Freight shipping can be complicated. Although it is common to think that it only entails a ship or plane to move freight from one place to another, other modes of transportation play a role as well. From transport cars that go through road to drayage.

Why is Drayage Important?

Drayage provides the necessary link in the supply chain that spells the success of multimodal transport. Among the various services BOA Logistics supplies to clients, intermodal drayage often plays a role.

So what is drayage? Here’s a quick look at its origins, and how it is used by businesses throughout the country and the rest of the world.

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drayage trucking

What does Drayage Mean?

Drayage is a term utilized by the shipping and logistics sector, typically it is the process of transporting goods over short distances. While it can be used for minor transporting of goods, usually it is confined to use by the container shipping industry.

Drayage can include:

  • Trucking of containerized cargo from port to port
  • The cargo might be taken from a port to a rail yard to begin the next leg of its journey
  • The cargo may be trucked to its ultimate location.

What is Intermodal Drayage?

Intermodal drayage refers to the transportation of cargo by truck, sea, or rail, rather than just one mode of transportation. Intermodal shipping refers to loading cargo into intermodal containers, helping shipments  move seamlessly between the different modes of transportation.

It is an important part of the logistics industry because it allows companies to ship their products in a more cost-effective manner over longer distances.

Drayage specifically refers to short distance movements as part of the supply chain process.

drayage freight

So… the departure and arrival points are typically part of the same metropolitan area, in comparison to the regional or national movements seen in other forms of shipping.

Important characteristics include:

  • It can normally be finished in one shift, just a part of a longer length haul during shipping.
  • In addition to the process of short transport of goods, “drayage” also has some other meanings in the industry. Sometimes, it can also refer to a pickup by vehicle to or from an inland/boarder point, an intermodal terminal, or a seaport.
  • It is also at times used as the name of the fee on an invoice for such services, often used in the container shipping industry for international commerce.

There are situations it is often utilized for. For example, during a routine freight move, in which numerous transportation methods are used for shipment (such as truck and rail), drayage occurs when the freight is transferred from the truck and placed on the train. At this point, shipping documents are updated, and possibly, the freight may be rearranged (split up or pallatized) for the next leg of its journey.

The History

Interestingly, it has a history that stretches back very far in history. While current methods utilize modern shipping and containing equipment, drayage actually predates the current industrial era and originated with older container types.


Two horse dray at Tyne Brewery.
Negative Number 54M73

The term “drayage” came from the name of a house-drawn cart referred to as a “dray.” Due to the physical limits of the horses used in this process, delivery only occurred over short distances, usually near marine ports, and railroad and canal terminals.

This methodology was utilized through the 1800s, until the early 1900s. Then trucks became the standardized equipment for drayage.

Drayage Classifications

According to the Intermodal Association of North America, drayage can be split into the following categories:

  • Inter-carrier drayage – The movement of units over a short distance between different carriers, such as with trucking and railroad stations.
  • Expedited drayage – Units are transported over-the-road in a quick and efficient manner for time-sensitive material goods.
  • Intra-carrier drayage – Similar to that of inter-carrier, intra-carrier takes freight from a rail hub to an intermodal hub, all controlled by the same carrier.
  • Door-to-door drayage – Retail units are taken to a customer through roadways.
  • Shuttle drayage – An intermodal unit is temporarily taken to a parking lot from its hub of origin, with this method being used for both loaded and empty units when overcrowding in the hub occurs.
  • Pier drayage – Utilizing roadways, takes an intermodal unit to a dock or pier from a previous rail hub.

Most people in Logistics think of it as it relates to intermodal or containers on a ship, but here are two other drayage services you may not have considered:

Shipments to shopping malls and trade shows!

drayage transportation

For many shopping malls, there may be a centralized loading area where receivers pick up from in order to limit road and parking congestion. If you exhibit at trade shows, you are probably familiar with paying bills for trade show drayage.

Whether you ship directly to the show site or to a show warehouse, every company’s exhibit needs to get from the loading dock to its respective spot on the show floor. Trade shows often employ outside services, delivering crates to each company’s designated exhibit space, and back to the loading dock after the show is complete.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a drayage truck?

Drayage trucks are a large semi-trailer truck used for transporting goods from one location to another that are typically diesel-fueled, heavy duty trucks. Drayage trucks transport containers and bulk freight between port and intermodal rail facilities, distribution centers, and other locations.

What is container drayage?

Container Drayage is the transportation of containers from one port to another. It’s a short-haul trip that transports goods, usually before or after its long-haul shipping process. The term “container” refers to a standardized shipping unit used for transporting goods around the world. A drayage truck moves cargo between different locations, including container ships, storage lots, order fulfilment warehouses, and rail yards.

Need Drayage Services?

Now that you have an understanding of what drayage is, you may have found ways that it could optimize some of your business’ operations. Contact Boa Logistics today for drayage services!

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