Drayage Vs Transloading: What’s the Difference?

Drayage vs transloading, is there a difference you need to know about? Often, we throw shipping terms around, but it’s important to understand what they mean. As a business owner, it’s crucial to have a basic understanding of key terms regarding logistics. 

What gets your cargo delivered more efficiently and at a lower cost? As you compare quotes, it’s a good idea to understand the differences between transloading, drayage, and intermodal. 


So, what is drayage? 

Before drayage services were an option, buyers had to retrieve products themselves and bring them to their own storage areas. Unfortunately, that meant waiting at a dock, rail yard, etc, for someone to unload crates from a train or ship. 

Delays and technical issues often resulted in wasted time. Then, dray carts helped people take care of unloading and transporting goods to their final destination. Of course, there was a fee to pay whoever processed the transfer as well. 

However, the result was reduced stress and an efficient schedule. Since this change, logistics companies have become a major asset to the supply chain in the United States. 


Transloading refers to the transfer of goods between modes of transportation. Typically, a forklift removes pallets from a 40-foot shipping container and moves them into a 53-foot container. After consolidating the goods, the cargo moves inland via rail or truck. 

Generally, this saves time and money for everyone involved. In some cases, no larger container is available. This situation requires some short-term storage for the pallets until the container arrives. 

With a reliable logistics partner, you have a safe, secure location to store your cargo until it moves on to its next destination. 

Does Drayage vs Transloading Come Down to an Extra 13 Feet?

In reality, it’s more than 13 feet. The measurement includes the cubic feet of space available to consolidate the cargo. Generally, your average shipping container is 8.5 feet high, which means there is an additional 110.5 feet for pallets in a single load. 

Shipping is a challenge for many business owners, so that extra space allows them to maximize the use of space and even share the cost with other business owners. 

Think of drayage vs transloading in terms of a family road trip. Instead of a car or SUV, you might use a minivan. From the exterior, the size doesn’t seem that different. However, it plays a role in the comfort and success of the trip. 

The same is true of transloading services. The result is faster delivery and a cost-effective solution. Your goal is to get your goods moving quickly, and if you live inland – far from any ports – efficient, effective solutions are important. 

So, How Are They Different?

In terms of drayage vs transloading, the difference is pretty simple. Drayage involves the actual delivery to the final destination. On the other hand, transloading is a technique to change modes of transit. 

While transloading may occur multiple times, drayage only happens at the end of the run. Still, both of these terms and services play a major role in logistics. 

Final Thoughts

Above, we used the example of moving between containers. However, transloading covers other services as well. For instance, we might transload building materials from dump trucks to barges for delivery across a waterway. 

This is an essential service for cities surrounded by water. Bulk delivery of materials via water helps to avoid delays due to city traffic.

As building supply costs rise, many contractors use containers to ship boards, panels, and lumber from overseas. This decision keeps their costs lower. Additionally, it means collaboration with reliable logistics partners.