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What You Need to Know About Drayage Service

Drayage is used to move freight over short distances and is essential to keep the supply chain moving. Find out how we can help improve your drayage service.


Josh Kimble
November 9, 2021
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With the myriad challenges facing the entire logistics industry, the act of moving freight via truckload is more complicated than ever before. So when it comes to the shifting of these commodities domestically, it’s important to leave no stone unturned in the hunt for alternative ways to accomplish this. During this search, you might have heard about drayage service as a possible solution. But what exactly is drayage service and — more specifically — how can it help the shipping process? 

Drayage is one aspect of the intermodal process and involves containers full of freight being moved over a short distance from a port of entry. The containers are typically taken to a warehouse for further distribution. Drayage is essential in preventing port delays and making the supply chain journey more efficient.

Since drayage could be an important part in the maneuvering of your goods, it’s great to learn as much as you can about it to fully understand its role and how third-party logistics (3PL) companies utilize it. Our guide below will help you understand drayage services so that you can determine if it’s right for you.   

What is Drayage Service?

What is Drayage Service?

Drayage service is not a brand-new concept; in fact, it’s been used to varying degrees in the logistics industry for years. The term drayage refers originally to using a sideless cart pulled by dray horses, which were used for moving goods over short distances during times long before gasoline, coal or even steam-powered vehicles existed. 

The congestion found at ports caused in large part by COVID-19’s effect on the globe has put a spotlight on the practice and made it more prominently used within the context of both transload and intermodal shipments.

To reiterate what drayage service entails, it is a short trip — from the shipping port terminal to a distribution center, or a warehouse to a distribution center — that usually takes place at the very beginning or very end of a freight load’s movement to its end customer. Because of this, drayage is called the first mile in terms of its role in the transport of goods. 

One important thing to note is drayage isn’t a single, long-haul truckload. There is not a designated amount of miles freight has to travel on the truck to be considered drayage but the concept is completely designed around it being a supplementary or connecting freight shipments to support an overall longer haul.  

In other words, the best way to approach the concept of drayage is by thinking of it as a small part of a larger goal or as a piece by itself that might not seem to accomplish very much but can be invaluable to the overall shipment of freight as a whole.

Drayage transport service comes in different varieties and the distinctions may be nuanced but important in the overall scheme. Before diving into the distinctions, they all roughly meet the same goal even if the mechanics may be dissimilar.

Drayage can actually work both ways as well. If you’re having goods exported from the U.S., drayage might be used for the final miles of the journey to the port as well. This is pier drayage, which is also the phrase used to describe the other side of the short trip from the port to the next juncture.

Drayage is meant to be used to link shipments and another goal should be to see it used efficiently to either reduce or stabilize costs. Drayage done poorly can add shipping costs, either to the logistics company or directly to you, the freight’s owner. Drayage will not suddenly turn regular freight shipping into expedited shipping, but it is also deployed to increase the speed of commodity movements since it cuts down on the time goods sit at a port or in a warehouse.

How Do You Use Drayage For Your Shipments?

How Do You Use Drayage For Your Shipments?
A crane picks up lumber from a shipping container.

Drayage service is not a misnomer; it is indeed a service that more and more is offered by itself. However, logistics companies for the most part will treat it as an add-on service or as a service as part of an overall shipment or supply chain movement.

The technical aspects of the drayage process were explained in the previous section, so the concept is a known quantity. But let’s look at some specific examples of how a business would look to take advantage of drayage.

If your freight has entered a port and is unable to go directly to its final destination, a truck can pick up the shipping containers and bring them to one of your facilities, whether that be a warehouse or distribution center. That is a prime example of how drayage is meant to work.

Drayage can also work in reverse, as final-mile shipping. This would be where the freight was picked up from a warehouse or distribution center and then driven no more than a few hundred miles to the customer or retailer.

Another way drayage can be used for your shipments is as part of the transloading process. The freight can be taken a short distance to a transloading facility, which are usually near highways and on railroad tracks. From there, the freight can be loaded onto a train, or even loaded onto another truck, if that’s the best option to re-route it.

Basically, any road shipment you can have done on your behalf could classify as drayage. The Intermodal Association of North America has actually come up with a list of 6 different kinds.

There are different types of drayage, with a comprehensive description found here. The list is:

  • Pier drayage
  • Shuttle drayage
  • Intra-carrier drayage
  • Door-to-door (or retail) drayage
  • Inter-carrier drayage
  • Expedited drayage 

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Getting Drayage Service With R+L Global Logistics

Once you come to the conclusion that you need drayage service, make sure to reach out to the experts at USA Truckload Shipping, powered by R+L Global Logistics. We can help fill in the gaps of your freight shipments, including with the short trips during drayage to link your loads to meet their end goal.

Whether it’s from the port to a distribution center or warehouse — or another brief leg of the journey — USA Truckload Shipping’s ability and flexibility sync up to enable us to provide any trucking service you need, including drayage. 

We also offer freight movement in the forms of:

  • Expedited shipping
  • Flatbed truck
  • Refrigerated (climate-controlled) trucking
  • Transloading shipping
  • Intermodal shipping
  • White-glove delivery
  • And more!

USA Truckload Shipping, powered by R+L Global Logistics, excels at truckload shipping but has additional offerings to help with your entire supply chain. Should you require warehousing, for instance, that’s something we can provide as well.

Now that you’re familiar with drayage service and how it can help you meet your freight shipment requirements, be sure to reach out to USA Truckload Shipping, powered by R+L Global Logistics, today by calling us at (866) 353-7178 for a free price quote.

Looking for a solution to move truckload freight? R+L Global Logistics handles truckload shipping. Let us know when and we'll handle the rest.
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