Pop quiz, hotshot, you’ve finished your first trade show and everything went well, until you see you’ve been charged an extra grand not in the budget for something called “drayage.” What do you do? What’da’ya do?!
Well, you probably grumble about how this drayage was almost as expensive as shipping freight across the country, and then pay the bill.
You’re not the first to get bit by drayage, and you won’t be the last. But, if you know what you’re doing, drayage doesn’t have to be a surprise. In fact, with a little planning, you can keep the fees to a minimum.
Drayage is the transportation of goods over a short distance. It’s pronounced “DRAY-ige.”
Historically, the term referred to a small cart that was pulled by a horse. Due to limitations of the cart and horse, drays were only used to move goods a short distance.
For trade shows, drayage, which is sometimes called material handling, refers to the transportation of booth items from a carrier’s delivery vehicle to a booth space. This service includes:Receiving the shipment.
- Unloading the trade show freight.
- Delivering the shipment to the trade show booth space.
- Removing empty crates and pallets from the booth space.
- Storing the empty shipping items during the show.
- Returning “empties” once the show is over.
- Transferring the freight back to the loading dock.
- Loading the items into your carrier’s delivery vehicle.
Why so Costly?
On average, 16 percent of your final trade show costs are drayage charges. That is equal to the average cost of shipping your entire freight to the event.
So, why is drayage so expensive? All trade shows require that you use their trade show decorator as the exclusive union labor service for items that are delivered to your booth. This may seem unfair, but think about it for a moment. Most trade shows have hundreds of exhibitors, which means there are thousands of crates being received at one central location. All of this material must be sent to several hundred different locations on the show floor. This is a highly coordinated effort, and it all happens behind the scenes.
That’s why the cost of drayage is predetermined, and you have no options to negotiate the price or go with a less expensive service. Can you imagine the chaos if multiple entities were involved?
However, that does mean that they have you over a barrel or, more accurately, a dray cart. Drayage rates vary at every show and are decided by show management and the general contractor. Charges for this service are based on two basic delivery methods:
- Advance Shipping: exhibit materials arrive to the booth space early, this tends to cost approximately 10 percent more than Direct to Show Site.
- Direct to Show Site: time window is tight with this option, and if the carrier misses the marshaling deadline, additional fees and overtime charges are possible.
How are Charges Determined?
Drayage fees are based on CWT (which is weight per 100 pounds). In the United States, basic drayage rates can range between $85 per CWT to about $125 per CWT. There can be up to 24 different material handling categories, and these can vary from show to show.
The basic drayage rate is used for freight that meets the following requirements:
- Not fragile.
- No special handling instructions.
- On a pallet or crate and can be moved easily by a forklift.
- Arrives at the correct time.
- Can be taken directly to the booth space.
All freight items that do not meet these requirements are usually billed at a higher rate.
Minimizing Drayage Costs
Most trade shows process each loose item separately. You need to be careful when packing your items, or your drayage fees will shoot up.
For example, most shows charge a 200-pound minimum. That means, if you ship your trade show booth items in separate boxes, each box will incur the minimum charge. So, a 50-pound box can cost you $200 in drayage fees.
In addition, trade shows calculate fees using whole CWTs (100 pounds). There may be some small leeway, but it is often as little as seven pounds above CWT. This means, if your item is more than seven pounds above CWT, the trade show will round up. So, if you ship an item that weighs 409 pounds, you will be charged as though it weighed 500 pounds.
Here are some tips that can help you keep costs down:
- Consolidate boxes so you ship as few items as possible.
- Make sure all boxes exceed the show’s CWT minimum charge.
- Try to keep the weight of each box close to the nearest CWT without going over. For example, if you have a box that weighs 415 pounds and another that weighs 375 pounds, try to redistribute the weight so that both boxes are close to 400 pounds.
Remember that a little planning and effort can significantly lower your drayage expenses. If you have more questions, remember, The Trade Group is here to help. Call us at 800-343-2005, and our team of experienced design consultants can help keep your drayage costs to a minimum.