Tackling the challenges to the air freight industry is Airforwarder Association’s (AFA) Executive Director Brandon Fried’s job — and he has a radar screen full of issues in his air space.

In the catacombs of Washington DC, association executives typically leap from industry to industry, their credentials are their clout with Congress and staffers who craft and redraft legislation. Brandon Fried, who has headed the Airforwarders Association for the past 17 years, took a different route. He was fresh out of Syracuse University when he started selling air freight space by day and working in operations at night.

After a year-and-a-half of wearing out his shoe leather on the streets of Los Angeles, Fried moved back to his hometown—the nation’s capital—not to learn the lobbying trade. Instead, he answered an ad for a forwarder startup. His resume stood out. Besides his business degree from Syracuse, he had a certificate in hazardous materials and dangerous goods acceptance from the fabled freighter operator, the Flying Tiger Line, which was subsequently sold to FedEx.

AFA Executive Director Brandon Fried

Air Forwarding Roots

Soon after, he launched and owned the Washington DC branch of Adcom Worldwide forwarders, ran it for 25 years, joined the Airforwarders Association and moved up the ladder to chairperson before taking over his current position as executive director in 2006. Fried has worked his entire business career in the air forwarding industry.

“With his roots being in freight forwarding and reaching its highest level, Brandon is the heart and soul of the Airforwarders Association,” says Richard Shawn, vice president of Global Air Freight for SEKO Logistics in Valley Stream, New York, and an AFA director. “He is an advocate, a collaborator, who makes us all better because he has the industry as a whole at heart 24 hours a day.”

Adds Rula Fakhouri, director of TSA Compliance for Mercury Air Cargo in Los Angeles who is also on the board of directors: “He understands this industry from the bottom up and all its aspects—airlines, trucking, regulation, pricing and, of course, forwarding.”

Fried has proven himself during his tenure at the top. When he took over as executive director, the AFA had 100 members. Today, it has a roster of 225 air forwarding related companies. The association is also spreading its wings geographically. Historically, it has been a domestic organization. Today, it is recruiting international forwarder-related firms that do business in the U.S. and has a relationship with the British International Freight Forwarding Association (BIFA) and the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association (CIFFA).

AFA Issues

However, Fried is fast to stress the Airforwarders Association is not a one-man show cruising on automatic pilot. “I have a board of 16 unpaid bosses and a radar screen full of issues,” he told the American Journal of Transportation in an exclusive interview. “Our number one concern is the airport cargo area congestion issue.”

With forwarders and their truckers waiting hours to drop off or recover shipments and shippers steaming over wait time surcharges, the AFA is doing more than just taking on the costly challenge of cargo congested airports.

In March, Fried hired a lobbyist to assume the chores of convincing lawmakers and policymakers to tackle the worsening airport problem and other issues that disrupt the supply chain, particularly air freight security. As AFA executive director, he serves on the TSA Aviation Security Advisory and the U.S. Department of Commerce Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness. Besides the federal committees, he also chairs IATA’s Board of Cargo Network Services that represents forwarder interests.

The lobbyist, Michael Taylor, managing partner of Dickson Partners, will represent both the AFA and the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association. His job, says Fried, will be to “greatly enhance our efforts to convince members of Congress of the urgent need to strengthen air cargo, to enable as the critical link it is in the global supply chain and to protect the many jobs it created.”

He points out that the AIA, the NCBFAA and the Airport Council International-North America jointly set up the Airport Congestion Committee in 2022 to “conduct an inquiry and its findings were conclusive that investment in air cargo infrastructure at the federal level across the U.S. was vital.”

In addition, Taylor will be targeting Congressional members of the Appropriation Committees to relieve congestion in airport cargo areas by improving technology and automation service standards, airport cargo facilities and infrastructure, staffing and hours of operation and finding solutions for regulatory and paperwork issues that clog last mile operations.

Fried, who has handled the AFA’s lobbying efforts in the past, says Taylor was hired because under the Biden Administration, a person who sits on federal advisory committees cannot lobby Congress as well.

Meanwhile, the AFA is zeroing in on cybersecurity as part of its mandate “because many of our members have been victimized by cyber ransomware attacks,” Fried says. He was disappointed by the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2022 where airports were looking for $115 billion and only received $25 billion. However, the AFA is “focused on road infrastructure” given that trucks obviously feed airports and all shippers and consignees, he adds. “We are constantly monitoring things like trucking parking restrictions, the lack of drivers because every air shipment starts and ends on a truck.”

AFA Proactive

The AFA is proactive in other ways. Recently, on April 19, it sponsored a meeting in Miami for its members where the TSA was the keynote speaker on transportation security strategies, with other meetings planned throughout the U.S this summer. Other discussions will be centered on monitoring dangerous goods movements, “especially lithium battery transport” as motorists acquire more and more electric automobiles, Fried points out.

Transporting of ocean freight will get greater attention by the AFA in the coming months as the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022, which affects fees, detention and demurrage, experiences greater enforcement. As witnessed during the pandemic, seaworthy cargoes often moved by air.

Meanwhile, the AFA’s executive director contends “we are very, very focused on the economy, on world events, on the situation in Ukraine, Russia, and China. We try to see things from a macro perspective because invariably they will impact our members.” Addressing the Los Angeles Air Cargo Association recently, Fried emphasized “our customers pay us for creative logistical solutions, you need to understand where the hot zones are.” Indeed, he stressed, “your entire industry is one big logistical issue today with many moving parts and knowing what’s happening globally and being prepared for it is essential. Our customers expect it.”