Global regulations in GSE handling: is your fleet future-proofed?

Today, there is more talk about the future than ever before. Succession planning, SLA targets, pre-empting trends, growth forecasting and spotting coming opportunities are all facts of everyday corporate life. And the same goes for the ramp, insofar as GSE is concerned: regulatory compliance means that GSE not only has to be fit for purpose but that it must also embrace potential future requirements and scenarios. Consequently, the GSE manufacturer has much to consider when building equipment for the airport – and the same is true for specialists such as AVIACO, which is refurbishing and even converting GSE for the handler.

Onward progress

The fact of the matter is that technology does not, and cannot, stand still. Whilst some ramp equipment can be considered as unsophisticated in its design and build, nonetheless, most ramp vehicles have undergone change over the last 50 years. Sometimes those changes have been subtle or even hidden; others are more obvious. An example is that of the diesel engine, which has been a universal power source for GSE for decades. Although now there is increasing interest in the adoption of greener forms of propulsion (namely electric and hydrogen), in the interim diesel’s shortcomings have been recognised – and addressed. Catalytic converters have led the way here, in an attempt to reduce the pollutant levels of such equipment. 

The elements of regulation

For any handler looking to stay abreast of trends it is imperative to understand the constitution of his fleet. Knowing which units are efficient and which are not is a start; fleet management software is available that can both record and assess the performance of individual GSE within a given operation. This data can help the handler draw up a schedule to pinpoint units that might be better discarded or replaced or enhanced, and thereby help him mould a fleet that is more purpose-driven. 

With the future in mind, the handler also needs to ask whether his equipment is still going to be acceptable to, say, a newly-won carrier contract. Safety on the ramp has been a subject never far from the aviation headlines and manufacturers, keen to show that they are supporting the industry, have modified their GSE with safety practice very much uppermost in mind. Technology, including cameras, fail-safe controls and anti-collision devices, have all been introduced; and more recently, the development of autonomous vehicles has taken these concepts to the next level, effectively removing the human element from the ramp.

Training the workforce

As yet, though, a fully automated ramp is still very much a future vision. Because of this, there is a need to ensure that any current workforce is fully competent – and qualified enough to carry out the necessary handling tasks.

There are plenty of organisations offering training or training programmes, and these resources become more and more important as time goes by and technology becomes more refined. The net result is that of a safer operation, for handling staff, the GSE operated and the carrier in question. Training, though, never really stops – it is a progressive concept. AVIACO is able to provide training in the operation of any of its GSE for an interested purchaser – and can even establish an on-site presence where required. Its TAOS (Technical Assistance On Site) facility has been welcomed by handlers, especially those working in remote locations where access and back-up resources are difficult.

Planning for the future

From the foregoing, it is clear that a handler needs to draw up some type of action plan if he is to ensure that he is compliant with industry regulations. Proactivity is the keyword here: it is vital that a handler keeps in touch with GSE suppliers about trends and modifications to their equipment, and builds an understanding of the broader picture, one that includes current (and future) airport regulations, as well as potential operational changes. An example in this context might be that of an airport banning GSE over a certain age; clearly, a handler has to be aware of such restrictions. Thus an extremely fluid approach becomes desirable; after all, a practice occurring this year may well change within 12 months’ time.

GSE is one factor in this situation but equally important is the human element. If a workplace culture can be fostered that sees staff in tune with a constantly changing environment, and one that reflects on a competent workforce, then change and compliance will be easier hurdles to cross.

In summary, to meet regulations, it’s a question of taking stock of the current GSE fleet; of forward planning (which takes into account financing and coming technologies); of ensuring a workforce is fully trained and on board with change; and of communication with external stakeholders. 

Ultimately, adapting to the latest trends is not just a matter of compliance; it is a key strategy that will improve operational efficiency and safety – as well as environmental sustainability. 

Is your operation future-proofed? Talk to us about how we can assist you.

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