The Cost of the Last Mile

Material handling are the two most misunderstood words on the American show floor. Also called ‘Drayage,’ it is by far one of the most hidden and unexpectedly large costs associated with tradeshows. Every exhibitor with a couple years of show experience under their belt has a horror story about frightening post-show handling charges from the show general service contractor.

However, CTW (weight per 100 pounds) charges are not set solely by the GSC General Show Contractor – (Freeman, GES, and the others) – it is set in coordination with the Show Organizer which in most cases is the Show Association who manages the show. It is not uncommon for drayage expenses to cost more than the price of shipping your entire trade show freight across country to the trade show.

Every Show is Unique Regarding Drayage

If you have exhibited at many shows you know that there are many different rates for CTW. These charges run the gamut including the Offshore Technology Conference (yearly in Houston with 1500+ exhibitors+) where there is no drayage charge, to the world famous CES Show (yearly in Las Vegas with 2000+ exhibitors) where the rates begin at $62.05 per CTW for the Advanced Warehouse and $47.20 for Show Site Deliveries. And then there are some extremely expensive drayage charges like Interphex in New York which is $163.25 and show site $116.25. Everyone shares the same price per square foot for floor space and the lower the drayage the higher the floor space costs.

In most cases this is how the Show Organizer pays for their expenses on the show floor and in some cases for salaries to keep the associations going – even when they are a non-profit. There is no negotiating these prices and everybody pays them. Additionally, there are many additional fees within the drayage charges for items incorrectly packed or not put on a skid, individual small boxes, shipping out on Fridays may have extra rates. In the US trade show world if a crate weighs 506 pounds then it is rounded up – there is never a round down. You pay 6 x100 x $your rate – so remember to consolidate! Installing a trade show is like building a city in three days. There is more organization, coordination of labor, dealing with exhibitors that may have lost crates, in a 72-hour period than is imaginable. People must be paid to do this work, enough people, and exhibitors are going to pay that bill. Is it fair or right – who is to say? There are huge costs, and they must be paid.

Drayage and Material Handling do not Exist in Europe

In Europe there is no drayage or material handling – people with forklifts sit in the parking lots and hire themselves out for the ten or twelve days it takes to build most shows. That is an alternative but there are no unions and set fees and it is far less expensive there. Do you have the time and additional manpower to spend two weeks building your exhibit then attending the show and then dismantling the exhibit? Probably not, so welcome to America – pay at the show desk or the show contractor will happily just ding your credit card.

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