What is Drayage and Why is it Critical for Your Supply Chain?

What Is Drayage

In freight shipping and logistics, drayage is the transport of goods over short distances. It may seem as though this process is a small step in the grand scheme of things, but it is critical to the supply chain. What role does it play in shipping operations? Let’s dive into the fundamentals and shed light on why this specialized segment of transportation is an important part of the logistics ecosystem.


Drayage Definition and Types

The meaning of drayage is the transport of a shipment over a short distance. However, this “short” distance is significant to the shipping and trucking industry. In logistics, drayage refers to the transportation of cargo or containers from one point to another, often between ports, rail yards, warehouses, distribution centers or retail locations.

Drayage has existed since civilization started transporting goods, but the term comes from “dray,” a small cart used for transporting goods in the 1800s to 1900s. Since these carts were horse-drawn, they could only travel short distances.

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Types of Drayage

There are several common types, each catering to a specific transportation need within the supply chain. Here are some typical types critical to shipping operations:

  • Inter-carrier Drayage: The movement of shipment/cargo from different carriers, such as a truck to train.
  • Intra-carrier Drayage:  Involves the movement of cargo between different points or facilities owned or operated by the same carrier. The mode of transportation can be intermodal.
  • Port/Pier Drayage: Involves the transport of goods to or from a pier, port, or dock.
  • Expedited Drayage: For time-sensitive goods, with units typically transported over the road.


The Role of Drayage in Supply Chain Management

The supply chain is like a row of dominoes, with each tile representing one step of the shipping process. Drayage often serves as the first tile, and if it falls in the wrong direction, then the entire operation would get delayed or would never happen.

Pier drayage, in particular, plays an essential role in the delivery of goods to the rest of the continent. Even slight inefficiencies, congestion, and other minor problems can cause serious backlogs that affect the operations of virtually the entire country.

To emphasize just how important it is, we can look at San Pedro Bay Complex, the main shipping hub in California. This location generates 75% of the West Coast’s market share and 29% of the entire country.

Thankfully, drayage operations can be streamlined with modern technologies like transportation management systems. As long as businesses adapt to these more modern tools, optimize their operations, and make quick and informed decisions, then the supply chain would face fewer issues.


Partner with a Drayage Expert

While drayage refers to the short-distance transport of goods, these distances are critical to the supply chain. Minor disruptions, congestion, and mix-ups can all cause various operations to grind to a halt. As shipping becomes even more crucial to our increasingly connected world, companies must adopt technologies and measures that optimize operations and avoid these issues.

Whether your team is looking for drayage services or to enhance your overall logistics operations and gain a competitive edge in today’s market, we’d love to chat, discuss your goals and how we can help. Contact our team today!

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