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A Beginner’s Guide to Drayage for Lumber

Drayage for Lumber

While inflation continues to rise in every industry, few have been affected so greatly as the lumber and timber industries. Lumber has gone up over 100% per square foot, to the point that it has spiked and dipped dramatically over the past five years. The price of housing has also increased drastically, which also affects the price of building new homes. The price of lumber also varies based on the type of wood. Drayage for lumber is essential and actually, is often much more profitable for lumber shippers to ship in overweight loads. Cost reduction and product handling through proper lumber transportation is a great strategy for any lumber company. 


Process of Shipping Wood

Wood comes into the United States through various avenues, mostly from South America. About 30% of America’s lumber is imported. Once the lumber has been properly processed, sealed, and packaged, it is then made available for purchase in bulk. These are then loaded into ocean containers and shipped to various docks. At this stage, the lumber shippers that purchased the lumber must then get it from the ocean container to their warehouse. This seems simple, but this process (called drayage), can be complicated. There are many laws and weight regulations for shipping, and you cannot unload an ocean shipping container at the dock. It must be moved or stored until it can be moved. There are fees associated with this process.

Saving on Costs for Lumber Drayage

There are many ways that lumber shippers can save money within the shipping process. One of these ways is to hire a company that will help them do it all. This means helping with cross-docking, storage, carrying heavy loads, avoiding drayage fees, warehousing, and more. There are several other ways to help cut costs within these fields, and some of them might be surprising. The logistics of shipping are a game that if played well, can save a lot of money. However, it can also lose a lot of money if the costs aren’t considered and cut in the best ways. Lumber shippers can learn some great cost-effective strategies to cut their expenses. 

drayage trucks

Shipping Wood Location Costs

Location is a huge part of saving on costs, in every step of the lumber transportation process:

Dock Location

While this seems simple, sometimes choosing the closest possible port isn’t the best option. Each state has different fees for shipping wood, and sometimes there are delays and other issues at individual ports. Locating the perfect dock for your operation is an essential part of shipping wood. 

Warehouse Location

If you have a warehouse closer to the dock of your choice, you can easily and quickly get products stored. If not, you will have to find safe and easily accessible storage facilities. However, if that location is too far away from your consumers, that may cause other issues like delays, which could lose your business. Gas prices have also risen quite a bit, which affects the supply chain on both sides of warehouses. 

Storage Location

Lumber is an item that does not need to be sold as quickly as some other products, as it doesn’t expire. However, that means that it isn’t always best to store it in a warehouse where you might pack or unpack it. Having a safe place to store your lumber whether it’s overnight or for a few months is essential to having a streamlined process. Warehouses provide space for packaging and separating loads, which means that storage space isn’t a priority there. Some pieces of lumber are oversized as well which makes them difficult to store outside of the oversized ocean shipping containers.

Saving on Dock Costs

For lumber shippers and any other company with ocean shipping containers, one of the most important things they need to do is pick them up from the docks. Every port has requirements and timelines for picking up the shipping containers, and this can change depending on need and saturation. If a company doesn’t pick up its shipping container quickly enough, the port will start charging for the amount of time it waits in its shipyard. These charges add up quickly! Some companies can offer short-term or even overnight storage, which can help lumber shippers pick up their containers more quickly but not have to worry about finding a place to put them right away. Comparing costs between these options is important as well. 

Utilizing Shipping Container Space

When it comes to shipping wood, a big limitation is weight. It is hard to move a large container quickly. But if you can get a big container moved quickly, you have more product faster. This saves money. This is why heavy-weight drayage transport can be such a beneficial service in lumber transportation. Paying for a larger container can be worth it for that much more product, especially in the current lumber market. All you need to do is find a company that can pick up the overweight cargo and take it where it needs to go.


Another way many companies have started to try to save on costs is by using oversized shipping containers, then using the “cross-docking” method to move products quickly. This is taking the oversized shipping container to a location where products are quickly repackaged into slightly smaller loads that can be placed onto regular-sized semi trucks. Then they can be moved to other locations quickly and efficiently. This saves money on overseas shipping, and these cross-docking locations are often convenient to the ports. Then, the products can be more easily shipped cross country or wherever they are needed to be broken down further, or just stored for later use. 

lumber drayage

Lumber Transportation

Using the right transportation company makes all the difference in your costs, no matter your product. Shipping wood is profitable, but it is also extremely necessary. Finding the most cost-effective route can help not only the consumer, but everyone else in the shipping chain as well.