One term that often evokes confused looks among people in the logistics and shipping field is the term 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 what drayage is, in shipping.
Drayage is an important step in shipping containers by intermodal freight. Drayage means overland transport of goods over a short distance.
Drayage is used for the 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.
Drayage is a necessity for the smooth movement of container cargo from the point of its origin to the destination.
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.
Drayage operators move shipping containers between 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.
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 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 came to be used for hauling containers. These days, powerful, diesel-powered drayage trucks are used to haul goods over short distances.
The fees charged to haul containers over short distances over land are also known as drayage. This fee is usually not part of the freight bill from the main carrier and is charged separately by the drayage company that has been 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, the contents of a container or individual units.
Drayage using intermodal containers constitutes a major chunk of the drayage industry. Containers that are transported through drayage usually continue their journey using a different mode of transport that could be a sea-going vessel or a railway goods train.
Once the final seaport or rail terminal of discharge 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 type of drayage best suits the transport of his cargo.
When a container is transported between a trucking station, a railway terminal, or a seaport operated by different carriers, it is known as inter-carrier drayage.
In intra-carrier drayage, a container is transported between different freight terminals owned by the same company. An example is the transfer of a container from a container station to a railway terminal or a sea terminal owned by a single company.
Pier drayage is specific to the transport of containers between railway terminals and seaports.
When a container is delivered from the seller’s warehouse directly to the customer’s doorstep it is called Door-to-Door drayage.
This type of drayage caters to the quick transfer of goods overland to meet urgent delivery deadlines.
Shuttle drayage is useful in overcoming problems associated with congestions at terminals or transport hubs. It makes use of temporary storage spaces such as parking lots, etc. to park the container truck until the problem with space is resolved.
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 with them.
Though it does not fall strictly under the classification of drayage, certain 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 that have a low chassis and carriage with side openings. This makes it easy for loading and unloading 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 a storage, transportation, and distribution of 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 are used to 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 kept inside trucks. Another alternative available to shippers then was to wait for the cold season to transport such goods!
Drayage plays an important role in cold chain logistics. It is critical that the cold chain is unbroken at any point in time during the transfer of the cargo 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 however to monitor and take steps for the control of 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 that 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 dollars 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 are able to come up with solutions to overcome these problems quickly.
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 their back-office tasks, improve customer interaction, and transfer of information. Some of them even provide help to drivers in finding safe parking locations.
You might also like to read:
- What is OOG or Out of Gauge Cargo?
- What Is A Cargo Manifest In Shipping?
- What are FCA Incoterms® in Shipping?
- What is Blank Sailing?
- Understanding Duty Drawback in Shipping
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