What is Drayage in Shipping?

One term that often evokes confused looks among people in the logistics and shipping field is drayage. This is because it is often replaced by words such as inland freight, inland haulage, etc., by users.

Let us take a look at the drayage service in shipping.

Drayage is an integral part of global supply chains. It is best for short-distance movement of cargo that has its main leg of the journey by land or sea. It is a specialized field in a supply chain that usually involves the movement of containers. It is essential for the smooth movement of container cargo from the point of its origin to the destination.

Drayage is an essential step in shipping containers by intermodal freight. Drayage means overland transport of goods over a short distance from a trucking terminal to a railway terminal etc. These goods are taken from a loading dock to a warehouse or storage facility from where they are transported to inland locations such as distribution centers, stores etc. From here, the goods are further distributed via roadways to local shops where retail customers buy them.

Examples of drayage are when a container has to be moved from a rail car to a trucking hub or a shipping terminal or vice versa. It could also mean the movement of a container from one seaport to another over land. Examples of drayage include trade show drayage, which provides for shipments to trade shows or even shopping malls.

Drayage operators move shipping containers via highways between hubs, railway terminals, seaports, or warehouses. This would also involve lifting the containers from the ships or the rail cars onto trucks or the other way around. In some places, draft horses are used like in the bygone days.

It may then be moved to a warehouse or transported directly to its final destination. Simply put, drayage is a short-distance overland transport of a container.


If drayage is the short-distance transport of containers over land, what is dray?

The origin of the word dray is from small horse-drawn carts without side walls that were used in the haulage of heavy boxes between warehouses, railroad terminals, seaports, and loading and unloading points along canals.

Though the dray horses like Clydesdales could pull heavy containers, they could not travel very far with this heavy load. Dray carts and horses were used from the 1500s to the early 1900s until the automobile industry took over and trucks were used to haul containers. These days, powerful, diesel-powered drayage trucks haul goods over short distances.

The fees for hauling containers over short distances over land are also known as drayage. This fee is usually not part of the freight bill from the leading carrier and is charged separately by the drayage company entrusted with the task.


Drayage and Cartage

Drayage is, however, not to be confused with cartage. While drayage is the transport of whole containers, cartage usually involves break-bulk cargo, for example, container contents or individual units.

Drayage using intermodal containers constitutes a major chunk of the drayage industry. Containers transported through drayage usually continue their journey using a different mode of transport: a sea-going vessel or a railway goods train.

Once the last seaport or rail discharge terminal is reached, there will be further drayage before the container reaches its final destination, which could be the customer’s warehouse. As can be seen, drayage links the transport of containers by road, rail, or sea.

Classification of Drayage

Drayage may be classified according to the services that it helps to link. Each classification is different and suits only certain types of container movement. Ultimately, it is the shipper’s call to decide which kind of drayage best works for transporting his cargo.

Inter-carrier Drayage

An example of inter-carrier drayage is when a container is transported between a trucking station, a railway terminal, or a seaport operated by a different carriage.

Intra-carrier Drayage

In intra-carrier drayage, a container is transported between an intermodal hub or freight terminals owned by the same company. An example is transferring a container from a container station to a rail hub or a sea terminal owned by a single company.

Pier Drayage

Pier drayage is specific to transporting containers between railway terminals and seaports.

Railway port container

Door-to-Door Drayage

When a container is delivered from the seller’s warehouse directly to the customer’s doorstep, it is called Door-to-Door drayage.

Expedited Drayage

This drayage caters to quickly transferring goods overland to meet urgent delivery deadlines.

Shuttle Drayage

Shuttle drayage is useful in overcoming problems associated with congestion at terminals or transport hubs. Shuttle drayage involves taking containers from the hub of origin to temporary storage spaces such as parking lots, etc., to park the container truck until the congestion problem is resolved.

Specialized Drayage

Cargo comes in different sizes, shapes, and temperature requirements. Some of them could be temperature-sensitive cargo that requires packing in refrigerated containers. Some of them could be Out-of-Gauge cargo or OOG. These are cargo that typically does not fit inside a container or a box.

While general cargo can be packed inside a general-purpose container (GP container), others need special equipment such as a flat rack, open-top, high-cube, or a refrigerated container. Drayage operators should be ready to meet such requirements and must have the equipment available to them.

Though it does not fall strictly under the classification of drayage, specific industries require specialized dray trucks for their pick-ups and deliveries.

One such example is the beer industry which requires the transport of heavy beer kegs between the brewery and retail outlets. They do this using dray trucks with low chassis and carriage with side openings. This makes it easy to load and unload directly to the outlet.

Barrel ropes or ratchet straps are used to lower or drop the heavy kegs onto barrel pads that are large, shock-absorbent, heavy-duty cushions.

Cold Chain and Drayage

A cold chain is storing, transporting, and distributing temperature-sensitive cargo. Certain food items, meat, fish, pharmaceutical drugs, etc., are examples of goods that require the cold chain—modern refrigerated containers known as reefers transport such products from one point to another.

Before the reefer container came into the picture, goods that were required to be kept cold were transported on blocks of ice held inside trucks. Another alternative to shippers was to wait for the cold season to transport such goods!

Drayage plays a vital role in cold chain logistics. The cold chain must be unbroken during the cargo transfer from the shipper’s warehouse to its final destination. Drayage helps overcome lengthy waiting periods that can impact the cold chain negatively.

Ports Drayage Truck Registry (PDTR)

Some ports, especially in the US, maintain a Ports Drayage Truck Registry (PDTR). This register maintains a list of the registered trucks that can enter and exit the port for the authorized drop-off and pick-up of containers.

The main function of the PDTR is to monitor and take steps to control emissions from the diesel trucks and other diesel-powered automobiles that enter and exit the port precincts.

It encourages eco-friendly, clean-air technologies that can replace diesel power which is seen as the main culprit in the discharge of particulate matter and emission of nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides into the atmosphere.

Challenges Faced by the World’s Drayage Industry

The drayage industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. At the same time, it faces many challenges such as congestion in marine terminals that result in long turn-around times for drayage trucks, shortage of equipment, and sometimes a shortage of empty containers.

Just as in other forms of transport, drayage may also face problems that could lead to delays in deliveries. However, since the journey is short, drayage operators can quickly find solutions to overcome these problems.

Several TMS or Transportation Management Systems are available to drayage companies these days. They are normally a part of a company’s supply chain management system and attached to its ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system.

Transportation Management Systems help drayage companies to manage their services better. It can automate back-office tasks, improve customer interaction, and transfer information. Some of them even provide help to drivers in finding safe parking locations.

Hence, drayage is an integral part of shipping and distributing goods across the globe.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the difference between cartage and drayage?

In a drayage service, entire containers are transported. However, cartage breaks the different elements before transporting them to cities through roadways.

2. What is the difference between drayage and intermodal transport?

Unlike drayage, which occurs only through roadways, mainly highways, intermodal involves multiple modes of transportation. Usually, drayage is part of a larger shipment-related transport chain that culminates into an intermodal shipment.

3. What is drayage, and how does it work?

Drayage services refer to vehicles like trucks that transport goods over short distances, from port to warehouse, from warehouse to distribution centres to shops. Drayage shipping also relates to the fees charged for these services.

4. How was drayage done in earlier days?

In ancient and medieval times, traders used horse-driven carts for transporting goods from warehouses to ports and vice versa. The term dray stands for horse carts.

5. What is container drayage?

Container drayage shipping refers to moving container goods over short distances, generally in the same city, between different ports, warehouses, rail yards and shipping hubs.

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Disclaimer: The author’s views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Marine Insight. Data and charts, if used in the article, have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Marine Insight do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendations on any course of action to be followed by the reader.

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About Author

Hari Menon is a Freelance writer with close to 20 years of professional experience in Logistics, Warehousing, Supply chain, and Contracts administration. An avid fitness freak, and bibliophile, he loves travelling too.

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