What is drayage and how do we reduce its costs?

by Alberto Sanz Alonso

If the word “drayage” sounds Chinese to you, don't worry, it even sounds this way to Americans. This term, in which at first referred to when horses pulled wagons, it is now used as a reference to the costs of handling goods.

If you exhibit at a fair in US, forget about getting to the the fair ground with your own car, unloading the material, to then move it and placing it in your stand location in the exhibition hall yourself.

In USA, that is Im-Po-Si-Ble! It's that simple. Neither you nor the stand builder you have hired can
take much more than what you can fit in your pocket until reaching your stand.

Only the hired company that is in charge of the logistics of the show has permission to move the packages from outside to inside the fair, and that is what they called “drayage”- because the word 'scary' was already taken in the dictionary.

For someone who is used to trade shows or expositions in Europe, the fact that you can't even bring a ream of 500 sheets of paper sounds like a joke.

Even more so, when you discover the high prices that this mandatory transport service requires if you want to exhibit at any trade show in the US. This leads to you not being able to carry anything on your own to the stand of your company.

CTW. Calculating the drayage cost

This handling cost is usually calculated with a formula, the CTW (Carat Total Weight)

The CTW indicates that X dollars per 100 pounds (45 kg) that company will charge you.

This X varies considerably depending on the state, city and even the fair. Here's an example to demonstrate the madness of this cost.

Assuming a box weighs about 4000 pounds (1814 kg), divide that number by 100, giving us the result of 40. To this 40, you will need to multiply the number X, in other words, the variable cost. The average price per 100 lb US is $ 85.50. This results in $ 3,420, about € 2,740 for a single box.

4000x100=40x85.50USD = 3.420USD

Exaggerated, right?

To this we must add the cost of labor (i.e, the union or appropriate "union") and shipment from the country of origin. Moreover, it is quite disconcerting to know that the cost of "drayage" will vary depending on where the fair is taking place.

What services are included in drayage?

  • Move material from the unloading dock of the trade show or from the warehouse onto the fairgrounds
  • Remove empty crates before the show, store them during the same fair and bring them to your stand at the end of such
  •  Once you have removed the stand and you have put them back in their original packaging, they load them up at the exterior cargo dock where you can withdraw them

Some tricks or tips to reduce the cost of handling are:

  • Build the company's stand with lighter materials, USA builders are full experts on this.
  • Although the price is calculated per 100 pounds, most companies do not accept packages less than 200 lb, so well organized packages are essential in order to save on the "drayage". Keep in mind that a 50 pound box will be charged like a 200 pound box.
  • Send packages ahead of time to cut costs
  • Avoid sending cargo that requires special handling, as this makes the price much higher
  • Working outside office hours makes it all more expensive (weekend, for example), so avoid them at all costs.

Even so, exhibiting at a trade show in USA is an amazing opportunity for your company, because of this, the “drayage” cost should not be an obstacle. However, it is essential to have an expertise in the market within reach, rather than improvising, because doing so, your cost will increase 30 to 50%.

Are you exhibiting in USA? Contact us, we will help you be successful and we will be sure to recommend you the providers with the most experience, for each city.

Alberto Sanz Alonso
CEO in neventum
  • www.neventum.com