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The importance of drayage shipping

May 21, 2024 / US
The importance of drayage shipping

Drayage is a key link in the intermodal transportation chain, ensuring seamless goods transition across various domestic and international freight shipping modes—sea, rail, and road.

Originally referring to transport by humble, horse-drawn carts, today’s drayage is carried out by high-capacity trucks that efficiently move containerized cargo over short distances. This advancement has greatly streamlined processes, facilitating swift goods transfer without the need for unpacking and repacking. As a result, transit times and costs are reduced, enhancing overall efficiency.

What is drayage?

Drayage is a term used in the logistics industry to refer to transporting goods over a short distance, usually within the same city or metropolitan area. It is an essential part of the supply chain, connecting different modes of transportation and ensuring that products reach their final destination.

Drayage shipping is crucial for businesses of all sizes, whether they are large corporations or small startups. It allows companies to quickly move goods between ports, warehouses, and distribution centers, enabling them to keep up with customer demand and stay competitive in the market.

Types of drayage services

There are different types of drayage services available, depending on the specific needs and requirements of businesses.

Intermodal drayage

Intermodal drayage refers to the transportation of goods using multiple modes of transportation, such as trucks, trains, and ships. This method offers greater flexibility and efficiency in shipping goods over long distances. It also helps reduce costs and carbon emissions by utilizing different transport options based on their strengths.

Key Features:

  • Completable within a single shift, forming a part of a longer haul in the shipping process.
  • Apart from short goods transport, “drayage” holds other meanings within the industry. It can signify a vehicle pickup from or to an inland or border point, an intermodal terminal, or a seaport.
  • Sometimes known as the charge on an invoice for such services, commonly applied in the container shipping sector for global trade.

Various scenarios call for its use. For instance, during a routine freight move involving multiple transportation modes like truck and rail, drayage takes place when the freight transitions from truck to train. Here, shipping documents are updated, and potentially, the freight may be reorganized (split or palletized) for its onward journey.

Pier / port drayage

Pier drayage refers to the movement of goods between a port, specifically a seaport, and an inland location. It is often used for importing or exporting large volumes of goods. It is a key component of ocean freight shipping to streamlining the movement through busy commercial ports.

Door-to-door drayage

Door-to-door drayage involves the pickup and delivery of goods from a business’s location to their final destination. This type of drayage is particularly useful for businesses that need to transport goods directly to their customers.

Intra-carrier drayage

Intra-carrier drayage refers to the movement of goods through drayage trucks within the same carrier’s network, such as between different warehouses or distribution centers. This type of drayage is often used for consolidating shipments and optimizing delivery routes.

Expedited drayage

Expedited drayage is a specialized service that offers faster delivery times for urgent shipments. This type of drayage may involve the use of dedicated vehicles and drivers to ensure timely delivery.

The importance of drayage in shipping

Drayage plays a crucial role in the freight shipping process, especially for businesses that rely on importing and exporting goods. Here are some reasons why drayage is important:

  • Connecting different modes of transportation: Drayage helps bridge the gap between different types of transport, such as ships, trains, and trucks. This ensures that goods can be moved seamlessly from one mode of transportation to another, ultimately reaching their final destination.
  • Time and cost savings: By using drayage services, businesses can save time and money by avoiding the need for multiple shipments or transfers between different carriers. This also helps reduce the risk of delays and damages to goods during transport.
  • Access to specialized equipment: Drayage providers often have access to specialized equipment and vehicles, such as flatbeds or refrigerated trucks, that are necessary for transporting specific types of goods. This makes it easier for businesses to ship their products without having to invest in expensive equipment themselves.
  • Flexibility and efficiency: Drayage services offer flexibility and efficiency, allowing businesses to adapt quickly to changes in demand or unexpected situations. With shorter distances involved, drayage also helps reduce the overall transit time for goods.

Get better control over port and rail drays with Uber Freight

Navigating through ocean port and rail ramp congestion and inefficiency demands a dependable drayage partner committed to excellence and cost efficiency.

Uber Freight offers customized port drayage services for all commercial ports and inland rail ramps that serve the US. Our vetted network of proven dray carriers can offer spot or year-round capacity to cater to diverse shipping needs. Our hands-on approach involves direct coordination with core regional and national carriers selected through our drayage carrier program including 20’, 40’, and 45′ options. With Uber Freight, take command of your port and rail movements and steer your business towards smoother, more cost-effective shipping horizons.


What is the difference between intermodal and drayage?

Intermodal refers to the use of multiple modes of transportation, such as a combination of trucks, trains, and ships. Each intermodal rail shipment has a drayage move on each end.  Drayage, on the other hand, specifically refers to the short-distance transport of goods between these different modes of transportation.

What are some common challenges with drayage shipping?

Some common challenges with drayage shipping include port congestion, delays due to poor coordination between different carriers, and finding reliable drayage providers.

What is an example of a drayage move?

An example of drayage is the movement of a shipping container from a port to a nearby warehouse or distribution center. This type of short-distance transport is essential for connecting different modes of transportation and ensuring the smooth delivery of goods.

What is a drayage truck?

Drayage trucks are large semi-trailers and trucks that transfer shipping containers or bulk freight between various shipping facilities.

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