Forwarders working to solve airport congestion

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by Emily Atkins

The Airforwarders Association (AfA) is driving an initiative to help find solutions for critical issues contributing to airport congestion in the U.S.

Members of AfA’s Airport Congestion Committee (ACC) met in April to discuss solutions in the areas of: technology and automation; service standards; airport facilities and infrastructure; staffing and hours of operation; and regulatory and paperwork challenges.

The five critical issues were identified following a survey of airport cargo stakeholders undertaken by AfA, the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America (NCBFAA) and the Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA).

“Truck congestion caused by cargo handling delays at major airport cargo facilities continues to cost our members significant financial resources and lost productivity,” said Brandon Fried, executive director, The Airforwarders Association.

“This initiative will help us identify causes while providing a foundational document to share with government officials in creating solutions to the challenge.”

Building recommendations

ACC members will now work on recommendations which they will take to private, public, and government entities to highlight challenges and suggest solutions for cargo congestion issues at airports.

“When we have completed the work, we will be inviting the air cargo industry to come together to implement the needed solutions for more efficient throughput and movement of inbound and outbound air cargo at airports,” said Donna Mullins, vice-president of AfA member Kale Info Solutions, and chair of the ACC.

Mullins said the survey generated hundreds of responses from a broad cross-section of industry segments, and showed a number of problems that require remedial action.

“Our deliverable will not be a document that sits on a shelf, we will be presenting concerns as well as potential solutions to key industry leaders and appropriate members of Congress and the Office of the Secretary of Transportation,” she said.

“The potential upside of our efforts is enormous with regard to our ability to obtain available public funds for a wide range of capital and technology improvements.”

Better communications

The ACC, which has recently been joined by Airlines for America (A4A) and the Airline Service Providers Association (ASPA), is seeking to drive improvements including enhanced electronic communications linking all the stakeholders at an airport, as well as improved access and on-airport landside infrastructure to accommodate the operating demands of the trucking industry.

Modernized airport cargo facilities designed to facilitate throughput and accommodate the requirements of mechanized handling systems, and cross-training across all business segments to enhance communications and operating efficiency, are also identified as key areas for improvement.

“Congestion at our airports is such an important issue, and by working together as a committee we are able to draw upon each member’s unique knowledge and diverse experience, to be able to execute a robust plan and achieve our collective goals of improved throughput and modernization of outdated infrastructure with an emphasis on environmental sustainability,” said Shawn Richard, director, vice-president global air freight for SEKO Logistics and vice-chair of the ACC.

The 35 members of the committee include companies from across the supply chain, including airports, airlines, ground handlers, forwarders, and trucking and tech companies. They have been asked to prioritize and suggesti solutions using a list of evaluation criteria including costs, applicability and ease of implementation, urgency, and timelines.

The ACC will meet at the end of May to review submissions and plan next steps and deliverables.