A large steel box might not seem revolutionary, but global trade now depends on ISO-standard shipping containers. Shippers pack these rectangular metal boxes with everything imaginable from raw bulk goods to shelf-ready retail packages. Containerized freight rides on ships, over rail, or gets towed by a truck all while safely packed inside the same heavy metal box. This system is known as intermodal shipping, and it involves Drayage Transportation.
Intermodal shipping saves time and labor. Freight handlers do not need to unload, sort, or reload your cargo at the ports or rail yards. The standardized equipment also makes it safer to move freight around, but the containers still need help getting around once offloaded. Drayage is the process of transporting containers from ports and rail yards to other logistics centers.
The term originated from the early days of the transportation industry when dray horses pulled carts full of cargo after ship-hands unloaded their freight from their vessels. Specialized equipment and flatbed carts sped up the work and kept the space around the dock clear.
Drayage Transportation Today
Today, trucks outfitted with specific trailer chassis line up to collect containers as they arrive. These chassis connect with the containers, and the trucks haul the cargo over to local destinations. Material handlers at cross docks and warehouses process the freight and send it on its way through the rest of the supply chain. Most drayage truck drivers work locally and only move cargo relatively short distances.
While this strategy works well, operators still face challenges. Ports like our own Port of Savannah, are strategically sensitive areas. Truck drivers must meet security requirements before entering to pick-up and drop-off containers. Lines queue up at the gate can cause delays.
Ship sizes have also increased in recent decades putting more pressure on drayage drivers. Vessels unload thousands of containers at a single destination, and they have schedules to keep too. For example, in May of 2017, the Cosco Development made port in Savannah. It was the largest ship to ever arrive on the East Coast and broke records carrying the equivalent of 13,000 20-foot containers, and the Port has continued to expand capacity since then!
Naturally, every driver wants to pick up their cargo at the same time. Meanwhile, other ships line up to unload at the port. Dockworkers move quickly to clear the containers scheduled for the stop and make room for the next vessel to arrive. Each batch of containers stacks up at the port waiting for their drivers to haul them out of the way.
Highways and all major roads to and from the port are always bustling with trucks pulling cargo containers, 24 hours a day. Rail lines are also getting busier as the port serves a greater portion of the US with her expanded capacity.
Unsurprisingly, the natural environment surrounding a port or rail yard is a concern. Regulations mitigate pollution from engines and tire wear to a certain extent, but accidents and spills can still introduce toxins into waterways. That’s why most agencies connected to the port voluntarily adhere to very strict regulations to prevent spoiling our natural heritage.
Careful route planning and time management are key to successfully navigating through the ports and rail yards. While intermodal shipping has improved the accuracy and the speed of global trade, truck drivers, and logistics companies still work hard to keep their client businesses competitive.
Port City Logistics handles a wide array of Drayage Transportation needs for our customers, along with freight forwarding, exports and imports, warehousing and all other logistics operations. Get a free quote on what you need today!