ULDs: going safer – and greener!
With more than 800.000 flying around the world, Unit Load Devices (ULD) are a critical element for the air cargo industry. ULD repairs cost airlines more than USD 300 million per year, a cost that could be reduced by 80% if the industry fully implements the IATA ULD Regulations (ULDR).
A manual for safe ULD operations
IATA organized the first ULD Regulatory Forum in February 2014 to emphasize on the necessity for cooperative work and harmonized regulatory requirements. A good example of how collaboration can help the industry is the ULDR development, which involved extensive consultation and collaboration with all segments of the air cargo supply-chain.
Proper ULD handling is important not only to protect containers and cargo, but also to prevent unnecessary damages to the aircraft. The acceptance and compliance with the ULDR is key for safe operations both on the ground and in the air and to meet flight safety requirements.
During the 8th World Cargo Symposium in early March, IATA members were encouraged to adopt the ULDR when developing ULD related content in carrier operations manuals. The manual must also be used as a reference in ULD training programs for airline staff and service providers.
Lighter and environmentally friendly
Although safety and efficiency are essential topics for the air cargo industry, carriers and freight forwarders must not overlook the environmental sustainability of the business. Lightweight ULDs may be the perfect alternative to reduce fuel consumption while cutting CO2 emissions by up to one million tons.
Estimates indicate that even though additional costs for airlines wanting to operate lightweight ULDs may reach USD 32 million, the annual savings by implementing them would be higher than USD 736 million. Carbon fiber and new composite materials are up to a 20% lighter than aluminum, the traditional material used in ULDs. This means that airlines have a chance to cut fuel consumption while satisfying all cargo requirements, including handling and security.
According to Swiss WorldCargo, lightweight ULDs showed a lower repair frequency than ordinary containers, although their service life expectancy is slightly lower than the 10 years calculated for the aluminum containers. Moreover, lightweight ULDs reduce significantly the risk of injury for the ground handling staff in the event of damage.