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What is Drayage?

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OK ——DRAYAGE —– there I said it.

Drayage is one of the most misunderstood and controversial charges in the exhibit industry. What is also interesting is that it is mostly a separate costing structure related to shows in the United States. Many overseas companies that exhibit in the US do not budget or understand drayage as a separate cost item.

So let’s analyze this term. The dictionary defines dray (the root word in drayage) as a low cart without fixed sides, used for carrying heavy loads. In days gone by, the cart would be pulled by a “dray horse”.

The larger word “drayage” is more associated with the cost to move heavy loads over a short distance.

A Drayage Service is used in trade shows, where a large number of vendors (or exhibitors) meet together. Shows in the US tend to have less move-in and move out time and more often require the coordination of freight through a central drayage company. Therefore the association, or show organizer, assigns a drayage company for the entering and exiting of freight and products.

A similar structure to understand drayage may be like a mail room facility at large corporations. Instead of shipping companies making deliveries throughout the building they deliver and receive items at a central location – the mailroom.

The trade show drayage service can be divided into 5 parts:

  1. Unloading carriers and completing inbound receiving documents;
  2. Delivery of freight to the exhibitor’s booth from the receiving dock;
  3. Storage of empty crates and extra products on site or close by;
  4. Transfer of freight from the booth back to the receiving dock
  5. Reloading carriers and completing outbound shipping documents.

I mentioned in the beginning that a majority of shows outside of the United States do not have drayage as a separate charge. This is due to a different cost structure. Individual Exhibit Companies provide this service as part of the overall cost for exhibit fabrication, rental, transportation, and installation. They absorb any drayage costs, or handle in the freight themselves, and offer a single price for the complete service.

The Drayage Service Company has evolved into the “General Contractor.” Now, the general contractor provides additional services to include furniture, sign hanging, and event decorations. General Contractors are embraced by Associations as a one stop shop. Association show needs, which are separate from exhibitor services, are provided by the general contractor basically for free or at a very reduced rate. These needs, that benefit the whole show, include aisle carpet, booth dividers, aisle identification signs, temporary counters for registration and rooms for an exhibitor lounge or association sales. This package of Association needs is part of a very competitive bid process to win the exclusive rights to service certain functions of the trade show….. And what is the largest of these functions? Yep, you guessed it – DRAYAGE.

Next week we will look into the cost of drayage.

As always, please respond with your questions or comments and let others know about EXHIBITOR LOUNGE.COM. We will see you next week. Until then, I am your host Michael Gray telling you to RELAX in the Exhibitor Lounge.