21 September, 2021


Most people think about logistics as moving shipments for long distances. Yet shipping companies and 3PLs often move freight from short distances. Logistical companies refer to this movement as drayage.

What is drayage service? Drayage services are a part of intermodal shipping where freight is moved using different modes of transportation in containers provided by ocean freight providers. Part of the intermodal process may involve moving a shipment by truck to a rail yard or port. It may also involve moving the shipment from one truck in a container to or from another during the route.

Many carriers and 3PL companies may offer specialized drayage services. They are not involved with long-haul shipping from manufacturer to customer. They simply arrange for the transportation of container shipments for the shorter distances. This service may benefit certain customers that only need a carrier or 3PL to arrange for trucking services for the short trip as customers may rely on other transportation services for the rest of the trip.

Below, we’ll answer the question, “What is drayage trucking?” and more with this helpful guide.


A 3PL may work with a customer to offer drayage services. The company determines the customer’s transportation needs, then uses its partnerships with carrier networks to move the freight based on the intended destination.

In some cases, a fleet carrier may only work in one specific region of the country. However, the shipment may have to travel across several regions. The 3PL company arranges for the fleet carrier to pick up the shipment from a warehouse or distribution center to or from a rail yard or port.

For export shipments, an ocean freight provider, sometimes in partnership with a rail line, handles the shipment over the new mode of transportation and the final delivery to the end user. For import shipments, the drayage carrier or 3PL usually provides the last leg of transportation to a distribution center. . In some cases, the customer may have the 3PL rejoin the transportation process to expedite the shipment from the distribution center to the final location.

For 3PLs, they handle the drayage process when it entails moving containers in and out of warehouses, to or from rail terminals, ocean ports, and harbors.


Drayage services provide customers with unique solutions to get their shipments to local, regional, and national destinations. Working with a reliable 3PL may give the customer peace of mind that the shipment will reach the intended destination.

Main benefits might include:

  • Container rental cost savings: Customers can save costs by partnering with a company that can move containers in and out of rail yards or ports quickly, thereby lowering any demurrage or storage charges billed by the ocean freight provider or rail yard.
  • Efficient supply chains:If a shipment arrives to the port or rail yard, a 3PL company can be ready to pick it up immediately and move it to a location. This process makes the supply chain more efficient as the shipment doesn’t have to sit and wait for the customer’s truck drivers to complete other shipments first before going to the dock or rail yard.
  • Increased safety: When more people handle a shipment, it increases the chances of the freight becoming damaged or lost. A 3PL combining drayageservices with warehouse management systems offers more transparency in the shipping process. It provides tracking and monitoring services to better ensure shipments move to their destination quickly and safely. 


The types of cargo that may by transported using drayage services vary based on intermodal containers used. There are numerous intermodal containers available that the 3PL may provide with its transportation services.

Examples of cargo shipped may include the following:

  • Chilled, frozen, or other perishable goods such as food products
  • Non-perishable cargo requiring ventilation to minimize moisture (coffee and cocoa)
  • Non-perishable dry cargo such as manufactured goods
  • Dry powders and raw materials shipped in bulk (grains or coal)
  • Temperature-controlled and perishable cargo (pharmaceuticals)
  • Oversized cargo carried on flat racks or platform racks (heavy equipment, vehicles, building materials)
  • Awkwardly shaped or bulky large cargo that can only fit in open-top containers
  • Hazardous and nonhazardous materials shipped in bulk

The type of intermodal container that is chosen is based on shipment size, volume, amount, and transportation modes.

Kinds of intermodal containers include:

  • Dry or standard
  • Open top
  • Flat rack
  • High cube
  • Refrigerated


Customers may find that drayage services are the unique solution to use when they are trying to save on transportation costs when shipments must travel short distances between warehouses, distribution centers, different modes of transportation, or to the customer.

With drayage services, the shipment can move along the supply chain without experiencing any bottlenecks.

Here at WSI, we offer drayage solutions as part of our 3PL services. We form strong relationships with drayage carriers so customers can use the right transportation option and routes for shipments. Contact WSI for more information.

Ready to start with WSI?

Let’s Connect