What is drayage service?

Drayage service means transporting goods for short distances by trucks or rail. In this blog, learn more about its role, types and how to calculate drayage service cost.
Drayage service
In the world of logistics and transportation, various essential services ensure the smooth movement of goods from one point to another. Among these crucial services is drayage, a term that may be unfamiliar to many but plays a vital role in the transportation process. Drayage service acts as the connective tissue, bridging the gap between ports, terminals, and distribution centers, facilitating the efficient movement of containers and goods.

What is drayage service?

Drayage service refers to the short-distance transport of cargo, usually by trucks or other specialized vehicles, between ports, terminals, and distribution centers. Drayage logistics acts as a crucial link in the supply chain, connecting various modes of transportation, such as ships, trains, and trucks, to ensure seamless movement of goods from one location to another. In many cases, it is also called as first-mile or last-mile transportation, as it involves the pickup and delivery of cargo at the beginning or end of its journey. Without drayage services, movement of containers might be significantly disrupted, impacting international trade transactions.

Importance of drayage service

Here are a few key reasons why drayage logistics play an important role in exports:

Efficient intermodal transportation:

Drayage logistics acts as an essential connector between different transportation modes, such as ships, trains, and trucks. It ensures seamless transfer of containers and goods from one mode to another.

First mile and last mile connectivity:

Drayage service focuses on pickup and delivery of cargo at the beginning or end of its journey, commonly referred to as first-mile or last-mile transportation. This last leg of the supply chain is critical in ensuring timely and accurate movement of goods to and from ports, rail yards, and distribution centers.

Port and terminal operations:

Ports and terminals serve as vital hubs for international trade. Drayage service providers facilitate movement of containers from ships to storage yards, as well as from storage yards to trucks or trains.

Supply chain reliability:

Drayage logistics enhances overall reliability of the supply chain by ensuring timely delivery of goods. It helps avoid congestion and delays by efficiently coordinating pickup and delivery schedules.

Environmental sustainability:

By utilizing intermodal capabilities of rail or sea transport for long distances and relying on drayage for short distances, businesses can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote eco-friendly transportation practices.

Cost optimization:

Drayage service offers cost advantages compared to long-haul trucking for short-distance transportation. By utilizing the most appropriate transportation mode for each leg of the journey, businesses can optimize their logistics costs.

Types of drayage services

Here are some common types of drayage services:

Port drayage

Port drayage refers to movement of containers and goods between ports and nearby locations, such as warehouses, distribution centers, or rail yards.

Rail drayage

Rail drayage involves transportation of containers and cargo between rail yards and nearby destinations. It plays a crucial role in connecting the rail network with distribution centers, warehouses, or other modes of transportation.

Airport drayage

Airport drayage focuses on the movement of air freight between airports and nearby facilities, such as cargo terminals, customs warehouses, or distribution centers.

Intermodal drayage

Intermodal drayage involves transportation of containers or goods between different modes of transportation, such as ships, trains, and trucks.

Expedited drayage

Expedited drayage service caters to time-critical shipments that require swift and urgent transportation. It involves prioritizing pickup and delivery of goods, often with accelerated transit times, to meet tight deadlines or urgent customer demands.

Transloading drayage

Transloading drayage combines the process of drayage with transloading, which involves transferring cargo from one mode of transportation to another.

Role of drayage in supply chain

The significance of drayage service can be observed in some of the below key areas:

Seamless intermodal transportation:

Drayage service ensures smooth transition of cargo between various transportation modes, such as ships, trains, and trucks. By providing first-mile and last-mile connectivity, it enables seamless integration of different modes within the supply chain.

Port and terminal operations:

Drayage service is essential for effective functioning of ports and terminals. It handles the movement of containers within these facilities, including the transfer of containers from ships to storage yards and from storage yards to trucks or trains.

Inventory management:

Drayage service plays a role in inventory management by facilitating timely pickup and delivery of goods.

Supply chain flexibility:

Drayage service adds flexibility to the supply chain by providing a local transportation option.

Time-sensitive shipments:

For time-sensitive shipments, such as perishable goods, drayage service plays a critical role in ensuring prompt transportation.

Cost optimization:

Drayage service offers cost advantages, especially for short-distance transportation within a limited geographic area. By utilizing drayage for first mile and last-mile transportation, businesses can optimize their logistics costs.

Drayage fees: How is it calculated?

Drayage fees – often also known as drayage freight – are the charges associated with transportation and handling of cargo. Some of the factors that impact drayage fees are:


Drayage rates are commonly based on the mileage traveled for transportation of cargo. The longer the distance, the higher the drayage fees are likely to be.

Container size and weight:

The size and weight of a container being transported plays a key role in drayage fee calculation. Larger and heavier containers may require specialized equipment or additional handling.

Port or terminal specifics:

Different ports or terminals may have specific regulations, requirements, or congestion challenges that can affect drayage fees.

Equipment and services required:

The type of equipment or services needed for drayage can impact fees. For example, if specialized equipment like chassis, flatbeds, or refrigerated trailers are required, it may incur additional charges.

Fuel prices:

Fluctuations in fuel prices can impact drayage fees, as fuel costs are a significant component of transportation expenses. When fuel prices rise, drayage providers may adjust their rates accordingly to account for increased operating costs.

Market conditions

During periods of high demand or congestion, drayage rates may increase due to limited capacity and increased operational challenges.

Drayage vs intermodal shipping

Drayage and intermodal shipping are two essential components of the transportation and logistics industry. Drayage focuses on short distance transportation of goods, primarily handling pickup and delivery of cargo within a limited geographic area. It acts as a crucial link that connects different transportation modes and facilitates a seamless flow of cargo between them. On the other hand, intermodal shipping involves the use of multiple transportation modes, such as ships, trains, and trucks, for end-to-end movement of goods over long distances. It leverages the strengths of each mode to optimize transit times, reduce costs, and maximize efficiency.

Drayage vs cartage

Drayage and cartage are terms used in the transportation industry to describe different aspects of local freight movement. Drayage specifically refers to short distance transportation of cargo or containers within a limited geographic area. On the other hand, cartage is the movement of goods over a short distance within a local area, typically in a city or region.

Drayage plays a significant role in seamless intermodal transportation, ensuring smooth transition of cargo between ships, trains, and trucks. It also contributes to efficient port and terminal operations, enables effective inventory management, adds flexibility to the supply chain, and facilitates timely delivery of time-sensitive shipments.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is container drayage?
Container drayage refers to the transportation of shipping containers between ports, terminals, or other facilities using trucks or specialized vehicles.
What is a drayage truck?
A drayage truck is a type of truck used for the short-distance transportation of cargo or containers, typically within port areas or between transportation hubs.
What is the Ports Drayage Truck Registry (PDTR)?
Ports Drayage Truck Registry (PDTR) is a registration program implemented by certain ports to ensure compliance with specific environmental and safety regulations for drayage trucks operating within their jurisdiction.
Published on May 25, 2023.


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