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Drayage Service: A Short-Haul Freight Shipping Solution

Finding a reliable drayage carrier is essential to successfully completing your shipments. While drayage services are just a small part of the overall haul, it’s critical that you find a carrier to transport your freight correctly.

By

Josh Kimble
November 9, 2021
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Drayage services are used by shippers every single day to move their freight along the supply chain. Shipments often have to travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles, using multiple modes of transportation. Drayage helps move that freight between different legs of the journey to keep a shipment moving. So what is drayage service and — more specifically — how can it help facilitate the shipping process? 

Drayage service is the process of hauling freight short distances by truck. This shipping service is one small movement in a much larger series of shipments and is typically paired with intermodal transport at ports of entry or rail terminals. Drayage services are essential in managing supply chains and easing port congestion. 

Our guide below will help you understand the full extent of drayage services and how choosing a trusted carrier to handle your shipment can benefit your business.

What is Drayage Service?

What is Drayage Service?

Drayage service is an essential aspect of the shipping process that involves moving goods over short distances by ground transport. This process is used as a connecting shipment for an overall longer haul.

The congestion found at ports, caused in large part by COVID-19’s effect on the global supply chain, has put a spotlight on drayage service 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, typically from either a shipping port or rail terminal to a distribution center, warehouse, or another intermodal facility. This usually takes place at the very beginning or very end of a freight load’s movement to its end customer. Because of this, drayage trucking 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. Rather, the concept is based on being a supplementary or connecting freight shipment 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. On its own, it might not seem to accomplish very much. But it is invaluable to the overall shipment of freight as a whole.

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

Drayage trucking can actually work both ways as well. If you’re exporting goods out of 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, if done efficiently, can reduce and 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. It is, however, deployed to increase the speed of commodity movements since it cuts down on the time goods sit at a port or in a warehouse.

For more information on how drayage shipments work after freight arrives at a shipping port, check out our article on port drayage.

Ready to Get Your Containers Out of the Port?

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Using Drayage Trucking 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. In fact, more and more it’s being offered as a standalone service. 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. Below, are some specific examples of how a business can utilize drayage services.

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. These facilities are usually near ports, 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 be classified as drayage. The Intermodal Association of North America (IANA) has actually come up with a list of six different kinds of drayage services. The list includes: 

  1. Pier drayage
  2. Shuttle drayage
  3. Intra-carrier drayage
  4. Door-to-door (or retail) drayage
  5. Inter-carrier drayage
  6. Expedited drayage 

Below, is a table showing the top U.S. ports of entry in terms of total number of Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU’s) to pass through each port. 

Highest Volume U.S. Ports (2020)

Port of EntryTEUs
Los Angeles4,999,403
Newark4,599,961
Long Beach4,288,103
Savannah2,430,789
Houston1,995,734

Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1265024/leading-us-ports-by-teu/

Ready to Get Your Containers Out of the Port?

We've got trucks fully equipped and ready to haul your containers out of any port. Request a drayage quote today and get your freight moving.

Can Drayage Services be Used for Refrigerated Freight?

Refrigerated drayage services, better known as “reefer drayage” can be used to transport temperature-controlled freight between terminals and distribution facilities.

Reefer drayage requires specialized chassis that can accommodate containers with built-in cooling systems. Depending on the freight being transported, it may require special care and handling prior to and after delivery. 

Once loaded onto the chassis, the refrigerated container is then hauled a short distance to its next destination where it is transferred to the next leg of its journey.

What Type of Containers are Used During Drayage Services?

For drayage to occur, a shipment has to be loaded into a container which is then loaded onto a chassis to be hauled by truck to its destination. The type of containers used for this process varies depending on the type of freight being moved.

Containers most commonly come in 20-foot or 40-foot varieties, measured in TEUs (twenty-foot units). Depending on the freight, the container could come standard, have an open-top, require extra height, or even need temperature control abilities. The types of containers typically used for these include:

  • Dry containers
  • High cube containers
  • Open top containers
  • Refrigerated (or reefer) containers

Depending on the container being used, you may require a special chassis for your drayage shipment.

How Much Does Drayage Service Cost?

Drayage rates depend on a variety of factors, including: 

  • Weight of the shipment
  • Distance from origin to destination
  • Transportability (able to be moved by forklift, pallet jack, etc.)
  • Additional accessorial fees

The base costs of drayage are based on the hundredweight (CWT) of the shipment. A carrier will have a set rate for drayage shipments which they will then multiply by the CWT and add that total to any other fees that may be associated with hauling the freight. 

It’s important to note that CWT rounds up to the next hundred pounds. That means that if you have freight that weighs 310 pounds, and another that weighs 399 pounds, both shipments would be considered 4 CWT.

Other fees that can play a role in drayage rate calculations include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Chassis split fees
  • Demurrage charges
  • Detention fees
  • Drop fees
  • Fuel and mileage surcharges
  • Pre-pull fees
  • Toll fees

For more information on the costs associated with drayage services, check out our article on drayage rates and learn more.

How to Choose a Drayage Service Provider?

To find a drayage provider, there are a number of things about the carrier you need to consider, such as:

  • Distance from port/terminal to distribution facility
  • Cost of drayage services
  • Chassis availability
  • Locations across the state/country
  • Reliability and on-time percentage
  • Type of freight they’re able to move
  • Other services offered

A good drayage carrier will be able to communicate and work with you to ensure that they are able to fulfill all your business’s transportation needs. If you’re unsure of exactly what services you need, contact the carrier for a full list of services they’ll be able to provide.

Getting your shipments from point A to point B is vital to your business’s success. Don’t leave such an important part of the shipping process in the hands of a carrier that you don’t trust.

Drayage Services with R+L Global Logistics

Drayage service is essential to completing your freight shipments, which is why it’s critical that you work with a trusted 3PL drayage carrier. Let USA Truckload Shipping, powered by R+L Global Logistics, be that partner for you.

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. We can help fill in the gaps of your freight shipments, including the short trips during drayage to link your loads to meet their end goal.

We also offer additional freight services, including:

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

With strategically located facilities across the country, a 99.5% on-time delivery, and chassis availability, we excel at moving your goods throughout 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 today by calling us at (866) 353-7178 for a stress-free and quick quote.

Ready to Get Your Containers Out of the Port?

We've got trucks fully equipped and ready to haul your containers out of any port. Request a drayage quote today and get your freight moving.

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