Skip to navigation Skip to content
Click Here  to Join TSA

Air Cargo

Layers of Security

Click here to view the article: Newark/New Jersey Airports Key to Air Cargo 'Strike'

When most people use shipping companies, they assume that their next day or two day package is rushed to the airport immediately to hop onto the next flight. Only a small percent of packages actually make it onto an airplane. An even smaller amount gets to board a passenger carrying plane. Of the hundreds of thousands of tons of cargo that is shipped from coast to coast every day, only about 50,000 tons is classified as air cargo. And of that amount, about one quarter is shipped via domestic passenger air carriers.

Graph showing how 100% air cargo screening to be completed by Fiscal Year 2010.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is responsible for ensuring the security of all modes of transportation, including cargo placed aboard airplanes and particularly focuses on passenger carrying planes.

TSA worked closely with Congress for more than six months to significantly strengthen security in air cargo through the 9/11 Bill, which was signed into law on August 3rd. TSA will meet the mandates of the law and will screen 50 percent of air cargo on passenger carrying aircraft within 18 months and 100 percent within three years.

TSA already has in place a multi-layered, high-tech, industry-cooperative approach, utilizing surprise cargo security inspections called "strikes," covert testing, security directives, 100 percent screening at 250 smaller airports. Last year TSA also eliminated all exemptions to screening of air cargo for the first time and increased the amount of cargo which is subject to mandatory screening.

With TSA's new air cargo regulation, TSA will be doing 100,000 more background checks, specifically on cargo employees who screen cargo and/or have knowledge of how it is going to be transported or actually transport the cargo. The rule requires more robust checks and more visibility on the shipping companies and their employees. Additionally, we have extended security areas at the airport to include air cargo areas.

Transportation Security Inspectors (TSIs)

Graph showing number of inspectors increasing through fiscal year 2008.

To ensure a high level of compliance with our regulations, TSA employs 300 Cargo Transportation Security Inspectors (TSIs), who are exclusively dedicated to the oversight of air cargo. An additional 150 air cargo TSIs will be added by the end of FY08, each having undergone behavior observation training to spot anything suspicious while they're completing their regulatory duties. Inspectors conducted more than 30,000 compliance reviews in FY06 and initiated more than 1,300 formal investigations based on suspected non-compliance with TSA. Several companies’ privileges to use passenger-carrying aircraft for cargo have been suspended for not adhering to our regulations.

Canine Teams

Graph showing number of canines increasing through fiscal year 2008.

TSA's more than 460 canine teams each spend at least 25 percent of their work day in the cargo environment. By the end of FY08, TSA will add another 170 canine teams to the force who's primary focus will be cargo, which will significantly increase the amount canine teams screening cargo.