Drayage for Dummies

02/12/13 by Bev

There are many things that may surprise you throughout the exhibiting process, but one that gets many newbies is drayage.  Sure, you may think about shipping, but understanding the full scope of what is involved is often a major budget item overlooked by many.

First off, let’s define it.  It originated from the idea of the horse and buggy.  The “dray horse” would pull the “dray” which carried the load to transport.  In the exhibiting world, drayage relates to the costs associated with the coordination of freight for the purpose of transporting your exhibit materials to the show venue, your booth location, and then back out again.

Basically, the five components of drayage are:

  1. Unload carriers and complete inbound receiving documents,
  2. Deliver freight to the exhibitor’s booth from the receiving dock,
  3. Store empty crates and extra products on-site or close by,
  4. Transfer freight from the booth back to the receiving dock,
  5. Reload carriers and complete outbound shipping documents.

Here’s the kicker – these costs typically can’t be shopped around.  In the U.S., a central drayage company is used for the coordination of all incoming and outgoing shipments.  The show’s general contractor is oftentimes the one-stop-shop for all the show’s installation, maintenance, and construction needs – drayage included.  With the evolution of the general contractor as the central source for drayage, the exclusive rights to these services are bid on competitively and owned by the winner appointed by the trade show association.

So, with your hands being tied as to your drayage options, how can you plan wisely and save money throughout this process?

Plan Ahead

When preparing your budget for your exhibit and trade show event, use the estimated median expense, not the lowest.  You may hit some unexpected fees along the way.  Make sure you read through all the show’s rules and fine print to ensure you have a full understanding of all requirements and fees.  Look for possible fixed rates or other options for drayage.  You may also want to consider saving money by taking advantage of advanced drayage and shipping everything to your next venue ahead of time.

Ship Smart

Think through what you are shipping and how you are shipping it.  For handouts and giveaways, think small and light or consider incorporating an item than can be given to the attendees as a follow-up after the event.  For smaller shipments, consider sending them straight to your hotel and hand-carry them to the venue.  Avoid mixing your loads, which may cause additional special handling fees.  The key here is to plan strategically and be creative!

Venture Outside the Box

When going through your needs and requirements concerning drayage and booth specifications, consider rentals through the general contractor or destination management firms.  You may end up surprised at how much you save on shipping costs by renting locally.  Consider sharing space with other exhibitors who complement your company’s services.  By having less to set up on your own, you will have fewer drayage expenses.  On this same note, if you utilize fabrics throughout your exhibit setup, it will be lighter, easier, and cheaper to both ship and install.

If this all seems a bit much to take on or if you’re not sure where to start, please reach out to us. One of the advantages of utilizing a full service exhibiting company, such as Exhibit Edge, is that we can help coordinate all these details, and you can take advantage of our years of experience in the industry. Drayage is a necessary evil in the exhibiting industry, but we will make it as painless as possible for you!


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