White truck transporting a red shipping container

Drayage is the process of moving shipping containers over short distances via specialized trucks. It is a vital part of intermodal shipping as it helps to connect the various modes of transportation. For example, it can be used to move a container from a ship to a train, and vice versa.

This is also known as dray services.


  • Drayage refers to the movement of shipping containers over short distances via trucks.
  • There are 6 types of drayage services — door-to-door, expedited, inter-carrier, intra-carrier, pier and shuttle drayage.
  • In addition to a base fee, the cost of drayage services may include chassis split, pre-pull and drop fees.
  • Taking note of a shipping container’s weight and the way cargo is packed can help to reduce drayage fees.
  • While drayage is the movement of shipping containers, cartage is the transportation of break-bulk cargos.
  • Types of Drayage Services

    There are 6 types of drayage services:

    Door-to-door drayage

    For door-to-door drayage, packages are dispatched from the port directly to a customer’s doorstep. It is typically used for e-commerce transactions where door-to-door delivery is offered.

    Expedited drayage

    Expedited drayage is a form of drayage service where goods are given priority. It is often used for time-sensitive cargos since goods are delivered quickly. However, it is usually more expensive.

    Inter-carrier drayage

    Inter-carrier drayage refers to the transportation of shipping containers between freight carriers. These can include rail-to-rail, rail-to-sea or sea-to-rail.

    Intra-carrier drayage

    Intra-carrier drayage is similar to inter-carriage drayage. However, instead of conveying the shipping containers between freight carriers, shipping containers are transported within an intermodal transport hub of a single freight carrier.

    Pier drayage

    Pier drayage is the movement of shipping containers to a pier or dock where they will subsequently be loaded onto a ship. This is common for manufacturers exporting bulk goods internationally, such as shipping to Singapore from the US, China or Australia.

    Shuttle drayage

    Shuttle drayage is the transfer of shipping containers to a temporary storage facility. This often occurs when there is a shortage of transportation or when the destination port is overcrowded.

    Types of Drayage Fees

    Drayage fees are the charges incurred when moving shipping containers via drayage trucks. 

    Unlike other forms of shipping, the calculation of drayage fees is not as straightforward. The total fee consists of the base fee (which is calculated based on the cargo’s weight) and other factors such as the amount of handling required. 

    Below are 3 types of drayage fees that may be incurred: 

    Chassis split fees

    A chassis is a structural framework with wheels at the bottom. It is used in logistics to transport cargo easily between locations that are close by.

    They are also known as intermodal chassis or container chassis.

    A chassis split fee is charged when a shipping container is unloaded at a place where there is no available chassis. In such cases, a fee will be charged to bring a chassis to the container’s location.

    Pre-pull fees

    A pre-pull fee is charged when a shipping container is picked up by a carrier but is unable to be loaded or delivered on the same day. It is used to cover the cost of storing the shipping container in the carrier’s yard.

    Drop fees

    A drop fee is charged when a carrier has to drop off a shipping container at a warehouse and return later to collect it. This is as opposed to loading or unloading the container on the spot. 

    Such situations typically occur when the items in the shipping container require careful or special handling (which requires more time).

    How to Reduce Drayage Fees

    With the different types of drayage fees, the total costs can be quite significant. Here are some ways to reduce any unnecessary fees: 

    • Adjust freight weight

    The base fee is calculated based on a shipping container’s weight. It is usually charged in 100-pound increments and rounded up to the next 100 pounds. This means that if Company ABC plans to ship a container that weighs 504 pounds, the weight will be rounded up and the base fee will be chargeable at 600 pounds.

    In addition, some freight companies require a minimum weight fee. Thus, it is important to ensure that the shipping container meets the minimum weight requirement and that the chargeable weight is fully maximized.

    • Ensure appropriate packaging 

    As the drayage fee is also dependent on the handling that is required, cargo should be packed appropriately to avoid such costs. Securing and packing the cargo with suitable dunnage material will help to save on some drayage fees. 

    Furthermore, packing odd-shaped items properly allows handlers to load and unload them easily and quickly, reducing the need to incur drop fees.

    Drayage vs Cartage

    Drayage is the hauling of whole containers while cartage is the transportation of break-bulk cargos over a short distance.

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