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A dray at a railroad car, modeled at the Steam Museum in Swindon, UK.
Shipping Containers at the terminal at Port Elizabeth, New Jersey. Units in the foreground have been placed on chassis and await drayage to their destination.

In the shipping industry and logistics, drayage is defined as the transportation of goods over a short distance, often as part of a longer overall move, such as moving goods from a ship into a warehouse. It is typically completed in a single work shift. Some research defines it specifically as "a truck pickup from or delivery to a seaport, border point, inland port, or inter-modal terminal with both the trip origin and destination in the same urban area".[1] The term drayage is also used for the fee paid for such services.


The term originally meant "to transport by a sideless cart", or dray. Such carts, pulled by dray horses, were used to move goods short distances, historically limited by the physical limitations of a dray horse. Dray activities generally occurred at marine ports, spreading to canal and rail terminals. Over time, the dray horse was replaced by the delivery truck.

The study of drayage is relatively new, as recent events have elevated the prominence of the dray industry. Economically, NAFTA and the growth of globalized trade have dramatically increased imports and exports that are shipped in marine International Organization for Standardization containers. Furthermore, the rise in fuel costs have limited the options for cost-cutting along the supply chain. Although drayage is a very small component (both in terms of time and distance) of the supply chain, its cost and potential problems can be disproportionately high.

In addition, various interest groups began realizing the influence of drayage. For example, environmentalists sought to reduce harbor trucking pollution by regulating dray activities. Shocked by the spike in fuel prices, businesses became more aware of the costs of port congestion and regulations concerning driver hours of service. Public safety advocates worried that dray trucks, which use city streets during normal working hours, were "under-regulated and a risk to commuters". Lastly, organized labor was concerned about the bargaining power of the trucking industry, as dray drivers were purported to be "low bid carriers".[1]


In intermodal freight transport, drayage is the transport of containerized cargo by specialized trucking companies between ocean ports or rail ramps and shipping docks.[2][3]


  1. ^ a b Harrison, Robert; Nathan Hutson; Jolanda Prozzi; Juan Gonzalez; John McCray; Jason West (February 2009). "The Impacts of Port, Rail, and Border Drayage Activity in Texas" (PDF). Center for Transportation Research, the University of Texas at Austin. p. 2. Retrieved 19 March 2012. 
  2. ^ Bloomberg.com: Financial Glossary
  3. ^ Advances At CSX Intermodal - Forbes.com