The shipping industry uses many terms to define the different phases of the journey that goods take from point A to Point B, and over time these phases take on new meanings as to the underlying service that actually happens. One if these terms is container drayage and this has changed over the years as the packaging and delivery of goods has become more expensive. Techniques and systems have been developed to address this concern for both the shippers and the receivers.
Two very familiar terms, Intermodal Drayage, and Cross-docking are two practices that have come into recent use. One has a long history with a track record of systematic use, and the other is fairly newer to the shipping industry due to the need to streamline the process and save money.
Intermodal Drayage is the practice of using more than one mode of transportation to move goods. Drayage is a term that evolved from the shipping industry before there were numerous trucks on the road. The original dray cart was a cart with no sides drawn by horses, and it was used to move large loads short distances. Today, we use the four primary modes of transportation, ships, trucks, planes, and rail cars, interchangeably to define the intermodal service. Drayage still refers to the movement of goods short distances, but it can also include the complete shipping process using the different modes of transportation.
Trucks were originally the main component of the drayage phase. However, with the increase in the cost of fuel and the time it takes to make a shipment move longer distances with two or three stops and storage, shippers have developed other more effective ways to move goods.
One significant change is that they have incorporated the use of trains more than in the past. In fact, in 2014, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported that intermodal rail volume increased container drayage and trailer drayage by 13.5 million units. This was seen as unprecedented in the shipping industry.
Cross-docking is a relatively new concept in the shipping picture. To reduce the number of trips due to moving the goods from a ship to the final destination, shippers discovered that they could use their physical warehouse space more effectively. Cross-docking is the procedure where the building acts as the place where goods are unloaded and transferred to waiting trucks for the final journey to the destination.
An example of this type of transfer would be the scenario where the drayage from the pier to the warehouse would deliver the goods into one door, and the cargo would be broken apart and separated within the warehouse and taken to a door at the other side of the warehouse to be delivered to the final destination. This is still a form of drayage in that it involves short trips, but it can be a huge cost saving since it practically eliminates a traditional step of unloading and loading units into smaller trucks before the units are finally delivered by a third party.
Logistics of Intermodal Drayage and Cross-docking
Shippers who have seen this transformation of the internal workings of these two terms have also noticed that o make this practice useful and efficient, they have had to adapt to the changes in logistic strategy necessary for the system to work. As a result, shippers and receivers have begun to digitalize their operations so that there is less human error in keeping track of the inventory, following the flow of goods from door to door, and ensuring that the cargo reaches its final destination. Modern logistics must include the revamping of technology as it is used in the transportation business, and this is key for the modern use of intermodal drayage and cross-docking.
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