FreightWaves Classics: Drayage is first-mile logistics (Part

Though the drayage perform has been around for 1000’s of many years, its worth has grown drastically in the past 70 decades, adhering to the introduction of the shipping container by Malcom McLean and his Sea-Land Corporation.


In accordance to Merriam-Webster, the definition of drayage “is the get the job done or value of hauling by dray.” Also according to Merriam-Webster, the very first recognized use of the phrase “drayage” happened in 1791.

Several other resources describe drayage in identical methods. Most agree that in the transport and logistics industries “drayage is the transportation of goods more than a brief length.” They also concur that drayage is typically element of a for a longer period all round go. According to Wikipedia, some investigate defines it specifically as “a truck pickup from or shipping and delivery to a seaport, border level, inland port, or intermodal terminal with both the journey origin and spot in the similar city space.” 

Drayage traffic near Port of LA. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)
Drayage website traffic around the Port of Los Angeles. (Picture: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

In today’s world of intermodal freight transportation, drayage is usually deemed to be the transport of containerized cargo by specialized trucking businesses concerning ocean ports or rail ramps and warehouses or delivery docks. As typically practiced today, drayage specifically refers to brief distance movements as component of the supply chain method.

Once again, most sources would concur that drayage is a “key factor of the transfer of shipments to and from other indicates of transportation.” While  drayage in the United States largely refers to the movement of intermodal containers from a single of the nation’s seaports to an off-port locale, drayage can also refer to a pickup by auto to or from an inland/border issue or an intermodal rail terminal.

In addition, drayage may also be described and utilized as the expression for the cost paid for these kinds of companies. This use of the term is typically applied in the container transport marketplace for intercontinental commerce.

There are subsets and various sorts of drayage as effectively (much more on this below). Nevertheless, port drayage is the time period most frequently employed when describing quick hauls from ports and other locations to nearby spots. 

There can also be drayage within just huge buildings (such as buying facilities and convention centers) when goods are moved from a loading dock to an interior area. For lots of buying malls, there could be a centralized loading region where receivers decide on up their merchandise in order to restrict road and parking congestion. 

In regard to trade exhibits and comparable activities, irrespective of whether an exhibitor ships instantly to the show web-site or to a exhibit warehouse, just about every company’s exhibit requirements to get from the loading dock to its respective place on the demonstrate flooring. Trade exhibits typically hire exterior providers, offering crates to each company’s selected show area, and back to the loading dock after the display is finish.

An intermodal container being loaded on a truck. (Photo: Georgia Ports Authority)
An intermodal container currently being loaded on a truck. (Picture: Georgia Ports Authority)


Drayage is as previous as transport. The earliest forms of drayage have been all-around considering the fact that the 1st ships carried goods from one particular port to a different. 

When the time period “drayage” began to be utilised it intended “to transport by a sideless or reduced-sided cart,” or a dray. Dray carts were pulled by dray horses, and have been used to shift merchandise of different sorts brief distances these types of as from a dock to a greater wagon or railcar. The distance dray carts could be moved was identified in aspect by the physical constraints of a dray horse. Dray things to do generally transpired at seaports, spreading to canal and rail terminals. Dray carts and horses ended up used from the 1500s to the early 1900s.

As shipping and delivery of imported and exported merchandise grew, a procedure to offload ships and transfer cargo from dock or pier to a distribution middle or a different transportation method was essential. As know-how advanced, trucks at some point changed the “dray” horses, supplying a lot more ability and the skill to shift merchandise much more rapidly. Finally vans turned the standardized gear for drayage.

In logistics terms, dray refers to the true vehicle – these days a chassis truck – utilised to carry out drayage. A dray truck transports containers around a brief distance as a ingredient of a lengthier shipping journey. The driver is referred to as the dray driver or in legacy phrases, the drayman. 

The Intermodal Affiliation of America (IANA) has observed that there are much more than 60 million dray actions per year. A lot of hundreds have to have drayage at both equally the entrance- and again-stop, and from time to time in the center of the journey as well.

Whilst drayage is a extremely modest part (in phrases of both of those time and distance) of the offer chain, its expense and likely troubles can be disproportionately large. 

A drayage truck hauling an intermodal container. (Photo: Port of Los Angeles)
A drayage truck hauling an intermodal container. (Image: Port of Los Angeles)

Critical properties of drayage

Drayage is a specialty logistics support that is ordinarily completed in a single shift. Other sorts of transportation get around immediately after a drayage truck moves a container from a port to a different area. 

The departure and arrival points are normally aspect of the exact same metropolitan place, in comparison to the regional or countrywide actions witnessed in other varieties of shipping.

For the duration of a plan freight transfer, in which many transportation techniques are made use of for shipment (these kinds of as truck and rail), drayage occurs when the freight is transferred from the truck and put on the practice. At that time, shipping and delivery files are up-to-date, and maybe, the freight may perhaps be rearranged (break up up or palletized) for the subsequent leg of its journey.

A line of semi-trucks with intermodal containers with the Port of Tacoma in the background.
A line of drayage vans leaving the Port of Tacoma. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Diverse styles of drayage

Drayage products and services are not just one-sizing-matches-all. Drayage is categorized according to the products and services that it will help to link. Each individual classification is distinct and satisfies only sure types of container movement. In the end, it is a shipper’s simply call to choose what type of drayage is very best suited for the transportation of its cargo.

According to the IANA, there are 6 different classifications that are employed to determine drayage. These classifications are universal and provide as section of the vocabulary for individuals in the shipping and delivery business enterprise. 

Door-to-doorway drayage transports products from a single site (port, railhead, warehouse, etc.) instantly to a receiver (either at a put of business enterprise or household). This kind of drayage is generally utilised in e-commerce fulfillment in which doorway-to-doorway shipping is provided.

This drayage technique will work most effective for cargo this sort of as artwork or home furnishings to be certain safety and a least of destruction.

Expedited drayage is normally the use of above-the-street transport for time-delicate cargo or items. This form of drayage transports cargo where it is required urgently. Expedited drayage is a more rapidly course of action than the other styles of drayage on this checklist.

Drayage that is expedited necessitates that all transportation providers are effectively-coordinated to stay away from any unnecessary delays finding the cargo sent to its spot.

Inter-carrier drayage refers to the transportation of cargo among carriers, usually around a brief distance. This is what arrives to thoughts initial when most people believe of drayage. It includes the movement of items in between various carriers or from a person mode of transportation to a further.

As an instance, inter-carrier drayage may require transporting items from a trucking terminal to a rail station, or relocating merchandise from a port wherever a container was taken from a ship by a truck to a warehouse. 

Drayage trucks move intermodal containers. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)
Drayage vans transfer intermodal containers. (Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Intra-provider drayage includes a container being transported in a small-haul transfer among distinctive freight terminals owned by the same organization. For case in point, a provider would acquire freight from its rail hub to its intermodal hub.

Pier drayage refers to the movement of cargo from a railyard or storage spot to a pier in which there is a ship that is waiting around for the following leg of the cargo’s excursion. With pier drayage a truck makes use of streets and/or highways to transport intermodal units to a dock or pier from a earlier hub.

Shuttle drayage takes place when the hub of origin is comprehensive and are unable to accommodate further shipments. Some units are transported for short-term storage somewhere else. Shuttle drayage retains containers and the merchandise they maintain safe in storage right up until there is home for them. Shuttle drayage can also be a phase of inter-provider drayage when containers need to be held at a ton or warehouse till the upcoming method of transportation is out there – whether or not it be air, land or sea.

Shuttle drayage is utilised for both loaded and vacant containers when overcrowding in the hub takes place.

Among the resources consulted for this FreightWaves Classics short article have been: ABCO, AsianUSA, BansarChina, BOA Logistics, Envase, FMI, FreightRight, Globecon Freight, Icontainers, InTek Freight & Logistics and Marine Perception. Thanks to each individual of these businesses for the information presented.