A Trade Show Booth Builder Explains Drayage

Drayage is misunderstood and often a questioned charge in the trade show industry. This guide aims to use our expertise as a trade show booth builder to explain drayage and help you control costs.

What is the Difference Between Material Handling and Drayage?

Material handling and drayage are the same. Drayage is simply an industry term. The term began with a dray, a low cart with no fixed sides carrying heavy loads pulled by a dray horse.

So, drayage is about moving heavy loads over a short distance. In the trade show industry, drayage services have 5 components:

  1. Unloading and completing receiving documentation before the event
  2. Delivering freight from the receiving dock to the booth before the event
  3. Storing empty crates and/or extra products nearby during the event
  4. Returning freight from the booth to the receiving dock after the event
  5. Reloading and completing outbound documentation after the event

In other words, drayage describes the movement of items from your delivery vehicle to your booth for the show and then back afterwards.

A Trade Show Booth Builder Explains Why Drayage Exists

Drayage is almost exclusive to trade shows in the US. This is because exhibitors must use the designated trade show decorator (General Contractor). The General Contractor (GC) supplies exclusive union labor services to deliver to booths.

Show organizers determine drayage costs as they negotiate with the GC ahead of time. These costs are passed along to exhibitors. Your trade show booth builder can’t impact the drayage fees directly, and neither can you.

But the GC provides a variety of services for these fees besides drayage like:

  • Compiling manuals for exhibitors
  • Registration materials
  • Building an infrastructure of information
  • Accounting services
  • Operating material handling equipment

How Drayage is Calculated

Drayage fees are based on 7 complex factors.

  1. Where the freight delivers – Your trade show booth builder can arrange for shipment to an advance warehouse or directly to the trade show. Fees are usually higher shipping directly to the trade show, but in some cities with limited warehouse space, shipping direct may be the best option.
  2. When the freight delivers – Within time frames outlined in the exhibitor services manual cost less. Outside the specified times are subject to additional fees.
  3. Weight of the freight delivered – Freight is weighed and rounded up every 100lbs. So, a 215lb crate weighs 300lbs, and 499lb crate weighs 500lbs. Freight dimensions seldom matter.
  4. Type of carrier delivering the freight – Drayage rates are often 30-40% less when freight arrives by a common carrier than a specialized carrier. The reason is that common carriers floor load your crates or pallets, making it easier to move with a forklift.
  5. Kind of freight unloading – Specialized carriers that stack freight, blanket wrap, or mix loads require more labor, time, and equipment. Palleted freight is more expensive because it needs more care to transport and unload. Special handling items, oversized pieces, and high-tech displays are the most expensive.
  6. Special handling – Any freight requiring extra labor, time, or equipment costs more in drayage. For example, if a truck arrives with crates, pallets, and a special item, you pay individually for each.
  7. When the shipment is handled – See the designated standard time and overtime hours outlined in the exhibitor manual. Overtime rates are often double.

In Summary

To help keep your drayage costs under control, spend some time with your exhibition booth builder to discuss your options. Drayage is more than just moving materials to and from a trade show. So, paying drayage fees is unavoidable. But you can lower your drayage costs significantly by planning ahead.