Securing the Ramp

July 8, 2001


DIA takes a common sense approach to preventing airport accidents

By Lindsay M. Hitch, Assistant Editor

July 2001

Denver International’s Airport Security division developed a systematic program to ensure the proper training and certification of all airfield drivers without having to do it all themselves. Here, a closer look at developing and managing the DIA driver program.

Recently, runway incursions have been rather prevalent in industry and national news. And although technological advances may help in prevention, the best solution may still simply be training drivers to use all their senses, including common sense.

The driver training program began in the early ’90s at Denver’s Stapleton Airport. Initial efforts consisted of a video and a ten question test. An additional checklist was developed for those needing to drive in aircraft movement areas.
Lori Beckman, assistant deputy manager of operations/airport security at Denver Int’l, explains that the driver training program started in connection with increasing access control requirements. "On one side they were coming up with all kinds of new security training and at the same time started doing driver training."
Beckman says that the training and security clearance were combined out of convenience. To get a security badge, individuals needed to watch a video and take a test, so it seemed logical to cover driver training at the same time. Airport Security, a division of Airport Operations, conducts both functions.

HITTING IT BIG Beckman was involved in the move from Stapleton to DIA and in adapting the security and training programs to the new environment. Prior to the move, she hired an airfield manager to determine what the "driver issues" would be at the new facility. From an operational standpoint, the differences between Stapleton and Denver Int’l were phenomenal. At Stapleton, Airport Security worked with about 125 companies for security and driver certification. With DIA’s larger facility and the difference between a master concessionaire (Stapleton) and individual leases (DIA), Airport Security would need to manage employees from over 700 companies (air carriers, tenants, concessions operators, concessions vendors, etc). "We developed a whole training program and decided that we couldn’t physically do it, that we needed to train company people to do it. So we developed a ’Train the Trainer’ program," says Beckman. Each company selects a lead driver trainer who is responsible for performing and ensuring the proper training of all other company drivers. Some of the larger companies have a lead trainer and five or more assistants. Employees that have watched the training video and taken the test go for an airport "drive-around" with the lead trainer to see where they are authorized to drive and to cover special rules. While this tactic worked well initially, Airport Security soon realized they had no way of ensuring that the drive-around was performed. "There was no ramification... and we really weren’t tracking it that close," says Beckman. "So when you do your driver training and get your badge, if you don’t return the driver training record showing that you actually did the physical driving piece within ten days, we cancel your badge. So it’s still up to the company trainer to get them signed off and get the form returned to us, but we have control."

Badges and driver certification are renewed every two years.


The position of head driver trainer for Denver Int’l has seen nine new faces since 1994. Beckman explains that that’s not because it’s a bad job; quite the contrary.
"We get them over here and they like it and they want to stay, but we always make them rotate back out because every one of them has brought something really important to the program and added something new."
Airport Security takes its head driver trainers from airfield operations management. Beckman says that it is generally an assistant operations manager, although others have held the position. Initially, the driver trainer rotated every six months, though now it is on an annual basis, in conjunction with how operations schedules are bid.
The program continues to grow with each driver trainer’s fresh ideas. They are currently developing a training program specifically for the fire department, and are working on an automated test system.
"I really credit the driver training program to the people that have been involved, because it’s been a real collaborative effort between the nine people that have been our driver trainers for that period of time and some of my staff folks," Beckman states. "The staff folks in Airport Security control the consistency of the program, but the nine people that have been in it have helped drive the creativity in bringing the new issues and ideas in."

The Who, What, & Where ...... of Denver International’s driver training program.
Anyone driving in the movement and non-movement areas of the airport is categorized as either an air carrier, tenant, contractor, department of aviation, or a vendor. The category determines the level of training necessary for authorization. In addition to the video, test, and drive-around, drivers operating in aircraft movement areas (runways and taxiways) must complete another step. Those drivers are issued a manual and taken by the vanload on a more extensive drive-around. Rather than just pointing out where driving is permitted, this drive-around explains each area of the airport, what to be careful of, and most importantly, why. After the drive-around, the drivers take a written test. Air carrier, tenant, contractor, and department of aviation drivers must complete the video, test, and basic drive-around. Vendor drivers are required to watch the video and take the basic test, but do not have driver trainers or do drive-arounds. Instead, new vendor drivers are given a first-time escort showing their specific assigned route. Approximately 40 badges are issued each year for operational movement area clearance for those doing runway inspections and other special projects. Those drivers complete a practical examination where they drive to various parts of the airport and explain aspects and rules to DIA’s driver trainer.