The Role of Drayage Trucking in Supply Chain Optimization

December 4, 2023

The Role of Drayage Trucking in Supply Chain Optimization


Continental Logistics

Drayage trucking is the linchpin connecting ports to inland destinations, which makes it especially important for the supply chain. We all want efficient movement of goods in our supply chain, but expert drayage is where the magic really happens. Great drayage, also called the ‘first mile’ because it is about moving goods short distances, often between two modes of transport, is essential for the speedy transportation of shipments.

Drayage Shipping: A Vital Linchpin in a Complex Supply Chain

When goods arrive at a port or rail station, drayage trucking is the essential transportation that gets them from the port or rail station to the trucking terminal or warehouse from which it will reach the end buyer. For this reason, drayage typically involves short distances, but those short distances are essential hurdles over which that cargo must be moved before reaching the recipient. Without drayage, there wouldn’t be a way to transfer shipments from one mode of transport, such as ships or trains, to another, such as trucking.

While drayage is essential, no matter the specifics, there are several different types of drayage trucking.

  • Inter-carrier: Where a shipment is moved between two different modes of transport or locations that are both owned by the same carrier. The drayage may be done by the same company that owns both locations.
  • Intra-carrier: Where goods are moved between two different carriers. This drayage may be done by one of the carriers or by a third contracted party.
  • Pier: Where a shipment is moved to or from port terminals or docked ships.
  • Shuttle: Moving goods to a waypoint between the pick-up and final destination. This may happen if the final destination is backed up and unable to take the cargo, but it needs to be moved out of the departure location to avoid fees or delays.
  • Expedited: When shipments need to move quickly, expedited shipping can help move goods faster.

Drayage trucking demands have continued to increase alongside the expansion of containerization. Containerization, which began in the 1950s with the invention of the shipping container, continues to expand with more and more cargo packed in containers and shipped nationally and internationally. Increasing containerization is partially due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the labor shortages it caused and made the world more aware were possible. With fewer port and dock workers, containers are valued for their low-labor requirement. If another global event causes a shortage of workers, or even if a more local shortage happens in a single port, the low labor needs of containers make our supply chain run more smoothly. With that increase in containerization, there’s a higher demand for drayage services to move those containers from one location - such as the port - to another - such as a train station, warehouse, or trucking waypoint.  

For Today's Shippers, Drayage Trucking Comes with Significant Challenges

Drayage trucking is vital to timely shipments, and while it’s usually straightforward, some challenges can cause delays or cost increases for drayage. Here are some of the most common challenges that can delay drayage or increase prices.

Driver Shortages Can Result in a Capacity Crunch

Drayage trucking involves moving containers from one point to another. To successfully transport those containers, we need truck drivers. In 2023, the U.S. saw a shortage of approximately 80,000 drivers. While that specific driver shortage has been mostly resolved, it’s always a possibility that more shortages occur in the future. Drayage will always been dependent on truck drivers to move cargo and, until we develop self-driving cars, driver shortages will affect the cost of and time required to execute drayage. Without enough truck drivers, containers often have to wait much longer for drayage. Even if the next step for the container is a train or boat, it cannot get to that location without a drayage truck driver. This leads to slowdowns at a supply chain choke point.

Container Shortages Lead to Delays

The side-effect of the bigger emphasis on containerized shipping is that the production of containers and reallocation of containers after each shipment has not kept up with the demand for containers. Container and truck shortages can impact a drayage company’s ability to move freight. Without containers, shipments cannot be loaded onto trucks and transported to the next location.

Due to both these shortages, it’s crucial to plan as far ahead as possible with shipments and select a drayage and shipping company with plenty of time before the load needs to be moved.

Congested Ports Lead to Slowdowns

Following a widespread slowdown following pandemic shipping booms, volumes are increasing again at U.S. ports. For instance, the Port of Los Angeles saw volumes rise 7% in October 2023 alone. This continued increase in goods and containers at ports and beyond can impact transit times.

Congestion doesn’t just mean slower transit times. Delay in pick up can cause demurrage and detention fees. Additionally, customs inspections or a hold-up in paperwork can postpone drayage and increase fees. This has an even more significant impact on importers, whose goods are more carefully watched and regulated by customs than national shipments.

Poor Visibility Over Complex Operations

Drayage trucking is a highly complicated step in the logistics process that demands collaboration and communication between drivers, dispatchers, port employees, and others. Poor or disjointed communication can lead to a myriad of issues.

Shippers are often left out of the communication loop, which can have severe consequences. Without a reliable source of communication for their drayage shipments, shippers are left with a ‘black box’ of impenetrable operations, leaving them unable to weather exceptions when they occur.

It’s vital to keep shippers in the loop when things go wrong and when they go right. This ensures that shippers will be ready to receive shipments and get goods on the road as soon as they’re ready.

It’s valuable to remember these challenges while planning shipments and establishing a drayage trucking operator. They are potential issues, but they don’t have to be pitfalls for your shipments. It’s essential to partner with a skilled drayage trucking company and establish strong communication lines to help you and your drayage partner identify and work through any issues.

Facing High-Stakes Drayage Operations, Shippers Turn to the Experts

All these potential challenges highlight the importance of having an expert drayage trucking partner to make your drayage as seamless and easy as possible. Continental Logistics is a New Jersey operator with decades of experience in Food & Beverage and consumer package goods (CPG) products.

Continental has a large carrier base designed to mitigate delays caused by equipment or driver shortages that help ensure a smooth drayage process. They can handle a wide range of containers, including temperature-controlled and overweight shipments.

Expansive Network for a Dynamic Industry

To be a truly skilled drayage trucking operator, companies need a vast network of carriers to support their clients’ needs. Continental Logistics empowers shippers to scale operations seamlessly and support the growth of their businesses. With its expansive carrier base, industry knowledge, and flexible solutions to ensure adaptable logistics support, Continental Logistics can meet all your drayage needs while enabling businesses to meet increasing demands and navigate diverse shipping requirements with confidence and efficiency.

Multiple Shipping Options Provide Scalable Services

As your business grows, Continental offers drayage trucking that fits all your needs. In addition to providing temperature-controlled and oversized shipments, Continental has the network to enable your business to expand volumes and modalities. Continental will be there to offer excellent service as your needs increase or as your shipment types change. Continental has three wheelhouse areas that enable them to serve clients across the United States from their Northeast, Southwest, and Northwest hubs. They also have an office in each of these hubs staffed with specialists who can address any issues in real time.

Expert-Driven Drayage Ensures Successful Operations

Whether you’re a smaller business looking to outsource shipping logistics or a Fortune 500 company seeking additional freight capacity, Continental is here to solve and improve logistics for its clients. They leverage extensive industry knowledge to provide customized solutions. They specialize in meeting end-customer requirements to help companies avoid issues like chargebacks and rejected loads. “We make worrying about logistics a thing of the past for our customers,” they say.

Gain Expert Control Over Your Drayage With Continental Logistics

Drayage trucking is an essential step in every shipment and doesn’t have to be complicated. While things like lack of transparency, congestion, and equipment & driver shortages can all impact the speed and cost of drayage, an expert logistics partner can make drayage effective and easy.

Continental Logistics is a superb logistics partner who can take the weight off your shoulders. They make it possible for clients to control their supply chain from the port all the way to the customer’s door, and by doing so, they make logistics simpler and painless for their clients. Their experience in drayage makes the whole process easy, and you can let the experts handle any issues that arise, ensuring efficient, timely drayage. Get in touch today.

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