Drayage is one of the most misunderstood and infuriating trade show expenses that exhibitors encounter. Drayage — also referred to as material handling — is an industry term that refers to the movement of your exhibit items between your carrier’s vehicle and your trade show booth space. Although this fee is unavoidable, knowing how drayage is calculated can help significantly reduce your trade show spend.

How is Drayage Calculated?

Drayage rates are based on CWT (weight per 100 lbs.) multiplied by an established rate, with a 200iStock_000014435300Small lbs. minimum. Additional fees may apply depending on the difficulty associated with moving a piece of freight. Note that drayage rates vary from show-to-show, so the rate associated with your specific trade show will have a large impact on your overall drayage spend!


Now that we understand how drayage is calculated, here are our 5 tips on how to reduce your drayage costs:

  1. Crate Your Freight

Make good use of space—consolidate and skid your freight! Each loose piece will be assessed a 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.

  1. Watch Your Crate Weight

Trade show booths are typically heavy because they simply consist of a whole lot of material.  When deciding on booth material, go light. There are plenty of lightweight building options that don’t hinder and customization needs you may have. If your current booth is older and quite heavy, consider trading it in for a lighter model. This can save you a lot of money especially if you plan on using the exhibit in numerous trade shows.

  1. Don’t Be Late

Each trade show has scheduled move in and move out dates.  Work with your install and Drayagedismantle team to schedule to have your exhibit set up on a non-overtime day and time. Check your exhibitor services manual for a floor plan that tells you when your truck can unload, and make sure your carrier meets that target time.

  1. Reduce Collateral

Stop shipping unnecessary items. The quickest way to rack up a big drayage bill is to ship things, especially heavy things, you don’t really need. Review the weight of your exhibit, shipping crates, and promotional material to determine if you can cut out any items from your next load. If you have a lot of marketing materials, consider printing them in the city where the trade show or event is taking place. Remember – you can always reprint more.

  1. Review Your Freight Invoices

When thousands of trade show invoices are being processed within a day or two there is a lot of room for error. Mistakes happen so review every line item of your invoice to make sure you have been billed correctly.


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Now that you know what drayage is and ways to reduce your costs, you are ready to take on the show floor! To talk to one of our Exhibit Specialists about material handling fees, please email info@tradeshowsupply.com. To read more blogs like this, click here.