail car to a ship? Additionally, how does a container get from rail to a truck? It all happens via drayage.

Drayage carriers must have necessary bonding and licensing. Drayage companies take containers in and out of warehouses, rail terminals, ocean ports and harbors. This often involves taking huge steel shipping containers off rail cars and ship decks and then loading them on to truck trailers. From there, the container is hailed to a warehouse or storage facility to get ready for the next step in the intermodal shipping process. Drayage is part of a longer logistics process.

In drayage services, the containers carried usually stay in the same metropolitan area or close region. This is different than broader regional or national shipping. Drayage transport can often be completed in one driver shift.

Before we get too far along, understand the term also has a number of additional meanings throughout the industry.

Drayage also means:

  1.    Vehicle used to collect shipment at a boarder, ocean port or intermodal point
  2.    Name of the fee charged for the services

Transporting Using Drayage

The distance and time-frame it takes a drayage service to move a container amounts to a very short period in the overall travel journey of the shipment. When a container ship arrives in port, a large contingency of drayage service drivers quickly move in place to transport assigned cargo.

Drayage also means transporting cargo to a warehouse, to another port or deliver to end destination within a specified radius. A number of companies are able to cover a diversity of services. However, others may select to develop a niche like only rail-to-rail drayage.

In shipping, drayage is a necessary step to keep everything moving smoothly toward delivery. However, as will other aspects of shipping, things occur that could cause drayage delays by a few hours or even days. Most services have the ability to shift resources to make up the time because of the short distances.

Drayage is an essential step in the supply chain. The only way your freight can make it from the port or intermodal terminal to the next mode of transport is via drayage.

What is Intermodal Shipping?

Intermodal shipping is a way of moving cargo or freight that involves multiple methods of shipping. Intermodal shipments might travels on a combination of truck, ship, rail or airplane. In most cases, intermodal shipments use special containers so that goods can be transferred between modes of transport without having to be unpacked.

According to the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA), up to 95 percent of all globally manufactured goods travel in a container at some point. This means intermodal shipping applies to many different kinds of cargo.

Drayage services connect these containers of freight from one intermodal point to another. For example, drayage service might include transporting a container from a receiving dock at an ocean port to a trucking terminal for transport to its final destination.

Drayage Classifications

Drayage service isn’t a one-size-fits-all method. You’ll find a number of classifications of drayage services. The following classifications come from the IANA:

  • Expedited drayage: Freight containers are transported quickly. This best applies to time-sensitive shipments.
  • Inter-carrier drayage: This is what comes to mind first when most people think of the word drayage. It involves the movement of goods between different carriers. As an example, inter-carrier drayage might involve transporting goods from a trucking terminal to a rail station.
  • Intra-carrier drayage: Intra-carrier drayage involves taking freight to two different hubs owned by the same carrier. Cargo might be transported from an intermodal hub to a rail hub.
  • Pier drayage: Do you need cargo to move from a rail terminal to an ocean shipping dock or pier? You might need pier drayage. This methods uses highways to get freight to the pier.
  • Shuttle drayage: Shuttle drayage involves moving an intermodal unit to a temporary stopping point. This method is used when the hub of origin might be overcrowded.
  • Door-to-door: Delivery by truck of container to retail customer

The classification of service you select depends on your shipping needs.

Shippers should determine which type of drayage service best serves the cargo for delivery to complete the next leg of the journey. Moreover, it may be necessary for a freight container to transfer via drayage service multiple times during shipment.

The freight, if moved by intermodal drayage, would involve more than one transportation type before reaching a final delivery point. Shipping using intermodal drayage makes up a lion’s share of the sector.

Each service category covers a variety of things for the shipment. The assigned driver may take the freight several hundred feet to a waiting truck or haul the cargo a few miles away to a warehouse near the port.

Whether the freight goes from truck to rail or ship to warehouse or any other combination, the link in overall supply chain is drayage service. Think of drayage as the short distance runner in the marathon of shipping.