Drayage Services in Houston

Canal Cartage has been a leading resource for drayage services to and from Port Houston, since 1983. We provide an essential service to American domestic commercial businesses, who import or export products, goods, supplies and hazardous materials (with specially trained HME drivers).  

Did you know that Port Houston Texas is one of the busiest ports on the Gulf of Mexico? Every year, more than 247 million tons of cargo arrive or depart through the Port of Houston, which sees 8,200+ vessels and 215,000 barges annually.   

That’s a lot of containers! To move that freight, logistics companies like Canal Cartage provide drayage services. But did you know that within that general term for cargo and freight, there are actually many different types of drayage that vary, depending on the method of transportation and type of freight? 

We would like to share a little more information on those different types of drayage, what is involved in pick-up or drop-off drayage, and review some of the options for commercial business owners who need domestic freight forwarding in the Houston area.  

When Did American Businesses Start Using Drayage as an Essential Service? 

For as long as businesses have been importing and exporting goods, drayage has been a vital service to acquire inventory and sell parts, finished goods and other materials.  The first mention of the term drayage was in the late 1700s, when horse drawn carriages would pick up cargo from piers, to deliver to commercial customers.  

The term ‘drayage’ comes from the ‘dray’ which was a name for a sturdy wagon, drawn usually by two workhorses a short distance from the destination port, to the railroad for delivery.  If you thought driving a truck with a container was hard, try convincing two tired horses to stand still, while you loaded the cargo.  It wasn’t until the early 1900s that commercial trucks were built to safely pick-up and deliver drayage.  

There are Six Different Types of Drayage 

When a commercial client requests drayage services in houston, our customer support team will immediately review the different aspects and classification of the freight and services required.  These classifications originate from the Intermodal Association of North America, or IANA.  

1. Expedited Drayage 

Certain types of cargo may be impacted by delays in shipping.  This is true for fresh food products (even in refrigerated containers), medications and medical supplies, and other categories of freight.  Or sometimes, the commercial customer has a very narrow timeline in which they need to receive their goods; that’s when they choose expedited drayage.  

Customers who require expedited drayage pay an additional fee to increase the speed of arrival for their freight container(s). This is also sometimes referred to as ‘hot shot’ logistical services, and it is more commonly used for LCL (less than container load) shipments of palletized goods. Full container loads can also be expedited, depending on the needs of the commercial client.  

For truck delivery of expedited drayage in Houston, team drivers can be used.  This helps mitigate any delays, as drivers ‘take turns’ to keep the freight moving, and in compliance with HOS (hours of service) Federal safety requirements. It is a faster alternative to intermodal shipping for time sensitive cargo.  

2. Inter-Carrier Drayage 

Frequently in commercial freight management, more than one method of transportation is used to deliver the cargo to the customer.  Inter-carrier drayage is the process of moving goods, for example, from the destination port (in our case, Port of Houston, Texas) from a vessel and then to truck, and in some cases to a railyard for transmodal shipping.  

Because container drayage is all-season transport of goods (full containers or less than container loads), commercial business sometimes choose intermodal during winter months for example, when delivery times can be hindered by weather. The container is put on a train that isn’t impacted by road conditions (or HOS limitations) which helps ensure delivery is on time.  

3. Pier Drayage 

This type of drayage involves taking an intermodal unit (container or less than container load) to a dock or pier from a rail hub, or commercial business pick-up location.  The freight is delivered to the designated loading area, where the cargo will be transferred to a vessel for international export shipping.  

4. Shuttle Drayage 

For a variety of reasons, sometimes overcrowding at freight hubs and ports can happen, and since the container or palletized goods cannot sit on a truck indefinitely, the intermodal unit is taken to a parking lot from its hub of origin.  This happens for both loaded and empty containers, when overcrowding occurs, and containers that are not being shipped right away are moved to prevent obstructing loading and unload of vessels in the port.  

5. Door-to-Door Drayage 

With door-to-door drayage services, containers are taken from rail (transmodal) or from the port of arrival, directly to the importers place of business.  Delivery is fulfilled by trucks for domestic (American) customers.  In the case of less-than-container loads of freight, it may also be moved to a secure warehouse location to be consolidated when other goods arrive, to save on shipping costs.  

6. Intra-Carrier Drayage  

Commercial businesses may choose to use one single carrier or logistics provider for drayage services in Houston, and it is the preferred method to manage cargo efficiently and reduce costs. Intra-carrier freight moves from a rail hub to an intermodal hub that is controlled by the same carrier.  

If you are unfamiliar with drayage services and you are not sure what method would be best for your freight and logistics needs, contact our team at Canal Cartage.  Our customer service team will review cost-saving options that align with your delivery needs.   We also provide bilingual (English/Spanish) customer support services.  

Visit our quote page to provide the details about your cargo and one of our customer service experts will walk you through your best options for domestic drayage.  We can also provide reliable pick-up, delivery and drop-off services for businesses that ship trade show or conference materials and inventory within the United States.  

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