Survey highlights challenges facing Dangerous Goods transport by air

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Greater process consistency, increased automation and more reliable data are required to maintain the safe and secure transport of dangerous goods (DG) by air, currently around 1.25m shipments per year.

A new survey has underscored the need to facilitate those changes as e-commerce and the presence of lithium batteries in global supply chains is set to rise.

Those were some of the findings in the seventh annual 2022 Global Dangerous Goods Confidence Outlook from IATA, Labelmaster and Hazardous Cargo Bulletin.

Said Robert Finn, vice president of DG specialist Labelmaster: “Global supply chain disruptions have put even more pressure on those professionals and companies responsible for shipping goods safely and compliantly.

“While there are many areas of improvement over the last year, the survey demonstrated widespread awareness of the need to improve DG processes, training, technology and infrastructure.”

Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice president operations, safety and security, said: “The air transport industry handles over 1.25m DG shipments per year. The growth of e-commerce and proliferation of lithium batteries in global supply chains are two indicators that the number of DG shipments will grow.

“To handle them safely, we must further improve compliance with global standards. Almost any item can be shipped safely, provided we have well-trained professionals following globally agreed standards and supported by the right technology and infrastructure.”

The survey asked 439 DG professionals from around the world about how their organization’s DG management operations changed over the past year and which areas are most problematic. The survey was conducted between 12 May and 30 June 2022.

Key Findings and Recommendations: There is a solid foundation for compliance.

  • Nearly a quarter of those (24%) surveyed said DG compliance is a competitive advantage
  • Another 37% said their organizations go beyond what is required by regulation, while 39% only adhere to minimum requirements

There is awareness that critical improvements are needed.

  • Only 25% believe their organization’s current infrastructure is equipped to meet future needs
  • 82% believe their organization’s DG investment cannot support future regulations or supply chain changes

Confidence in key aspects of DG handling hovered around 50%, pointing to areas for improvement.

  • 64% reported confidence in the ability to handle reverse logistics56% said they received fast/quality responses from regulatory authorities
  • 55% were confident in the reliability of master data
  • 55% believed that technology was being leveraged sufficiently to support safe shipments
  • 53% said that the DG rules were easy to apply
  • 52% have the requisite budget
  • 48% believed there was sufficient C-suite support
  • 48% noted sufficient regulatory enforcement of DG rules
  • 48% were confident in their organization’s DG compliance

Most respondents (67%) indicated that their organization was prepared to handle DGs at most or all of their locations. Top priorities were identified as:

  • Automating processes (61%)
  • Harmonizing processes across supply chain (59%)
  • Accessing complete and accurate data (52%)
  • Obtaining special permits, letters of interpretation, etc. (48%)
  • Ensuring training is effective and up to date (45%)

Four key recommendations come from the survey:

  • Technology: Automate DG operations and establish reliable processes across the supply chain.
  • Training: Utilize gamification or 3D training experiences to better train and recertify employees.
  • Packaging: Utilize new packaging solutions to further improve efficiency, safety and compliance.
  • Regulations: Use digital regulatory materials to keep DG professionals up-to-date.

Said Finn: “The survey shows that it is critical for organizations to assess their DG operations and identify processes, infrastructure gaps and areas of opportunities. The good news is that making meaningful improvements does not have to be difficult or require significant investment.”

Careen added: “Companies do not have to reinvent the wheel. IATA has digital solutions to improve compliance.

“DG AutoCheck, for example, automates the complex and time-consuming manual task of checking that each shipper’s declaration is compliant and the package(s) are correctly, marked, labelled and packaged, which improves efficiency. This streamlines processes and enhances safety.”

Learn more about the state of the global DG supply chain – infographic 

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