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When it comes to coordinating the logistics of your supply chain shipping solution needs, many business owners don’t take into account the importance of the last few legs of the journey of their products, known as drayage. Drayage services are essential for transporting goods over short distances, usually between destinations in a metropolitan area. Often, drayage services get goods from the port to their final destination in a warehouse or consumer’s store.

Drayage is a crucial piece of the intermodal freight transportation logistical shipping process. Essentially, it is what brings the products manufactured by the best companies directly into the hands of their customers. Making drayage a priority in your logistical shipping chain can help ensure that your products reach their destination in a timely and effective manner.

The history of drayage service

“Drayage” comes from a sideless, horse-drawn cart that was a popular method of moving goods from one point to another from the 16th to 19th centuries. As commerce became more widespread in Europe, especially with the rise of merchant shipping companies bringing goods from overseas, the need for quick and simple transportation and storage of those goods from ports became essential to importing and exporting businesses.

In its simplest form, “drayage” refers to goods which are transported over a short distance, ultimately ending up in the hands of the consumer. In modern terms, it usually refers to the transport of goods from a seaport or airport to the next destination, whether that be the customer or temporary storage, such as a warehouse or hub in a logistics service park.
The term “dray” refers to the cart, which means “to haul” or “to draw.” It’s derived from similar sounding words in German, Dutch, and Old English. While it is thought to be an antiquated mode of transporting goods, supplies, and resources, it is still used in some areas for recreational, logging, or farming purposes.

Dray horses, also sometimes called “draft horses,” tend to be extremely muscular and tall. Some of the more well-known breeds of dray horses include Clydesdales, Shires, Irish Drafts, Comtois, Dutch Drafts, and Friesians. Today, many of these same breeds of horses are used to cart passengers around cities, or as mascots for breweries.

While dray horses have been replaced by modern machinery in most areas of the world, they are still used to plow, cart goods, and move supplies on many farms in undeveloped regions. Additionally, they are also favored for farming purposes by groups who purposely reject modern technology, such as the Mennonites and the Amish.

Historically, drivers of drays were known as “wagoners” or “muleskinners.” Today, they’re called either “draymen” or “drayage drivers.” Draymen typically do not drive for several days; instead, their work can usually be completed in the course of a day which is a big benefit of intermodal shipments. Sometimes, they can make multiple trips from a port to the next generation in the shipping chain.

Drayage in intermodal shipping

Drayage is essential for getting a manufacturer or distributor’s products into the hands of the consumers. The logistics of drayage include getting the goods in a container from a port to their next destination, and this can include bringing the container to a rail transport yard for further shipment or bringing a container over a short metropolitan distance via truck.

The most important piece of equipment in drayage, other than the truck, is the chassis which is hooked up to the truck and used to transport the container over the road transport. The availability of these chassis are integral to a smooth operation, but with the rising influx of containers from overseas, there is often a shortage of drivers to get these chassis from one point to another. Companies find themselves scrambling to get their chassis back to the port, or to another location to pick up a container that must be brought to more than one location.
While most chassis are kept off the terminals of shipping and rail yards in adjacent sites, it’s fast becoming a challenge to secure enough land for all of the necessary chassis needed for the incoming freight.

Drayage loading is performed in two ways: drop-and-picks and live unloads. Drop-and-picks are when a drayage driver drops off the container of goods at a location, such as a warehouse, and picks it up for further transport at another time. Live unloads are when the driver is physically present at the dock and waits until the container is unloaded onto the chassis.

The typical distance for most intermodal services is 75 miles from port to the next destination. This allows drayage drivers to make several trips to and from the port, depending on traffic and other factors. Because there is a shortage of drayage drivers, it is essential for drayage companies to not have their drivers out on the roads for long periods. The more containers drayage drivers can pick up in a day or a week means that drayage companies can turn more profits and get goods to their final destinations more efficiently.

Classifications of intermodal drayage

There are six classifications of drayage models in intermodal shipping. These include:

  • Pier drayage
  • Door-to-door drayage
  • Expedited drayage
  • Inter-carrier drayage
  • Intra-carrier drayage
  • Shuttle drayage

Pier drayage is usually, but not always used in exporting services. Pier drayage is used to bring a container from a rail yard or manufacturing site to a pier or dock in a shipping port. Sometimes, a container can be used in what is known as a “street turn,” which is when an imported container is emptied, and then filled up with goods to be exported using pier drayage services.

Door-to-door drayage is used to transport containers of goods from the manufacturer to the customer using the roadways or railways. These containers are delivered directly to the customer and are not stored in a warehouse.

Expedited drayage refers to drayage services that are used for time-sensitive shipments. The containers are typically brought directly from the port to the customer via truck. These shipments usually are not transported using the railway system.

Inter-carrier drayage refers to the use of both trucks and rail ways to move containers from one point to the next, using collaboration between multiple carriers to get the container to its final destination. This requires communication and planning between carriers and is a common part of the drayage process. Many of the other classifications of drayage services are simultaneously classified as inter-carrier.

Likewise, intra-carrier drayage is a simultaneous classification for drayage services. Intra-carrier drayage is used when containers are transported between different locations using either railways or roadways, but the same carrier owns these modes of transportation. The logistics of this method are much more streamlined because they are managed within the same company.
Shuttle drayage is used when overcrowding occurs at either the ports or rail yards. Containers are typically stored in a parking lot of some sort to help keep the terminals and storage areas of a port or rail yard from becoming congested.

Challenges for drayage services and how companies must adjust

About 95% of the manufactured goods in the world end up in container drayage during their transport time from the manufacturer or distributor to the customer. The United States is the world’s largest importer of goods, and national drayage services are seeing the effects of the increase in imports over recent years.

With the expansion project of the Panama Canal finally complete, U.S. shipping ports are seeing an increase in the size and capacity of ships that can reach ports on either coast. This means that many shipping ports have had to expand their territory, terminals, and equipment to accommodate these much larger ships. Many ports have also had to widen or deepen their channels, and there are several plans to continue this process so that more coastal shipping ports can accommodate these jumbo ships.

Terminals at these ports, as a result, have become more congested and the backlog of drayage drivers waiting to pick up their containers can be quite long. While many ports and railways have been able to purchase land nearby for storage of drayage chassis, sometimes that land is not enough for all the chassis required by drayage companies. The expansion of port territory continues to be a challenge across the country.

Some steps are being made to help mitigate the backlog of drivers by using mobile apps to speed up the check-in, check-out process at terminals, including gate receipts and billing data. Automated gate systems are also speeding up the loading process, while rail yards are utilizing intelligent inventory cranes to stack containers in order to save space.

Many manufacturers and distributors are encouraged to establish guaranteed container counts throughout a longer contract with a carrier company. This allows the carrier to properly plan and allocate the amount of equipment that will be needed for your container drayage.
Likewise, carriers who own their equipment are generally going to be more reliable than carriers that need to utilize equipment collaborations with other carriers. The more equipment that is handled in-house with a carrier means that you are dealing with one entity instead of several. In other words, intra-carrier drayage services are usually the most efficient way of getting your goods to your customers.

Drayage costs

There are various cost factors included in drayage services, and some of these costs have risen over the last few years. You can expect drayage service costs to fluctuate according to distance, drayage classification, and equipment tiers, depending on the size and weight of your cargo.
Equipment costs include the cost of the chassis or trailer and the trucks used to move these from the port to the next destination. Most drayage companies include a pick-up and delivery fee, and that may fluctuate based on the destination of the containers.

The classification of your drayage service may also affect your rate quote. Your container’s transportation modes, whether it be strictly by truck, or if it needs to be transferred onto a freight shipping train, will impact your drayage rate. Inter-carrier logistical collaboration will also be a factor in what your drayage will cost.

The size and weight of your cargo containers will also impact the cost of drayage. There are generally three sizes of containers: 20-foot, 20-foot with triaxle, and 40-foot. A 20-foot container is the smallest of the three, and if it’s within the weight limit of 38,500 pounds, including the truck and chassis, then it is the fastest and cheapest of the drayage transportation services.

An overweight 20-foot container requires the use of a chassis with a third axle to distribute the weight more evenly. These chassis cost more than the standard chassis or trailer used to transport the container over the roadways.

A 40-foot container is the largest container available for transportation and can hold up to 45,500 pounds. This is the most expensive drayage transport service because the chassis is larger, and the weight of the container uses more fuel.

Chassis are usually paid for on a per-day basis and included in the cost of the drayage services. With the cost comes the bill of lading for proof of purchase and transport.

Final thoughts

Drayage is an essential part of shipping and distributing goods across the globe. It is rare that goods do not spend at least some of their time in drayage, and it’s important to factor this into your shipping expenses from the very beginning.

Using a third-party logistics provider to help with your transportation planning is a huge help in managing drayage services. Third-party logistics providers, or 3PLs, usually already have established relationships with trucking companies and carriers which help expedite the process and ensure you’re receiving the best prices for your cargo transportation services.

A 3PL makes sure that your goods are treated with care, and that they arrive at their final destination efficiently and economically. Drayage is an important piece of your cargo’s journey, and 3PLs contract with the best carriers to ensure your shipping process is as smooth as possible.

Contact us today

Asiana USA is ready to help your company with all of its shipping and drayage needs at a reduced cost. Call us today at 855-500-1808.

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