Transporting freight by air is an efficient, fast method of transporting goods around the world, and freight transportation by air is big business. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that US airlines realised $84.2 billion in cargo revenue ton-miles in 2022 alone. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reports that airlines transport more than 65 million cargo tons of freight and goods every year, accounting for 35% of the value of global trade. Given the importance of air cargo transport within the global supply chain, it’s critical to manage risks for airfreight handlers to ensure the safety of workers and the public, reduce damage, avoid accidents, prevent thefts, and facilitate the prompt delivery of goods to their destinations.
The Job of Air Freight Handlers
Air freight handlers play essential roles in the air cargo transportation sector. They are responsible for ensuring freight is moved through a warehouse, transported to the airport, moved through it, and properly loaded on an airplane. Freight handlers might be responsible for weighing freight and preparing orders before the cargo is loaded onto the plane. Freight handlers must sometimes weigh the freight and prepare the shipping orders before the freight is put on the plane. When loading freight onto planes, freight handlers must secure them to prevent them from shifting during transit to prevent damage to the freight and the plane. Freight handlers must also ensure the freight is labeled correctly so that it reaches its destination.
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Common Risks With Air Freight Handlers
As a part of the ground operations of an airport, freight handlers are not as heavily regulated as others within the airline industry. However, they must ensure that proper procedures are followed based on handling different types of air cargo. Freight brokers and forwarders need to be aware of the risks involved with handling air freight to ensure regulatory compliance and reduce exposure. Some of the common risks associated with handling air freight include the following: Transportation risks involved with getting the freight from warehouses to the airport; accident risks involved with ad-hoc cargo transportation flights; transit delays caused by bad weather and other factors; air freight thefts; capacity risks; safety risks with loading and unloading freight on planes; causing damage to loading ramps and airplanes.
Why Risk Management Is Important
Risk management is important for freight handlers for multiple reasons. Identifying and evaluating risks involved with handling freight can help companies determine how to deal with or minimise the risks. Sound risk management processes for freight handlers can protect the safety of workers and the public, reduce the potential for damage to the freight, help to ensure that freight reaches the appropriate destinations on time, and help to prevent losses caused by damage and theft. Risk management processes can also reduce a company’s liability exposure and related losses. Finally, risk management strategies can help to ensure regulatory compliance and avoid the potential of substantial penalties, fines, and possible business closure.
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Steps in Managing Risk
The first step to managing risks for freight handlers is to assess and identify each risk. Stakeholders should meet to brainstorm and identify all potential risks that could occur. Once all of the relevant risks have been identified, each risk should be assessed in terms of its likelihood of occurrence and the size of its impact if it does occur. Risks that have the greatest likelihood of occurrence and the largest potential impacts should then be prioritised over those that are less likely to occur.
The company should then evaluate each identified priority risk and determine how to handle it. It can choose to accept the risk if doing so offers more benefits than avoiding it. A freight handling company can avoid risks that offer little benefits as compared to the risks involved by turning down a contract. In some cases, it might make more financial sense to decline a potential contract than to accept it and take on too much risk.
Creating a comprehensive risk management plan that identifies each likely risk and how the company will address it is important. The plan should identify the parties that are responsible for each risk, include provisions for risk-transfer mechanisms, and outline strategies that will be used in case an identified risk occurs.
Risk management can help to reduce potential hazards that could otherwise occur. Companies involved in handling air freight should be aware of the regulations that apply to the industry and ensure compliance by all staff, including those working on the front line. Having a strategy for addressing risks can also ensure that they are promptly managed when they occur to reduce their potential impact.
Air freight handlers are important in the air cargo transportation industry, but their essential nature is sometimes overlooked. Shippers, freight forwarders, freight brokers, airports, and airlines should all take steps to understand the risks involved with handling freight and enact proactive measures to address them.