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Why Drayage Shipping Plays a Key Role in the Supply Chain

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Drayage Shipping - shipping containers

The transportation of goods over short distances is known as drayage shipping. It is a component of intermodal shipping, which means that drayage is part of a larger transportation system. In some cases, intermodal shipping is synonymous with drayage shipping.

Intermodal shipping is the combination of two or more modes of goods transportation, such as rail, waterway, aircraft, or trucks. Because of the high number of tons shipped without reloading their cargo, track and waterways are the most commonly used modes of drayage shipping.

Intermodal shipping is more efficient and effective for long-distance transportation. It is also cost-effective and advantageous to low-value goods. When compared to road trucking, most companies that use intermodal shipping save a significant amount of money.

The process of intermodal drayage shipping begins with the receipt of a container containing freight at a port, facility, warehouse, or rail point. The received goods are then separated, loaded, and transported to their next destination. Trucks handle drayage for short-distance shipping. As a result, businesses that use drayage services require precise scheduling and shipment planning.

History of Container Drayage Shipping

Technically, almost all continental or domestic shipping is drayage shipping, however, the term ‘drayage’ specifically comes from the term ‘dray’, which were carts driven by horses and that lacked sides. Goods were stacked on top of the mostly wooden platform and moved over vast distances. There were many benefits to leaving the goods exposed, but the main advantage was that it allowed goods to dry and therefore be preserved. A contingent of warriors or soldiers would follow the convoy of goods from one port or market to the other.

Over time, drayage grew more complex as goods also grew in value and complexity. Trade between two different tribes or countries forced traders to adopt sturdier packaging, and this is what has led to the use of aluminum containers which are still the most popular means of transporting cargo through containers.

With globalization, drayage shipment forms a major aspect of intermodal shipping as the goods must move from the port to the intended recipient. This means that whereas international freight companies might dictate freight services in the high seas and skies, they have to contend with smaller local companies with a better understanding of domestic routes.

Given that drayage shipping encompasses transport of goods within the same metropolitan area, city, or even between ports and rail yards, the industry has more avenues for smaller companies to participate.

The Canadian container drayage industry is one of the most dynamic. Though Canada does not conduct as much international trade as the mainland United States, it has a very robust inland freight industry with over 302,000 truck drivers. A considerable number of these are for-hire drivers who run their small businesses within the towns and have contractual connections to ports and major hubs.

Power Only Trucking

In most situations, Canadian truckers allow importers and some exporters to use their trucks in moving trailers. The trucking company only has to maintain the trucks and track their movement on behalf of the client. In some cases, the client can use an independent driver or the trucking company’s driver. This strategy shifts the risks towards the owner of the goods, thereby allowing the trucking company to leverage its operational expertise in tracking goods over short distances instead of doing actual delivery.

The majority of Canadian freight companies, large and small, offer the following services:

  • Drayage from door to door

This includes using a standard container, delivering and picking up shipments, and making direct transfers from truck to railcar terminal.

  • Terminal-to-terminal connectivity

The ramp-to-ramp service from the terminal to the trailer is included in this service.

Limitations of Drayage shipping

Over the years, road transport has been the most common mode of freight transportation around the world. However, by the end of the twentieth century, alternate modes of transportation had been adopted, to cut road transportation in half. This figure is expected to decrease as more technological advancements that categorize rail and water transportation are made.

This preference for modes of transportation is influenced by a variety of factors, including environmental friendliness, technological advancement, and economic growth. Truck transportation is becoming less and less popular as a result of long turnaround times and increased traffic routes.

The need for a more sustainable ecosystem through less pollution reinforces the demand for environmentally friendly solutions that protect the environment. Traditional road transportation, while still preferred by some, provides minimal productivity and congestion. The use of fuel also contributes to pollution and a significant increase in carbon emissions.

Recent Changes in Drayage Shipping

Modern technology is allowing us to embrace faster and less strenuous modes of transportation.

According to the European Rail Freight Association, the recent Covid-19 pandemic has caused significant disruptions in the shipping market. Despite these setbacks, rail freight has increased exponentially to 30 percent more than its initial usage.

This is primarily due to the lack of available capacity as a result of the absence of passenger services. Because of their large size and punctuality, freight trains have been able to carry more cargo as a result of this increase. Rail transportation has also proven to be efficient and cost-effective, with sufficient capacity for the large orders that have since risen as a result of the pandemic. Because of the high volume of online purchases, transportation has become more urgent and frequent, resulting in a transportation backlog.

As a result, rail freight has reduced this build-up by providing freight solutions and increasing their load intake, maximizing profits. The European Rail Freight Association is in talks to keep the capacity situation even after Covid-19 dissipates. Already there are indications that the Canadian trucking industry is facing a serious shortage of drivers, a factor that has hampered service delivery especially for oil shipments to remote places.

Intermodal shipping is poised to efficiently move goods from the source to the client, using more secure and predictable cargo flows, thanks to improved and flexible supply chain options.

Understanding where specific trends will impact and whether they will become part of actual trade practices will greatly aid in predicting the trade market in intermodal shipping. Compliance and visibility are also expected to improve as a result of innovative and economic growth, as well as population growth influencing changes in routes and destinations. The constant evolution of the global market will allow industry players to make significant changes.



The CTNNews editorial team comprises seasoned journalists and writers dedicated to delivering accurate, timely news coverage. They possess a deep understanding of current events, ensuring insightful analysis. With their expertise, the team crafts compelling stories that resonate with readers, keeping them informed on global happenings.

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