The challenge of demand surges for U.S. air cargo capacity can be met through better communication, according to Brandon Fried, executive director of the Airforwarders Association (AfA)
Speaking to members of the Los Angeles Air Cargo Association (LAACA) gathering in The Belamar Hotel in Manhattan Beach, California, in June, Fried said the capacity crunch is being driven by the perfect storm of canceled China-to-U.S. sailings, congestion at U.S. airports, warehouse scarcity, labor shortages and rising inflation.
“The challenges for ocean carriers are well documented and we understand that they are looking after profit margins, but air capacity is already constrained by multiple factors,” said Fried. “Congestion at major airports is exacerbating the strain on supply chains across the U.S. To rise to these challenges, the air forwarding community must better communicate with each other and learn to be adaptable.”
He added that, “AfA is already meeting this challenge, driving the debate and developing new strategies to help the industry unite and find a common voice.”
ACC TO THE RESCUE
In May of this year, the Washington, D.C.-based AfA launched its Airport Congestion Committee (ACC) as a key example of the association’s proactive stance to find realistic solutions to relieve airport congestion.
The ACC will present findings to private, public, and government entities as workable policies for urgent new legislation.
“The air cargo community, and the transport industry at large, has been served up an alphabet of disasters over the past few years but AfA has continued to support its members and campaign for the air cargo community at large,” said Fried.
“We do this not only through lobbying on behalf of our members but also by actively creating solutions to speed up the passing of necessary legislation by the U.S. government.”
The ACC will produce a Recommendation Paper following a survey of air freight stakeholders identifying key challenges to the flow of cargo at airports
Members of ACC met in April to agree to focus on developing 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).
ACC members will now work on producing the Recommendation Paper with which to approach 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.
“Our survey generated hundreds of responses from a broad cross-section of industry segments clearly articulating a number of problems that require remedial action.”
Mullins continued: “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.
“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.”
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 members’ 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 of Global Air Freight for AfA member SEKO Logistics and vice chair of the ACC.
Members of the 35-strong ACC, comprising companies from across the supply chain, including airports, airlines, ground handlers, forwarders, and trucking and tech companies, have been tasked with prioritizing and suggesting solutions using a list of evaluation criteria including costs, applicability and ease of implementation, urgency, and timelines.
“Truck congestion caused by cargo handling delays at major airport cargo facilities continues to cost our members significant financial resources and lost productivity,” noted Fried, the AfA executive director. “This initiative will help us identify causes while providing a foundational document to share with government officials in creating solutions to the challenge.”
THE FORCE IS STRONG
The AfA represents more than 200 member companies dedicated to moving cargo throughout the supply chain.
The association’s members range from small businesses with fewer than 20 employees to large companies employing more than 1,000 people and business models varying from domestic to worldwide freight forwarding operations.
In short, they are the travel agents for freight shipments, moving cargo in the timeliest and most cost-efficient manner whether it is carried on aircraft, truck, rail, or ship. For more information, visit the association’s website at www.airforwarders.org.
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