Material Handling Equipment (MHE)
Material handling equipment (MHE) is the most critical component of cargo ground handling; shortages will significantly impact throughput capability. MHE is the primary platform for loading and unloading all DOD general and special cargo, including outsized and oversized carried on military and commercial aircraft. Material handling equipment (MHE) that reduces manual material handling should be used.
Materiel Handling Equipment (MHE) includes an array of equipment for moving and staging 463L pallets. 25K-loaders, 40K-loaders, and 60K-loaders provide an efficient way to upload and offload aircraft. Forklifts must have long tines for handling the 463L pallets. All terrain forklifts, or the 10K/AT forklift are needed for off-road or other operating conditions. Wide body loaders (WBELs), such as Cochran loaders, Wilson loaders, 60K-loaders (Tunner), and the new generation 25K-loaders, are required for KC-10s and many commercial and military contract airlift, including DC-8s, B-747s, and DC-10s. Staircase trucks are required for loading and offloading passengers on most airlift aircraft to increase safety. High lift trucks can assist loading baggage and cargo on KC-135s and other taller aircraft. High line docks are used to stage aircraft loads of pallets and to build up pallet trains.
There are several key features to consider when selecting MHE. Maneuverability: the equipment must be able to be pushed or pulled over rough and uneven terrain with a full load. MHE with full pneumatic tires will provide this ability. Capacity: the equipment must be able to handle several items at once, in terms of both volume and weight. Flatbed carts and hand trucks that extend down to four wheels provide this ability. Storage: the equipment must take up minimal space.
One problem Airlift Control Elements (ALCEs), later renamed "TALCE," personnel had to contend with throughout the Gulf War was insufficient and unreliable MHE. These vehicles were 1960s technology that suffered repeated breakdowns because of the harsh desert climate. Although the specific reduction in airlift due to MHE problems was never calculated by MAC, a RAND study did conclude that, "MHE problems did slow down the airlift flow by restricting the maximum number of aircraft that could be handled at a base at a given time." MHE problems also caused backlogs of pallets at APOEs and APODs.
At McGuire AFB, over one thousand pallets quickly piled up by late August 1990, while at Dhahran, thirteen hundred pallets accumulated because there was not enough MHE to move the palletized cargo to trucks for shipment to receiving units.25 By late September, five of ten "25K" loaders, a common type of MHE, were broken at Dhahran. Besides spare parts for MHE, the only other serious supply problem was the shortage of pallets, although this did not impact airlift operations. At one point, only 35,000 pallets out of 140,000 could be accounted for.
Safe and proper MHE operation is of the utmost importance. To ensure personnel remain proficient on the vehicles used within their duty section, if licensed, all operators must receive a yearly evaluation on each vehicle type. The evaluation process will consist of all three vehicle inspections (before, during, and after) and vehicle operation. During the evaluation process, evaluator assistance will not be provided to the individual. MHE evaluations will be conducted by a qualified evaluator. Individuals who fail to successfully complete the evaluation will be provided training in deficient areas. Individuals will be re-evaluated once the training is complete.
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