How to Avoid Ground Handling Accidents with Fleet Telematics

Airport ramps are inherently dangerous places. The annual cost of accidents and injuries has been estimated at $10 billion in damage to facilities and equipment, combined with the indirect cost of personal injuries to employees or the traveling public. The Flight Safety Foundation estimates that 27,000 ramp accidents and incidents — one per 1,000 departures — occur worldwide every year. That includes about 243,000 personal injuries, translating to a rate of 9 per 1,000 departures.

Ground handling accidents can happen at any time and so ramp safety must be an integral part of solving the many challenges posed by ground handling environments:

  • Maintaining a trained and experienced workforce
  • Modernizing and maintaining a diverse GSE Fleet
  • Keeping up with ever-increasing air traffic volume
  • Handling dangerous aircraft fuels and chemicals
  • Continued operations in extreme weather conditions

Because ramp safety is largely self-regulated, ground handlers and aircraft operators must proactively instill a culture of safety that is backed by a continuously improving safety management program. One important ingredient for maintaining a safe and secure ground handling operation is the role of fleet telematics technologyin keeping operators safe and equipment protected at all times. 

In a previous post, we outlined the four core safety features of GSE telematics:

  • Operator Authorization
  • Pre-Operational Checklists
  • Enforced Seatbelt Use
  • Speed Control

Operator authorization not only ensures workers are accountable for the vehicles they operate, it creates fundamental awareness that they are responsible for everything that happens while they are in control. And it prevents those who are not properly trained or approved for that vehicle from using it.

Pre-Operational Checklists can standardize important maintenance activities and safety checks that must be performed before a given device is put into service.  This tells workers they are operating a safe piece of equipment and provides an important accident prevention measure for managers.

Enforced Seatbelt Use is a simple and effective way to ensure that one of the most fundamental, and often ignored, safety measures is followed by all operators on all equipment at all times.

Speed Control greatly reduces the risk of accident due to loss of vehicle control and minimizes the risk of damage or injury in the event an accident does occur. It counteracts the inherent need for operators to use vehicle speed to meet the time pressures they are constantly under.

Fleet telematics can provide all of these critical safety and security measures and more. The technology provides real-time awareness of what’s happening with every piece of equipment, and who is operating it, through the use of GPS tracking technology, on board equipment controls and cloud-based software connected by wireless communications. It’s a cost-effective equipment option that should be incorporated into every new GSE purchase and retrofitted to existing GSE. It turns well-intentioned security strategies and manual processes into an automated and enforced safety management program that will save money in the long term as it protects people and property from accidents and injury every hour of the day and night.

Assessing Your Level of Safety Management

What is the level of safety management in your ground handling operation? Are you being as proactive as possible in preventing injury and safeguarding equipment? Or are you exposed to the unplanned costs associated with repairing or replacing expensive equipment and the unscheduled lost time from skilled personnel who are recovering from a work-related injury?

Here is a simple way to gauge your own use of fleet telematics technology as a means to ensure ramp safety. It’s a simple three level model of fleet telematics deployment. Are you currently at level 1, level 2 or level 3? How can you avoid ramp accidents and improve ramp safety with fleet telematics?  It’s easy – just make sure you have concrete plans and funding to move from one level to the next.

Level 1:  Monitoring Ramp Safety

The most basic level of safety management is the ability to monitor your fleet at all times. A GPS tracking capability provides aerial visibility as to the location of each piece of GSE with a tracking module mounted somewhere on the unit. The module reports its location via wireless or cellular communications so its position can be plotted on a Google map displayed by fleet management software. The position is updated after each driving session and on-board impact sensing provides real-time notification of a critical impact as it occurs.

Additionally, on-board sensors are used to track operational hours, preventative maintenance actions, and fault code notifications for flagging and resolving minor problems before they become major issues that might result in downtime. Collectively, these monitoring functions allow fleet managers to be informed about the use of equipment and proactive in keeping them continuously safe and operational.

Level 2: Managing Access Control

Beyond basic monitoring, fleet telematics can be used to restrict access to various types of GSE to those individuals who are authorized for its use. Workers who are not properly trained, certified or approved to operate the equipment will be denied access. An ID card reader identifies the operator and tracks his/her usage of the equipment while it’s in operation to provide a record of who was involved in any safety violations and the condition or behavior of the equipment during the event.

This level of ramp safety and security extends the monitoring of equipment provided in Level 1 to include personnel and also adds active controls over who can use equipment and how it’s operated. Intelligent speed controls prevent operators from changing direction at unsafe speeds or exceed a pre-set maximum. Geofencing technology can be used to establish speed zones for different operational areas. Level 2 provides better visibility into the safe operation of the GSE fleet and the controls needed to better monitor and manage operator behavior.

Level 3: Enforcing Safety

The third and highest level of ramp safety enabled by fleet telematics allows for the verification and enforcement of safety procedures. Fleet managers can ensure that pre-operational checklists are followed and provide a quick and easy way for operators to inform managers or maintenance staff about an issue that might be unsafe or lead to equipment malfunction.

Operators who are passing or failing the checklist can be tracked and trained to behave in a manner that is compliant with required standards. Safety interlocks on the equipment can ensure drivers are properly seated, use an appropriate seatbelt or safety harness and applies a handbrake prior to leaving the equipment. Repairs can be identified and addressed before they become bigger problems or contribute to unsafe operations. Fleet telematics can effectively eliminate the manual filing, maintaining, storing and retrieving of paper documents and replace them with electronic pre-shift inspection reports that are more accurate, complete and available on-demand.

How Safe is Your Ramp?

Which level best characterizes your ground handling operation? Do you have a plan to move to the next higher level of ramp safety? Do you have fleet telematics implemented on some of your GSE or broadly across the entire fleet? Of course, the ultimate goal is to operate as safely and efficiently as possible in every aspect of your ground handling and the use of your fleet.

Regardless of where you are on that journey, Avro GSE has the technology and the know-how to take you to the next level.

Avro GSE is one of North America’s full-service ground handling equipment suppliers, with a 25-year history of equipment sales and support, we know the urgency of reducing downtime and we understand the pressing need for immediate support.

For ground handlers and major airlines who are facing tighter deadlines, increased turnarounds and increasing pressure to meet on-time departures, Avro GSE offers innovative and cost-effective solutions with leading-edge GSE equipment, a comprehensive fleet management system and maintenance packages that enable our customers to service the most demanding environments safely and efficiently.

Avro GSE is challenging the status quo in the aviation industry by delivering a complete package so our customers can capitalize on synergies between our service offerings and achieved efficiencies, visibility, reliability, and compliance within their fleet.