Trade Show Shipping: Advanced or Direct?

06/06/23 by Bev

A big question we get all the time is how to ship to an exhibit – advanced drayage or send it directly to the show site? Now – I will tell you upfront that I am not a big fan of advanced drayage. There are pros and cons of each so let’s go over them now.

Advanced Drayage

Advanced Shipping Trade Show Pros

  1. Your freight gets on the show floor first so you can set up as early as possible.
  2. You can verify delivery to the general contractor ahead of the show.
  3. There would not be any waiting time charges that can occur because of long lines when shipping direct.
  4. Advanced drayage is a great option when transshipping from one show to another as you have a 30-day window of free storage to help manage your shipping calendar and costs.

These advantages are important, especially the transship option, which can save a lot in transportation costs.

Advanced Shipping Trade Show Cons

  1. Advanced freight usually costs more, which is understandable as advanced freight requires extra handling to receive and store it before the show. The extra cost is only a small upcharge above the direct rate and is usually not a deal-breaker all by itself.
  2. Advanced freight is always brought in on the first move in the day which could be on overtime and you will be charged overtime when this happens.
  3. Advanced freight is handled more, which can add to more damage and repairs.
  4. Advanced freight is stored on common carrier trailers without any strapping or tie downs to help secure the loads.
  5. Damage claims have very limited liabilities with the general contractor. They are usually limited to no more than $50 per item.
  6. Advanced freight needs extra lead time to meet the cut-off deadline, which is usually a week before the first direct freight move-in date.
  7. Advanced freight is received at a facility that can be juggling many shows at the same time. This can add to the misplacement of shipments.

Direct Drayage

Next, we will look at direct drayage, in other words, shipping directly to the show site. Don’t get ahead of me thinking you can just reverse the advanced drayage pros and cons. There is a little more to it than that.

Direct Shipping Trade Show Pros

  1. You have more time to prepare the shipment which is very important for last minute updates to equipment or marketing messages.
  2. There is less handling of your shipment and therefore less opportunity for damage.
  3. You can schedule your freight to arrive during straight time hours at the show site.
  4. You can work with padded van firms and carriers that use tie downs and air ride equipment all the way to the show site.
  5. Large over the road trucking companies charge a flat fee so there is no waiting time charged when waiting in direct drayage lines.
  6. Shipments can be fully insured and the shipper has a vested interest to protect the shipment from your shipping location all the way to the show floor.
  7. You have the opportunity to get the best drayage rate since direct drayage is almost always the lowest drayage rate.

Direct Shipping Trade Show Cons

  1. You do not get your freight on the floor as early as advanced freight. So depending upon the show, this can be a big deterrent to shipping direct.
  2. Airfreight forwarders usually charge waiting time for sitting in direct drayage lines waiting to be unloaded. Trade show freight carriers like FedEx and UPS require special attention since they will not wait and you are usually charged a special handling fee for using this type of carrier.
  3. You are not able to verify that your freight has arrived ahead of time except that you can talk to the carrier directly.
  4. You do not have much wiggle room if a shipment is delayed due to – as an example – bad weather.

Bottom line – there are reasons for shipping advanced or direct but they vary from show to show. Understanding the show, the facility, the drayage company, waiting time, overtime, damage concerns, delicate equipment, and potential weather factors all should be part of the decision process. These are the thought processes that account managers at Exhibit Edge go through for each and every shipment.

I hope this helped clear up the advantages and disadvantages of each shipping method. Stay tuned for more trade show tips from Exhibit Edge and check out our exhibit management services for more information on managing exhibit shows!