Drayage Discussion At EDPA’s ACCESS 2018

In all industries, there are common problems shared among companies, and in order to solve these problems, collaboration is required. We recently attended the Experiential Designers and Producers Association’s (EDPA) annual ACCESS 2018 Convention held in Florida. The group consists of companies creating exhibits and events as well as the many suppliers required to make these projects successful. Although we’re competitors, we face many similar challenges as an industry – challenges directly affecting our clients, challenges we can only solve if we band together and educate ourselves on potential solutions.

In the trade show industry, one of the greatest problems is the rising costs for the ancillary services required just to get your exhibit to the booth location. We are referring to drayage, or material handling specifically. Anyone who has sent an exhibit to a show, or even a small package, has had to deal with the high cost. According to research, since 2009, drayage costs have risen over 138%. No matter the size of your exhibit, a high percentage increase in drayage typically means you have to reduce costs in other, more important areas to meet your budget. For show organizers, this often means exhibitors looking at reducing their booth footprint. Organizers lose because this brings in less revenue and exhibitors lose as they have less space to feature their products.

One show, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), was the major trending topic of all in attendance at EDPA.  They worked for three years on a plan to make trade shows more affordable for the exhibitors concentrating on drayage, electrical costs and labor. For 2019, they have rolled out a new drayage model based on exhibit space square footage rather than weight of the materials being shipped into the hall.

To demonstrate how huge of a change this is, EDPA highlighted one 10 x 20 exhibitor’s cost savings from NAB last year versus the upcoming show.

Last year, say the exhibitor shipped in one crate weighing 1,000 pounds, the cost was $1,493.25 ($135.75/cwt). A side note, EDPA noted this could cover one forklift driver for 16 hours just to handle one crate four times within the convention center when the actual time required would be under 2 hours.

This year, based on the square footage model, the cost will be $770.00 as the show will charge only $3.85 per square foot based in your booth size.

And it gets better, because last year if you had a second crate of equal size, the cost would double, but in 2019, the $770.00 is a flat charge for all items you send in. Imagine being able to actually know your drayage costs in advance of the show with no surprises for late shipments, overtime move-ins, or special handling. This could be a game changer.

This is only one show out of the thousands occurring every year, but it is a great start. The NAB listened to their exhibitors, did thorough research and came up with a solution to really make a difference and help everyone get more value for their marketing dollar.

Our challenge now for exhibit builders is to relay this information to our clients. Exhibitors need to come together and promote this model to associations holding your shows. Do the shows you attend have Exhibitor Advisory Committees? If they do, contact them and share this information. If they don’t, find out how they can start one. For those of you with procurement departments, imagine if they got a hold of this information. They are experts at getting costs reduced and this is one area where savings could be significant, so let them fight for you (and maybe they will leave your exhibit partners alone for a while). If you can get your fellow exhibitors to form a united front and demand change, it can happen. Show organizers need to understand you are their clients and without your company’s participation, the show may not go on. Common industry goals can be achieved through collaboration and this is an issue all exhibitors can agree on to lower your costs and increase ROI.


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