There are more than a million drayage movements in North America every single year. Drayage is a ubiquitous and vital component of logistics. But what is drayage, and how does it fit into your shipping needs?

Drayage is short-form transport of goods between different modes of shipping, via ground freight. Given that most logistics routes require various modes of transportation, Drayage connects these routes and can reduce costs and logistical hassles. 

Drayage Definition: What Does “Drayage” Mean?

Drayage is an intermediary form of transport for shipments, usually involving short distances. 

For instance, if your goods travel by both sea and land freight to get to a given destination, drayage connects these two modes of transport. In this case, drayage carries the goods from the shipping port to a warehouse for storage or processing for the next leg of transportation.

Note that when we talk about drayage, we can be referring to: 

  •  A vehicle used to collect shipments at a border
  •  The fee charged for the drayage-related services


Drayage is an old term and originates back in the days before motorized vehicles. Horse-drawn carts, known as drays, would transport goods short distances (typically from sea vessels to other transport routes, such as river barges) 

Drays were replaced long ago by motorized vehicles. However, the term drayage is still used for transportation over these intermediary routes.

Modern-day drayage is still via land freight and over shorter distances. The containers carried typically remain in the same metropolitan area or the immediate region. Given the short-term nature of the route, drayage shipping is generally completed in one driver shift.

At What Point Does Drayage Happen in the Supply Line?

Drayage is the connecting link between different parts of logistics supply lines. It is often required at multiple points on a shipment’s journey. 

For example, say your shipment is coming into the country via an ocean carrier and then needs to get to its next destination via railroad. You can use drayage to get it to the rail terminal operator. 

If further transport by truck is needed, once again, a drayage service is what you’ll need to transport your goods from the destination rail yard to the truck depot. 

After the truck finishes its leg with your goods, drayage services can then get your cargo to their final destination warehouse. 

 Malls and trade shows also use drayage. Because drayage covers short distances, stores often use it to transport goods from mall drop-off bays to their store’s stock area. 

When it comes to trade shows, stallholders frequently have to use drayage to carry their items from larger trucks to the trade show floor. 


Different Types of Drayage

Drayage services aren’t one size fits all. Drayage services can fall into several categories, including:

  • Inter-carrier drayage: This is the most common form of drayage, and involves the movement of goods between carriers
  • Expedited drayage: This type of drayage is for time-sensitive shipments
  • Pier drayage: The movement of cargo from a land-based transportation terminal (such as a rail terminal) to or from a shipping pier for sea freight
  • Intra-carrier drayage: This type of drayage transports freight between hubs of the same carrier company
  • Door-to-door: This type of drayage refers to the transportation of containers by trucks directly to retail customers
  • Cold chain drayage: These are drayage services tailored to temperature-sensitive freight
  • Shuttle drayage: This is the movement of intermodal units to temporary stopping points and usually occurs when a hub of origin is overcrowded

When you partner with an experienced freight forwarder, you generally won’t need to liaise with all of these types of Drayage yourself. However, it is best to know what they are. You will be better informed of your drayage needs and won’t be surprised when you see the line items on your bill. 

Reducing Unnecessary Costs With Drayage

According to the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA), 95% of all manufactured goods travel in a shipping container at some point. Most container shipments need to transfer between different transport modes  —often numerous times.

If you try to arrange these transfers yourself, you may incur unnecessary costs and issues. Drayage services offer a cost-effective and convenient way to transfer shipments from one means of transport to another. 

Drayage also provides the missing link between long-distance drop-offs and nearby depot locations. Personally transferring a shipment from a train terminal to a trucking depot is cost-prohibitive and complicated.  Drayage service can quickly and cheaply accomplish this thanks to economies of scale.

Other ways drayage can reduce unnecessary costs and hassle include:

  • Cutting down on delays
  • Avoiding demurrage and detention
  • Streamlined transloading

These issues and activities can generate significant costs. The cost involved in personally organizing the pick up or drop off containers, on time, with seaports or rail terminals, are typically much more than what you’ll pay for Drayage.

Delays tend to be costly. For instance,  if you don’t pick up your shipment on time, you may incur expensive Demurrage charges. Returning empty containers to the carrier’s yard late may incur Detention charges. Transloading —the direct transfer of cargo from a container to a truck —is another area where efficient drayage reduces delay, expense and hassle. 

Is Drayage the Missing Piece to Your Logistics Puzzle? 

Now that we’ve covered drayage, its definition, and its benefits, it may be time to revisit your shipping / logistical needs. Dedola can help. We serve over 100 industries and 20,000 customers, catering to all logistical needs, common or customized. Our mission is to optimize your supply chain with industry-leading customer service. We provide unparalleled access to logistics expertise so that you can achieve the results you want at the right price. 

Reach out to our team today and experience what unbeatable service feels like in the logistics world.