Will Securing Cargo With Air Be The New Standard?
Every year brings with it new innovations for every industry. But is investing in the latest technology worth it before it’s been tested?
Whenever freight gets damaged, money and merchandise are lost in the process. All sorts of things can lead to such damage, from boxes shifting into each other to freight actually colliding due to restraints breaking or being missing all together. Trucks bounce and turn, and there’s no way around it, but the fact is, minimizing damaged freight is critical to profit, both for the manufacturer and the distributor.
Of course, the industry has continuously searched for new ways to help manage freight and the dead space in between items that causes all the problems. One of the most recent innovations? Inflatable air bags.
How Can Air Secure Cargo?
Inflatable air bags are nothing new, but their use for securing precious freight cargo is certainly breaking ground. Inflatable truck dunnage bags are more advanced than the poppable plastic packaging that shipping companies use inside of boxes.
Rather, these bags can be inflated to a precise pressure level when loading up cargo. They’re also fully recyclable and offer a number of other benefits. Plus, they’re one of the lowest-cost options available when it comes to dunnage solutions. That can help add up to lower costs for the end consumer, given the amount of money damaged freight costs and the cost of other protection measures.
Previously, the market for dunnage air bags was estimated at roughly $420 million in 2017 and is projected to reach an astonishing $740 million by 2026. That means they’re among the most popular solutions when it comes to freight stabilization and freight protection measures.
Historically, these bags used vinyl, Kraft paper, woven polypropylene, and all sorts of other combined materials to cover a bladder of air. Most are made overseas and designed for a single trip, which adds on cost and waste to the supply chain. However, these air bags proved effective. They’re easily configurable, easy to feel, and are effective at stabilizing freight in voids up to two feet across in between pallets.
In the time sense these original inceptions, air bag design has also continued to improve. Now, the costs are lower and the bags can also be re-used. The valve, inflation gun, and other details have also seen continued improvement. For instance, Air-Lock truck dunnage bags are fully recycle and made from a transparent film, which lowers the bag’s weight and gives advantages for handling. The film is also expandable, which means it won’t pop when the truck changes altitude.
The clear film also makes inspecting the air bag quick and simple, which is a must for international transit. All it takes is a bright light and inspectors will be able to see through the air bag all the way to the trailer’s bulkhead, ensuring nothing is being smuggled. That’s especially relevant for manufacturers coming from Mexico and Canada into the United States.
Should We Adopt Air Bag Protection?
These new air bags present many unique benefits that the trucking industry is certainly looking into. For instance, the surface of polymer air bags has a charge of electricity, which means it clings to the stretch film that wraps around pallets. Others materials use adhesive tape for easy positioning.
Most dunnage bags can be filled in under 30 seconds, too, which minimizes loading time. But, does that mean they’re the next best thing? The jury is still out on that one. These air bags remain relatively new, but their adoption across the industry is certainly proving their use. While they may not be the only solution truckers need to secure freight, they are among one of the latest and most promising options.
As far as adoption goes, all parties will need to think about a few considerations, not in the least of which is the material being used for the air bag. Obviously, choosing one of the newer designs is preferable with recyclability and durability, along with other advantages (like its clinginess). However, beyond the air bag itself, the inflation gun also needs to be considered, as does the sizing of the dunnage bags and the configurations in which they can be used.
For now, air bags are still working to take on a majority share in the industry, but based on existing information, they do seem to be gaining ground quickly, and the on-going improvements are certainly working in their favor.