What Is Drayage and Its Role in Logistics?

Build better communication with your 3PL after reading this blog that answers two critical questions—what is drayage and what is its role in logistics?
What Is Drayage and Its Role in Logistics?

Freight shipping requires a complex system of transportation modes functioning together to send items across the world. Whether your shipment is going on a short or long journey, they require more planning than it takes for an individual to send mail to a loved one. Maintaining clear communication during freight shipping processes is critical for keeping delivery dates consistent and packages safe.

Thus, you should familiarize yourself with the long list of terms and services involved in the shipping industry. For example, what is drayage and its role in logistics? Maintain clear communication with your 3PL today by learning about drayage in our explanation below.

Defining Drayage

Shipping logistics require coordinating a wide range of details to ensure a shipment reaches its destination safely. This isn’t only applicable to long-distance or international transportation; even domestic shipments moving across a single town require precise planning. For this reason, drayage is among our many shipping and logistics services. The drayage process is essential to ensuring short-distance shipments receive the care and efficiency they require.

That said, drayage has a straightforward definition. This term refers to the process of organizing and transporting shipments over short distances. However, we’re not talking about personal packages—we’re talking about large freights moving from port to port or another destination. Now that you have a clearer view of what drayage means to shipping logistics, we can move on to a very specific form of drayage services.

Intermodal Drayage

Intermodal drayage refers to short-distance shipments for freights using different modes of transportation. Through intermodal shipping, 3PLs can help companies transfer shipments for the most efficient delivery via air, sea, road, or rail. Simply put, without intermodal drayage services, you can’t shift from different modes of transportation during freight shipments.

Thus, partnering with reliable logistics services guarantees a smooth drayage process. There is still more to learn about the service because there isn’t just one form of drayage; there are many.

Six Drayage Styles

The shipping industry is complex as it is, but intermodal drayage also relies on various systems to create the best shipping experience for any chosen freight. Although there are many terms in the shipping industry to learn, they should become commonplace once you use them for freights.

According to the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA), you can separate drayage services into six distinct categories. These categories include intra-carrier, inter-carrier, door-to-door, expedited, pier, and shuttle. While some of these services may seem straightforward at face value, it’s invaluable to know precisely which each type entails. Let’s define these styles below so that you can navigate your shipping options more clearly.

Intra-Carrier & Inter-Carrier

The first drayage type is cross-town, also known as inter-carrier. As the name suggests, this type of drayage involves carrying shipments across a town, specifically by moving the shipments between multiple railroads. In addition, the transition between railroads is carefully optimized for a seamless, swift experience. That may sound obvious, but not carefully planning that transition can result in avoidable delays to the delivery date. If you want to plan efficient shipments, every step of the item’s journey must be successfully optimized for minimal downtime and maximum protection.

Although it has a similar name to inter-carrier drayage, an intra-carrier service is quite different. Intra-carrier drayage involves moving a shipment between two hubs owned by the same carrier. Moreover, this typically involves transitioning from a rail hub to an intermodal hub.

Intra-carrier drayage is also known as IMX. The various monikers for each type of drayage don’t help with keeping track of each, but, as you’ll learn below, each of these services’ definitions are fairly straightforward. The more you use these terms in the field, the less convoluted they will seem.

Door-to-Door & Expedited

The next form of drayage service we will discuss is called door-to-door. A door-to-door drayage service involves moving retail shipments to customers via road transportation. Although many modes of travel are available, trucks continue to be a critical part of the delivery process. In fact, another form of drayage involving road travel is expedited drayage.

An expedited drayage service transports time-sensitive shipments on trucks. Door-to-door can certainly be an efficient form of travel, but expedited drayage is primarily used for time-sensitive shipments that must reach their destination by the determined delivery date.

Pier Drayage

As you may assume from the name, pier drayage involves loading shipments at a pier or dock. That said, this type of drayage specifically involves intermodal travel of a freight between the rail hub and the pier.

Since railroads typically don’t sit 2 feet away from the nearest ports, the hand-off for these shipments becomes complicated. Pier drayage eases that complication by packing the items on a truck and taking it to the pier after their railroad journey comes to an end. Even when freights must travel via sea, trucks are invaluable for getting the items to their destinations.

Shuttle Drayage

Shuttle drayage is a form of transportation but also a storage solution. This is a process that involves taking a freight to a dedicated holding point. People leverage the help of shuttle drayage services when the point of origin is overcrowded. Sometimes, no matter the efficiency of your shipment planning, situations like overcrowded ports can slow down your freight’s journey.

Of course, if there isn’t a suitable place for your items at the point of origin, you don’t want to just leave them in a random spot until there is room available. Through shuttle drayage, logistics services can give your items a temporary storage point until they can progress through the next steps of the shipping process.

Now, you no longer have to wonder what is drayage and its role in logistics. When you’re working with logistics specialists such as a 3PL, you can expect them to do an efficient, professional job. Understanding the essentials of freight shipping, such as what drayage is, will help you work with your logistics service with more coherency and fewer questions. This doesn’t mean you should shy away from asking any questions you have to a 3PL, but hopefully you’ll have fewer you need answered now.

What Is Drayage and Its Role in Logistics?

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