Many are seeing an increased reliance on intermodal shipping methods–combinations of ocean, rail, and trucking transportation to deliver goods. Many predict that rising fuel costs will only further the trend. This will make drayage (the short, first- or last-mile truck haul between port, rail, and/or final destination) even more important.
According to the World-Herald, the Association of American Railroads reported that intermodal shipping is responsible for a sharp increase in rail freight traffic. Union Pacific Railroad, based out of Omaha, reported that intermodal shipping was its leading source of freight revenue for the past two years. Across the rail industry, more loads are being moved via intermodal methods now than ever before; and drayage is the connecting piece.
While many shippers may turn to rail to cover the long hauls, drayage plays a critical role in the success of intermodal transportation. Drayage is the connecting fiber that allows flexibility regardless of a shipper or receiver’s proximity to rail or port. These shorter haul trucking routes link rail, water, and road, and make intermodal shipping possible.
Not only does drayage make intermodal shipping possible, it may also be a welcome solution to driver shortages. Because drayage is a shorter haul, it can often times be completed within one shift. This is more appealing to many drivers who are otherwise deterred from cross-country trucking. Some cross-country routes put drivers on the roads 2 weeks to a month at a time.
In the past, rail carriers and trucking companies may have viewed one another as fierce competition. While some still do, the trend toward intermodal shipping is paving the path toward more collaboration. Strong relationships across industry lines will benefit all. Improvements at ports and along the rail line will provide better stability for short haul trucking; and improvements among drayage carriers will yield greater efficiency with rail and ocean carriers. Long-term partnerships can create stable revenue streams, control costs, and satisfy the needs of shippers.