The Definition of Drayage (AKA Material Handling) by the show contractor, is the unloading of exhibit properties, storing up to 30 days in advance of the show at a warehouse, delivering properties to the booth, the handling of empties to and from the show, and removing of material from the booth for reloading onto outbound carriers.

National Average Rates in 2009 for Drayage…

$81.37  Advanced Shipment to General Contractor
$74.90 Advanced Shipment to Exhibit Hall
$97.21 Direct Shipments with Special Handling
$117.14 Direct un-crated
Tips for Controlling Drayage Costs at the Convention Halls

Consolidate shipments under 200lbs. into one shipment. 
All shows have a minimum material handling charge, and by avoiding sending in shipments under 200lbs can save an exhibitor hundreds if not thousands of dollars.  If you do have that last minute item that needs to go to the show, check to see if you hotel has a business center to accept small containers, it will be much more cost effect.  Consolidating materials under 200 lbs. are usually smaller boxes, and consolidating them will mean that nothing will get lost.

Check the Rates in the Show Book.  Reviewing the rates for Direct to Show versus Advanced Warehouse, some shows now have packaged kits that included Material Handing.  This will help you come up with a budget analysis, and determine will will work best with your install and timing.

Understand Special Handing Fee’s.
Special handling fee’s apply to trucks that cannot unload on the dock, i.e. ground trucks, Fedex, UPS and DHL Trucks, these shipments are often charged at a higher rates.  Un-crated materials with high dimensions such as carpet and padding that ship with the crates materials and often charged at a higher rate.  Consider renting carpet and padding from the show or local supplier.

Understand Show Target Dates and Move-In Times to Avoid Extra Fee’s.
  Show target dates refers to Advanced Warehouse and it’s deadline.  Penalty fee’s up-wards of 25% per day apply when shipments arrive after the targeted date.  Move-In times reflect when the materials can be received to the direct to show address.  If your Move-In time is on a Saturday or Sunday, call to request an earlier move-in for set up purposes to avoid overtime charges.  Many times the request are granted, and it can’t hurt to ask.