There’s a lot of confusion around the Known Shipper Management System (KSMS) program—and with good reason. As part of its mission to protect the United States’ transportation systems, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has kept the program’s requirements largely secret.

However, here’s what you need to know: If you’re regularly shipping goods via air cargo, becoming a known shipper can save you both time and money. In this article, we’ll explain how.

Additionally, while there’s no official process to apply directly with TSA, we’ll show you a quick workaround that will be your fastest path to becoming a known shipper.

First, let’s set the groundwork so you have a good understanding of the system and how it creates an advantage for your business.

What Is the KSMS?

The Known Shipper Program was originally created by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) previous to the events of 9/11. The program is now administered by TSA as one of their key strategies for maintaining air cargo security.

Through the program, TSA reviews and approves known shipper status for qualified shippers in the United States, allowing them additional air cargo shipping privileges once they qualify.

What Are the Benefits of Becoming a Known Shipper?

Known shippers have access to one major advantage: access to additional airplanes and routes.

Shippers who are not in the KSMS are solely allowed to ship on cargo-only aircraft. However, once approved by TSA, known shippers are able to move goods via both cargo-only aircraft and passenger aircraft.

As a known shipper, this offers you:

  1. More options: While cargo-only flights don’t operate as frequently, passenger flights depart multiple times a day from airports across the country. By expanding the types of planes that can carry your cargo, you’ll have access to more flights and more routes, which can mean faster shipping times.
  2. More flexibility: If your shipment needs to be re-routed or your timing changes, you’ll have more choices at your fingertips to meet important timelines.
  3. Cost savings: Shipping on cargo-only aircraft can be more costly. By opening up the possibility of shipping on passenger aircraft, you can get access to lower rates for your air freight shipments.

Pro Tip from Stefanie Salazar, Air & Ocean Gateway Manager, Approved Freight: One thing you should know: The size requirements differ between cargo-only planes and passenger aircraft. Passenger aircraft can only accommodate cargo up to 63″ tall. So before you prep your shipment, make sure you talk to your freight forwarder about size requirements so your shipment fits on the plane that will carry your goods.

If you’re shipping via air cargo with any regularity, these three benefits can really add up. So, at this point, you may be wondering how you can take the next step. We’ll walk you through it.

How Can I Become a Known Shipper?

Here’s where things get a little tricky. First of all, no one but TSA knows the exact requirements for approval to become a known shipper. They keep their vetting process confidential to maintain the integrity of the program.

Additionally, there’s no “official” way to apply directly through TSA.

So your best path to becoming a known shipper is to work with an experienced freight forwarder. They can submit your profile directly to TSA for approval.

Once you are entered for consideration in the database, TSA may ask for additional information. They may require a site inspection. You may also be asked to submit documents such as historical shipping records and other business information.

Although this may seem like a lot of work, remember:

  1. The Known Shipper program is essentially a vetting process. TSA needs to assess its known shippers so they can trust their cargo to go on planes that carry passengers. All the information you provide is simply what’s needed to evaluate you as a legitimate business whose cargo is safe to travel.
  2. Although it may require some work upfront, becoming a known shipper will offer you cost savings and timing advantages, especially if you use air cargo regularly to move goods.

Also, keep in mind that your freight forwarder can also facilitate some of this process and answer any questions you have.

Take the Next Step Toward Known Shipper Status

Talk to your freight forwarder about whether applying for known shipper status is right for you. In addition to helping you evaluate the factors that will go into your application, they can also facilitate a quick application process with the TSA.

Once you’re approved, you’ll enjoy the benefits of additional air cargo routes. These expanded options will ultimately make this shipping method quicker, easier and cheaper for you, providing a significant advantage to your business.

We’re here to help. We’ve helped plenty of our customers to become known shippers—and reap the advantages. Reach out to us and we’ll help you get the process started.

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