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   Vol. 15  No. 45
Monday June 13, 2016

All About Airports: Atlanta Moves To Truck Staging

All About Airports

Atlanta Activates Truck Staging

      Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) is the world’s most traveled airport, welcoming more than 100 million passengers in 2015, the most of any other airport in a single year.      However, from a cargo standpoint, ATL ranks just 13th nationwide and 33rd internationally.
     Hartsfield-Jackson has seen year-over-year gains in the amount of cargo traffic. But never one to rest on its laurels, the city-owned ATL is looking to break into the Top 5 of the nation’s leading cargo airports—a goal set by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. To put that into perspective, ATL handled 600,000 metric tons of cargo in 2015. To achieve a ranking of 5th nationally, the Airport will need to triple its cargo volume to almost 2 million metric tons annually.
     “Air cargo is recognized by the City’s leaders as a primary contributor to economic development due to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s important role in the global supply chain,” said Elliott Paige, ATL’s air service development manager.
     Aggressive marketing efforts are underway, but ATL leaders also recognized that existing infrastructure was insufficient to handle the growth. So ATL began a brick-and-mortar expansion—part of the Airport’s capital plan ATLNext, a 20-year blueprint for development—which included additional state-of-the-art cargo facilities, airside ramps, taxiways, landside vehicle parking, and underground utilities.
     The Master Plan calls for 1,000,000-square feet of new cargo facilities by 2030, but the schedule is being accelerated to achieve new cargo goals. In fact, work has begun ahead of schedule to relocate the existing feeder road and ground will break this summer to prepare for two new cargo buildings totaling approximately 350,000 square feet.


     The plan aims to address persistent Airport trucking challenges (see photos). They include the following:

  • Even before the Mayor’s directive to boost cargo activity at Hartsfield-Jackson, truck traffic to and from ATL created gridlock on neighboring roads. At peak hours, tractor-trailers often backed up to the interstate while blocking driveways and side streets. Airport employees have faced delays leaving from and arriving to work and extremely long wait times, up to two hours or more at peak activity, created costly trucking delays.
  • Drivers were self-selecting which dock door to use, creating confusion and triggering arguments.
  • Clients pay a premium for air transport because it’s fast and vital for time-sensitive shipments. Shipping delays on the ground hamper their business.
  • Independent drivers and trucking companies avoid ATL. As a result, forwarders have been forced to pay a premium to move shipments. 


     In light of growth projections, ATL looked to an immediate truck staging solution. Initially, the airport considered using an existing contractor parking lot, but it was small and provided only a short-term solution. So early in the process, the Airport decided to create a distinct truck staging system that would not only eliminate congestion, but also differentiate Hartsfield-Jackson in the industry and move ATL closer to its desired cargo goals.
      While City Council approved construction of a centralized parking facility, Airport management met with cargo handlers and airlines. Their input helped shape the design of a superior system that will expedite delivery and pickup, reduce costs, and provide utilization metrics that will optimize operations and increase profits.
     After researching various models, Airport officials determined that the system used by Costco was the most compatible with ATL airport operations. After construction and installation are complete, the truck staging solution will include the following:

  • A dedicated, secured staging lot with 40-60 spaces and check-in booth. The lot is being centrally located between existing cargo warehouses and the new development scheduled for occupancy in 2018.
  • 100 percent participation by the cargo handlers and airlines to guarantee success of the program.
  • Assigned matching of trucks with available docks.
  • A computerized system using individual dock sensors with internal alerts (red and green lights to indicate availability). There are 32 docks per existing building (128 total), and each will be equipped with sensors. The system has metric reporting capabilities.
  • Communication to ensure orderly pickup and delivery.

How Will It Work?

     Freight forwarders contract with truck drivers to pick up from or deliver to cargo facilities at Hartsfield-Jackson. Under the new system, signage will direct trucks to the staging lot for dock assignment. No truck will be allowed to bypass the process by self-assigning, otherwise drivers would refuse to use the lot if they thought a competitor might jump ahead at the warehouse. It’s important to note that handlers and airlines are required, through terms of their lease, to adhere to the procedure by turning away truckers who try to bypass. In other words, the system requires 100 percent participation.
     As drivers enter the lot, an attendant will log their information and determine which handler they are scheduled to see. The information will then be relayed to the handler and used to match dock availability. When a dock opens, the trucker will be notified via cellphone. It’s worth noting that the system is capable of assigning expedited and priority shipments ahead in the queue.
     Construction of the lot is complete, and operations are expected to begin soon. Once initial benchmarking is finished, the ATL may add more amenities, including restrooms, vending machines, or food trucks.

Looking ahead
      Air cargo creates more than 27,000 jobs in Georgia and generates more than $6.7 million in revenue for metro Atlanta. Recently, Hartsfield-Jackson has made impressive strides to boost its cargo business.  
      “We had a terrific start in 2015,” said Vivica Brown, ATL’s Assistant General Manager for Commercial Development. “But we have much more to do, and we are excited to hit the ground running to reach even higher levels of success.”
Robin Boyd
Airport Real Estate Manager
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

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