IATA Demonstrates Initiatives to Raise the Profile of Air Transport for Healthcare Shipments
I had the opportunity to attend the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Time and Temperature Task Force (TTTF) meeting this October in Geneva, Switzerland. I had already participated in such a meeting in Montreal, Canada, in 2011 and knew what to expect. There are currently 26 official members on the TTTF representing various global stakeholders from the overall healthcare supply chain: cargo and passenger airlines, freight forwarders, third-party logistics providers, specialty couriers, airports, healthcare companies, aircraft manufacturers, international/governmental organizations, packaging and temperature device providers. To become part of this select group I was first chosen internally at FedEx, nominated and then elected as a member by existing TTTF board members thanks to my expertise and responsibilities in cold chain management at FedEx Express. It is quite remarkable how diverse a group of subject matter experts is assembled under the authority of the IATA.
The TTTF was officially created about four years ago with the objective to consult and advise on all matters pertaining to healthcare air transport. It reports to the Live Animals & Perishables Board (LAPB) which has voting rights. Conference meetings are conducted twice a year and follow a strict agenda. By setting international standards and uniform procedures for the air transportation of healthcare shipments, the task force works to ensure the quality of air shipments and to raise the profile of the air transport industry. Temperature excursions, damages, long delays and lost or stolen products are among the main concerns of healthcare shippers.
A major milestone of the TTTF was the addition of Chapter 17, entitled “Air Transport Logistics for Time and Temperature Sensitive Healthcare Products” as part of the IATA Perishable Cargo Regulations (PCR). Another important initiative was the IATA time and temperature sensitive label that became effective in July 2012 for healthcare shipments booked as temperature controlled cargo. Since FedEx Express has already implemented its own electronic procedures to flag and handle cold chain shipments through special handling codes via services like Priority Alert, it has foregone to use the IATA visual label. The IATA label has, however, proven to be a major improvement for healthcare shippers using freight forwarders of non-express shipments.
Being the largest cargo airline represented in the IATA TTTF meetings allows FedEx Express to network, share best practices, anticipate risks, be prepared for new regulations, voice relevant issues and lead new regulatory initiatives. Such initiatives when adopted by IATA have the potential to seriously impact general air transportation and improve handling of critical shipments.