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Unit Load Devices (ULD)

An essential element of flight safety

A Unit Load Device (ULD) is either an aircraft pallet and pallet net combination, or an aircraft container. ULDs are removable aircraft parts subject to strict civil aviation authorities’ requirements from design, testing, production, and operations, to repair and maintenance. An airworthy ULD must be structurally capable of restraining the loads and providing adequate protection to the aircraft systems and structure during flight.

ULDs are probably the only aircraft parts that leave the control of the airline and return after passing through many unregulated hands, as most ULD operations have been outsourced to ground service providers. Together with the increasing demands for ‘shipper-built ULD’ or ‘built up pallet’ from shippers and freight forwarders, it has become critically challenging for airlines to control and supervise the ULD operations.

Improving ULD Management

The growth in wide body aircraft usage has contributed to an increase in the use of ULDs, with approximately 800,000 of them in operation today. Every year, the total cost of both repair and loss of ULDs is estimated about $300 million, excluding the costs associated with aircraft damages, flight delays, and cancelations due to ULD operations. However, ULD training requirements, operating standards and procedures, as well as handling best practices, vary enormously across the industry, ranging from excellent to non-existent. 

Making sure the right ULD is available in the right place at the right time in the right conditions is critical for airline operations and revenue management. The IATA ULD Board (ULDB) develops and maintains standards and procedures concerning the specifications, handling, restraint and maintenance of ULDs. In addition, it promotes the worldwide recognition, adoption of and adherence to those standards and procedures.

IATA ULD Regulations (ULDR)

The IATA ULD Regulations (ULDR)​ covers both technical and operational standards and regulatory requirements as well as the carrier's requirements applicable to overall ULD operations. The ULDR provides:

  • Common requirements from ICAO and national CAAs as well as Weight & Balance Manual rules applicable to ULD
  • Minimum standard specifications for designing and manufacturing ULDs that conform to IATA, ISO, SAE, and other national and international standards
  • Essential and detailed guidelines for all aspects of ULD operations
  • Training requirements and standards
  • Supporting material for airlines creating operations manuals containing ULD related content

Collaboration with ULD CARE

IATA and ULD CARE share a common objective to ensure the safety and efficiency in ULD operations through industry-wide adoption of standards and procedures in accordance with IATA ULD Regulations. IATA and ULD CARE signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to recognize and formalize their collaboration. The Cargo Services Conference (CSC)​ adopted this MoU as a resolution.

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