What Is Drayage Service and Its Qualities?
Group Created with Sketch.

As globalization continues to change the traditional logistics industry of the past, supply chain professionals have discovered the importance of ocean port health, including drayage. While there are many United States ocean ports, most businesses transport goods to the mega twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Yet according to Bloomberg in September 2022, “There are about 28,000 containers awaiting collection by trains at the biggest US port, a sixfold increase since February.” Let’s take a closer look at how better service from drayage service providers can help solve this conundrum, including its characteristics, value and classifications.

Characteristics of a Drayage Load or Transportation

Drayage service is the process by which a container moves from an ocean port to a nearby location. Though the modes of transportation have developed from the dray horses in years past, this short haul can be accomplished via any intermodal shipping type. The types of dray moves are also dependent on the port’s capabilities. Ocean ports that are near a metropolitan area will struggle with congestion more than remote ports accessible primarily by rail hub.

Additionally, within an invoice context, sometimes dray refers to the fee associated with getting the container to its long haul starting point. At other points, a drayage may be referring to a short truck haul between any two points of longer transportation. 

Why Container Drayage Is Important

Freight forwarders and shippers maintain their positions and client relationships through the effective distribution of commodities from one location to another. Shippers must maintain industry connections every step of the way so disruptions can be handled quickly and easily. 

Container pickup and dropoff holds an important role within this because most global shipping occurs via ocean. Containers can get stuck for a variety of reasons regardless of how close an intermodal terminal is to the dock. Shippers who can find an available, reliable drayage service are less likely to get their containers stranded at port, like the 28,000 containers mentioned above.


The Intermodal Association of North America divides the drayage meaning and purpose into six separate categories as follows:

  • Door-to-Door DrayageContainers transported via truck from the port to the end customer’s door.
  • Expedited Drayage The prioritized transport of items from port via truck or air.
  • Inter-Carrier DrayageThe intermodal transport of a container from one location to another within a smaller distance, such as from one rail hub to another via a separate company.
  • Intra-Carrier DrayageThe intermodal transport of moving freight from one location to another that is completed by the same carrier network.
  • Pier DrayageOften considered within reverse logistics, this involves the truck transport from an intermodal hub directly to the pier or dock.
  • Shuttle DrayageThe temporary relocation of containers from the primary dock to a parking lot when ports are overcrowded.

Not all ports are set up to handle each type. Even still, shippers benefit from gaining clearer understanding of what they should expect from their dray services.

Get a Handle on Your Drayage Service Needs With Supra National Express.

Many who ask, “what is drayage?” consider it simply as a small part of a container’s journey. However, the owners of thousands of containers sitting in Southern California ports beg to differ. Stay ahead of your competitors by keeping your customers happy with quick and effective drayage services from Supra National Express.

Get your quote now by trying Supra’s new Online Rate Tool and get your quote within a minute.

DrayMaster makes it easier to get rates for drayage service.

Or get in touch with Supra’s Sales Team at (424) 267-1155 or by email: rfp@snecorp.com