What is Container Drayage?

The term ‘dray’ was first used to define a cart without sides. Pulled by dray horses, these wagons were used like short-distance delivery trucks, moving cargo from ports and railroads to retailers and manufacturers. Though in modern times, diesel vehicles have replaced these horses and carts, the term is still in use amongst transportation providers. The Intermodal Association of North America (IANA) defines drayage as “transportation of freight from a cargo facility terminal to a customer’s facility”.


Container drayage begins with the receipt of freight from a marine port, intermodal point, or warehouse. Cargo is separated, loaded, and hauled off to the next destination. Trucks are usually used for this short-distance movement to and from major shipping hubs, and proficient service companies will utilize well-placed terminals near pickup or delivery points, to facilitate quick, safe, and efficient drayage. Service providers may also move freight between short-term storage areas, as available space at the hub fluctuates. A good rule of thumb for what constitutes drayage is that it can be completed in a single work shift – rather than, say, trucking items across the country. The points of departure and arrival are generally located in the same urban region.

Cargo ship

Type of Drayage

As per IANA, there are 6 types of drayage:

  • Inter-Carrier Drayage is the short-distance movement of a unit “across town”, from one carrier to another – for instance, trucking between two railroad stations.
  • Door-to-door Drayage is the movement of a retail unit to the location of the customer, using roadways.
  • Expedited Drayage is quick over-the-road transport of a unit, usually for time-sensitive freight.
  • Intra-Carrier Drayage is similar to Inter-Carrier Drayage, but covers movement from one carrier’s rail hub to that same carrier’s intermodal hub.
  • Pier Drayage is another road-based movement that entails transfer of an intermodal unit from a rail hub to a pier or dock.
  • Shuttle Drayage is the (temporary) movement of an intermodal unit from a hub to parking lot, due to lack of space at the hub. This may be performed with empty or loaded units.

Choosing a good drayage company is very important for the safety and care of your freight. Companies that specialize in container drayage save you time and money with high logistical efficiency, and provide secure storage and transportation of cargo between hubs. Contact BondedService today for more information on Atlanta-area drayage services.

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