A Guide to Intermodal Drayage and Cross-Docking

A Guide to Intermodal Drayage and Cross-Docking

Intermodal drayage and cross-docking are two terms common in the freight shipping business. Learn more about it here!

Here we’ll be examining the methods, applications, and relative merits of two increasingly relied-on commercial transport systems: intermodal drayage and cross-docking. Adapting either into your business’s overarching shipping strategy can yield major savings and significantly reduce hassle, so long as the decision is well-informed. 

Intermodal Drayage 

Note that in the context of shipping services, “intermodal” is used to denote more than one mode of transport as necessary to ensure an individual delivery’s safe and expedient arrival at its destination. Most commonly, this involves truck, boat, and possibly train conveyance in whatever combination.

Further note that “drayage” refers to cargo that ultimately arrives via a series of relatively short-distance cargo shipments. In transit—more accurately, during breaks in transit—their contents are processed and sometimes briefly stored at facilities equipped for such tasks; in tandem, these “layovers” comprise what could be accurately characterized as a single vast and uninterrupted supply chain.

Therefore, intermodal drayage simply means shipments traveling small distances at a time—usually from one of any number of predetermined stopping points to the next—and which also require at least two classes of motorized contraption for transport along the way.

A few of the more significant upsides this practice has for shipper and consumer alike are:

  • Quicker transport: if this seems counterintuitive in consideration of all the pitstops, you might be under-accounting for the magnitude of speed boost afforded by one’s capacity to “switch” vehicle types as best environmentally-/situationally-suited—all planned comprehensively in advance
  • Less cargo handling, overall (incidentally minimizing damage and loss potential)
  • Higher security of goods


“Cross-docking” is another freight transit system contingent on a smooth supply chain. Specifically, this entails a shipping center’s allocation of a single hub dock for all inbound cargo ideally centrally positioned amid many docks onsite exclusively designated for outgoing shipments. The typical sequence of events:

  1. Cargo arrives by ship at a given port.
  2. It then leaves by (e.g.) truck or railway for a cross-docking terminal.
  3. There, the freight is unloaded, sorted, and reloaded onto the appropriate ship

    for final delivery—all usually in less than a day.

Selecting the Better System for Your Business

Per expert opinion, cross-docking would be recommended if your company were planning to ship cargo:

  • requiring no special handling
  • without the need for interim storage and eventual repacking
  • over a short distance
  • with any perishable or time-sensitive elements
  • involving a high degree of automation (e.g., auto-recurring deliveries)

Such a list implicitly evokes the set of hypothetical inverse situations that needn’t be written out; for these, confidently assume that intermodal drayage is the way to go. This is almost always the more costly option. Keep in mind, though, that any savings gained in opting for circumstantially improper shipping are likely to be negated (and then some!) by the fallout and damage/loss mitigation costs of such a choice.

For All Your Trucking Needs

Follow us here at Evan Transportation to get more updates on driving tips and the trucking industry. Evan Transportation provides trucking and transportation services for clients throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. All of our drivers and staff are offered competitive salaries, benefits, and are guaranteed to be home every day. Interested in finding out more? Visit us online or give us a call at 443-673-3365. For even more information, visit us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

This entry was posted on Friday, September 9th, 2022 at 1:25 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.