Despite the worst decline in modern history for the air cargo industry in 2001, aircraft manufacturer Boeing projects that world air cargo traffic will continue to expand at an average of 6.4% during the next two decades.

However, Boeing's analysis said the "mature" air cargo market in North America would expand below the global average. Yet that forecast may have a silver lining for the trucking industry, which has stepped up efforts to serve the air cargo market in the wake of the terrorist attacks of last September 11.

Boeing's World Air Cargo Forecast for 2002 and 2003 said global airfreight volume has begun to recover from the post-September 11 crash suffered when the United States shut down its air travel system. Even prior to last year's attacks, the air cargo industry was in a slump, said Boeing vp-marketing Kent Fisher, due to the recession that started in late 2000 and a similar downturn in Europe. The situation was compounded by the September 11 attacks and the resulting increased security costs for air logistics, he said.

For trucking companies that serve the air cargo market, however, those numbers tell only part of the story. The increased costs for security coupled with delays in re-activating the U.S. air transit system has helped drive more airfreight to ground carriers. It also encouraged many trucking firms to develop air cargo-related services.

Truckload carrier Forward Air Corp., for example, is predicting that its revenues will rise 3 to 5% in the third quarter of this year because of stronger expedited freight demand. The Greenville, TN-based carrie, which specializes as an air cargo trucking contractor, added that it expects its earnings per share for the third quarter to rise between 5 and 15% over the same period last year.

Enough air cargo has shifted to the ground that LTL carrier Old Dominion Freight Line has decided to get into the business. Its new airfreight line-haul service product, OD Air Express, initially offers service to 51 airport locations nationwide with nightly schedules, track and trace visibility, electronic measurement reports and centralized customer service.