Imagine that you go to the grocery store, buy all your food, load the bags into the car yourself, and drive home. After you pull into your garage, someone else carries the bags from the car to the house, and hands you a bill that exceeds the cost of the groceries themselves. That’s trade show drayage (well, kind of).

Drayage, also referred to as trade show material handling, refers to the transfer of your exhibit items from the vehicle to your trade show booth space and back again. It’s one of the more aggravating (and unavoidable) fees encountered by trade show exhibitors. Thankfully, a little knowledge and planning can help you understand how drayage is calculated, and how you can reduce drayage costs.

How is drayage calculated?

A few factors play into drayage cost calculations:

  1. Weight: Drayage is based on CWT—meaning it’s quoted per hundred pounds. You’ll be charged a certain rate per 100 pounds of materials, typically with a 200-pound minimum. This rate varies from show to show. 

  2. Difficulty of transfer: Sometimes fees are added to account for particularly cumbersome or difficult-to-move piece. Items that are uncrated or blanket-wrapped may incur higher trade show drayage rates.

  3. Timing: Surcharges can be assessed for drayage that is completed outside a set window of time.

How can you reduce drayage costs? 

  • Use light materials:

    Older exhibits are often made of heavier materials. Advances in technology and manufacturing have made for very lightweight booths. Although a new booth is quite an investment, it can save you a substantial amount in trade show materials handling.
  • Weigh as you crate:

    Charges for weight are usually rounded UP to the next 100 pounds. For example, a 206-pound crate will be charged at 3 CWT (300 pounds). Keep your weights close to the nearest 100 pounds. For example, move things around to have a 398-pound crate rather than a 308-pound crate.

    Watch out for the minimum weight charge, too! A 25-pound crate will be charged the same as a 200-pound crate if the show has a 2 CWT minimum (and they usually do). Avoid shipping light-boxes by adding them into a crate that meets the minimum charge for trade show materials handling.
  • Ship to the warehouse instead of show:

    Some event spaces have ample storage capabilities which allow you to ship your crates to a warehouse, rather than shipping directly to the event. Be sure to check your show manual to see which rate is less expensive.
  • Ship only the necessities:

    Are there items that can be procured on location, rather than shipping them? Printing materials near the trade show location rather than shipping them can whittle down your drayage charges. 
  • Check the invoice:

    With thousands of invoices created and delivered, mistakes do happen. Keep careful records of your crates, weights, and delivery times and double-check your drayage calculation. For especially complicated exhibit shipments, photos are a great way to combat erroneous charges.
  • Work with an exhibit house:

    Exhibit houses receive bulk pricing for shipping, which can help your bottom line. And they are experts at all things drayage!

A little research and planning goes a long way when it comes to reducing your drayage costs. If you could use some guidance, reach out to the experts at Exhibit Options.