drayage trucker

Many people think the supply chain process is simple: it gets groceries and goods from point A to point B, however we know there’s more to the journey than just that. More often than not, the first stop on that journey involves drayage truckers. While drayage isn’t what most people think of when they hear the word “trucking”, it’s the first and arguably most important part of the logistics chain.  

What is Drayage?

You’ll find different definitions out there, but drayage is usually described as the first mile in transportation. It typically involves hauling a cargo container short distances, usually from a port or harbor to a rail terminal or warehouse within the same metropolitan area. 

Drayage trucking is an integral part of both Intermodal transportation and the cold chain. The practice goes back hundreds of years, when teams of horses used to pull carts of heavy freight from ports to nearby towns. Around the turn of the century, trucks replaced horses and here we are, over 100 years later.  

What are the Benefits to Drayage Trucking?

If you ask most drayage drivers, they’ll tell you the biggest benefit is the shorter routes. Drivers will usually complete at least one route, (most times more) in a single shift and be home every night

Another benefit to drayage work is the variety of consistent shifts you can take on. Intermodal shipping runs 24/7, with cargo moving in and out of piers and rail terminals at all hours of the day. This means that drivers have more freedom when choosing their hours, giving them more time for life outside of work.   

One more reason drayage work might be for you? Drayage truckers are often hauling “no-touch” cargo, meaning you won’t be doing any of the leg work of loading and unloading cargo from your truck. 

Any Disadvantages?

There aren’t many disadvantages to this line of work, but it can be stressful. Yes, your trips are much shorter, but it comes with a trade-off. Moving in and out of large ports and contending with all the rules and regulations associated with them can be a hassle. Sometimes these rules can change multiple times per day at a single port. But, if you’re able to learn on the fly and handle stress well, this shouldn’t be a problem.  


As you could guess, drayage trucking encompasses more than moving containers from a port to a warehouse. The IANA (Intermodal Association of North America) lists 6 distinct types of drayage transportation.  

  • Inter-carrier: What is most thought of for drayage driving. Moving cargo between locations owned by two separate carriers 
  • Intra-carrier: Moving freight between two locations that are owned by the same carrier 
  • Door-to-Door: Straight from your truck to the customer’s door 
  • Expedited: For time-sensitive containers and cargo 
  • Pier – Moving cargo to a port or harbor so it can be shipped via waterway, domestically or internationally. 
  • Shuttle: Moving cargo to a temporary location due to overcrowding at the intended terminal. It will usually be picked up by a secondary transport later. 

What Are the Requirements for Driving Drayage?

  • CDL – No surprise here. You’ll need a Class A CDL to work as a drayage driver 
  • RFID Tags – Specific to entering and exiting ports, RFID tags are used by port authorities to identify carriers and get them in and out as quickly as possible 
  • TWIC – Standard for any worker entering secure ports, you’ll need to apply with the TSA for a Transportation Worker Identification Credential. Make sure to apply for this early, as it can take up to 45 days to provide you with a response after you’ve applied 
  • Must be 21 – There are some exceptions to this, but most carriers will prefer drivers to be 21 or over, in order to take cargo over state lines 

Is Drayage Right for You?

We were able to speak with Peter, a drayage driver out of California, to get his advice for people looking to get into this line of work. 

“Make sure you are paid by the hour and the company you are going to work for has their own yard and office.”

Like with all other trucking jobs, there’s a big need for qualified and experienced drivers in the drayage field. If you’re looking for steady work that keeps you close to home and can deal with navigating large ports and harbors, then it might be the line of work for you.  

truck driver at loading dock

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The 3 Perks of Intermodal Trucking
Specialty truck drivers have a great opportunity within the trucking industry. And certainly, a specialty is intermodal. Intermodal trucking can be a great option for truckers looking for a new gig over the road. And for those drivers looking to change up their schedules and find some additional work/life balance, and potentially a little less wear and tear physically, here are 3 perks in the life of an intermodal trucker.

Intermodal: What is It?

Before we talk about the perks of intermodal trucking, we first need to discuss what intermodal transportation means. Intermodal transportation is moving cargo in specially designed containers, using a combination of shipping methods to get the cargo from point A to point B.

The containers are weather-hardy and fit securely on several types of transport. A sample intermodal delivery might start with overseas freight shipping to a US port on a cargo ship. Trains pick up the containers from the ports and deliver to a rail station. And from there, a truck driver picks up the container. This is one example, but it really is any combination of moving these containers by air, sea, rail or over the road. Now that we have discussed what it is, let’s take a look at the perks for someone considering a job as an intermodal driver.

1. Consistent Schedule

If a healthy work/life balance is important to you and your lifestyle, intermodal trucking might be a good choice for you.

We spoke with an intermodal truck driver, David, and he shared his experience on the road:

David Day Day Hayes“Intermodal provides the ability to make great money and be home daily. But the tradeoff is a lot of frustration and hold ups in the railyards,” shares David.

Driving from shipyards and railyards usually works on the same schedule of those workers, so a steady 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and sleeping at home daily isn’t out of the question. In this case, the containers are dependable and so are the work hours.

2. Less Labor and Packing

The shipping containers move from transport vehicle to transport vehicle. They stay packed as is and sealed from the time they leave, until they get to their destination. This means the truck drivers don’t need to do too much work for pickup and delivery, and they certainly don’t need to load and unload like what might be necessary with a trailer.

At each stop the container moves to, there’s specialty equipment there to pick up the containers and place them on the trucks. It’s usually no touch for the drivers, which means less wear and tear on your body, and more time moving down the road.

3. Flexibility

Some drivers find a real perk to be the flexibility that intermodal trucking provides to a driver. We talked to another intermodal truck driver, Ritsuko, and she shared what she loves about intermodal trucking, including seeing the country and making money.

Ritsuko Ishigaki“I enjoy the independence and peace of being on the road and being able to take off when needed and having more flexibility in my schedule,” shares Ritsuko.

If you’re looking for an new opportunity, or a job with the intermodal trucking perks we mention here, let us help.  At Drive My Way we can help you find a new job, perfect for you. We’ve got plenty of intermodal opportunities, and one might be a great fit for you.

truck driver at loading dock

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