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Smart WarehousingSep 2, 2022 2:38:40 PM6 min read

What is Container Drayage

Container drayage is becoming more complex. As the eCommerce industry becomes increasingly globalized, more brands will export and import their goods and products. For instance, the U.S. imported around $1,762 billion in goods and exported over $2, 528.5 billion in 2021. Many businesses have manufacturers or suppliers from across the world and need to have their products or supplies brought here to the U.S. So how do they do that? 

Their products or supplies are loaded onto ships via containers and shipped into ports across the country where they are then loaded onto rail cars or trucks to then be taken to their destination. This can be a warehouse, store, customer, or manufacturer here in the U.S. This movement of containers is referred to as container drayage shipping.  


What is Container Drayage?

Container drayage is the procedure of moving containers across ports, rail yards, warehouses, and other facilities. These movements of containers can be short or long-distance. Container drayage is part of the intermodal transport system and is in high demand at ports along the coast. It is an essential part of the logistics industry as more brands ship internationally.  

Typically, when it comes to container drayage, large steel shipping containers are taken off rail cars or ship decks and then loaded onto truck trailers. The container is then hauled to a warehouse or storage facility where it is either stored or unloaded and the products are moved accordingly. These containers can hold a variety of products and supplies.  

Container drayage is a service that connects the different channels of shipping, including freight. According to the Intermodal Association of North America, there are more than 60 million drayage movements each year in North America.  

Download Drayage Fees and Terms You Should Know


Type of Drayage

The Intermodal Association of America identifies six main types of drayage services. They are: 

Pier Drayage: This is when a truck picks up the products from a rail hub and transports them to a pier or dock so they can then be loaded onto the ship for further transport. 

 Shuttle drayage: This type of service can be used when you need to temporarily store extra containers that currently won’t fit in at the docks or in a shipping hub. Shuttle drayage services help you keep your products safe by storing them until they are ready for transport. 

Intra-Carrier Drayage: This service is usually short-haul and used to transport goods within a certain intermodal hub. Either the goods need to be loaded onto a plane, a separate dock, or taken to a container freight station. The goods are essentially moved from one point to another in the same hub.  

Inter-Carrier Drayage: While intra-carrier is within one hub, Inter-Carrier drayage is when you are transporting containers between carriers. This can be moving the product from a rail station to a ship, or a ship to a trucking terminal, or vice versa.  

Expedited Drayage: When you need goods moved quickly, you can utilize expedited drayage. This service is used to transfer and transport products quickly. This process is faster compared to other drayage services and can be used for quick shipping. 

Door-to-Door Drayage: This will take your products straight off the ship and deliver them to your customer. This is common for eCommerce or DTC businesses where the product is headed directly to the customer. 


Who Can Do Container Drayage?

Container drayage is a niche shipping service needed to move large containers from trucks, ships, and railyards and it can be difficult for businesses to do on their own. That’s where businesses like 3PLs that regularly handle container drayage can be helpful. 

 Container drayage companies handle the coordination and management of containers coming off ports and facilitate them to their destination. These companies offer container drayage services to brands that may not have the capacity or ability to book the transport of their containers. Usually, container drayage companies have trucking services of their own or they partner with freight brokers who can handle the transportation for their containers.  

Having a reliable container drayage company can help ensure that your movement of containers goes smoothly and is on time. They can help you navigate delays or port congestion and help you find the best rates. A container drayage company can handle communication and planning with different organizations like shippers, consignees, container yards, steamship lines, and railroads.  

With container drayage, you also will need to have the required licensing and bonding, and if you’re not familiar with the necessary paperwork, it might be useful to utilize a 3PL that does container drayage regularly so they can help you complete all the necessary requirements. You don’t want a container stuck at a port or not be able to transport your goods due to not having done the right paperwork.  


Why is Container Drayage So Important?

 An estimated 80 percent of all goods are carried by sea and a majority of businesses rely on shipping containers to move their product, especially if they ship internationally. Container drayage is an integral part of the logistics process and when done right, can lead to a timely and cost-effective supply chain. 

In the past two years, we have seen backlogs and delays due to port congestion and organizations having issues getting their containers off ships and into their warehouses. These issues have highlighted the importance of having an efficient drayage system to be able to get your products where they need to be.  

How you handle your container drayage can affect how long it takes you to get your product and how much it costs you. It can also consume a large amount of your time and leave you stressed. With container drayage, you have to schedule transportation of the container from its starting point to its destination. On top of that, you may have to search and find the appropriate containers and chassis that are available.  

As mentioned earlier, certain paperwork requirements need to be completed before the movement of the containers. You may also have to pay fees depending on where you're moving the container to and from. If you want to move products around either from country to country or warehouse to warehouse, you will have to have container drayage services.  

As a business owner, it can be difficult trying to manage different relationships and agencies when handling your supply chain. Businesses may have to handle a manufacturer, a freight brokerage, a transportation company, a 3PL, and possibly a warehouse. Handling so many contacts just to move a container can be stressful and consume a lot of your time. Why not just have one? That’s where a 3PL like Smart Warehousing comes in. 

At Smart Warehousing we can get your containers off the ship, port, or railcar and into our warehouse and all you have to do is send your arrival notice to us. Smart can leverage our relationships with freight brokers to help get your containers moved quickly and efficiently, without you having to pay exorbitant costs or spend hours trying to organize the transport. We take care of moving your containers to our necessary warehouse and then you can see the arrival and storage of your products in real-time through our SWIMS system.