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October 15 2018

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Cargo-handling delays elevate costs for shippers and test patience of truckers October 15 2018 | The Journal of Commerce 41 Air Cargo: Third-Quarter Review and Peak-Season Outlook Cover Story Special Report A workforce problem "The problem we have in Atlanta is not just the traffic but it's with the main third-party airline cargo han- dlers, Alliance Global International and Swissport Cargo Services," said Deborah Torma, president of Atlanta Customs Brokers and International Freight Forwarders. "The handlers don't have enough personnel, and they don't pay them enough to hustle." "Some of the ground handlers here work as hard as they can, and some are only working to do as little as they can," said a trucking company executive dispatching trucks in and out of the airport. Swissport, he says, will try to hire people, but by the time their clearances and approvals come through, they may wind up with a much smaller percentage of qualified hires. "It's frustrating for everyone," he said, adding that he heard just a few years ago that "the third handlers were paid $10 an hour and that temps were paid $11 to $12 an hour." Roy Copening, general manager of Swissport's Atlanta operation, said New York's largest airport has a bigger cargo area for staging trucks, but that Atlanta's new Truck Pass Lot "has made it much easier and there is less backed-up truck traffic, but there's still a problem. Organized flow The airport concedes there have been logjams for truckers in the past but says it's been resolved. "This is a passenger airport, and cargo is usu- ally considered the distant cousin so we've had to retrofit the infrastruc- ture," said Elliott Paige, director of air service development. "What the truckers talk about is that three to four years ago they could get stuck in traffic unable to pick up their cargo. There used to be fist fights for [access to] dock doors." He said the new Truck Pass Lot, which holds 50 to 60 trucks, is more organized, coordinated, and even semi-automated. To get in, a driver has to present credentials, paperwork spelling out what's being picked up or dropped off; the lot operator, using a software program, automatically assigns the driver a dock door. doesn't deny he has difficulties hiring handlers, but said the roots of the congestion can't be laid entirely at his front door. "We are constantly trying to employ people," said Jermaine Sanders, Atlanta general manager for Alliance Ground International, which handles cargo at Hartsfield-Jackson for Korean Air, AirBridgeCargo, CargoLogicAir, Polar Air Cargo, and a half dozen other airlines. "But there's a lengthy process for background checks by the Transportation Security Administration and Customs, ranging from four to six weeks. By the time the approvals come back, the employ- ee has often found another job." Sanders, who previously worked at John F. Kennedy International, Grounded in congestion "It's terrible. We're in the busiest time of the year for shippers, particularly with e-commerce."

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