Helping Improve Safety for Airport Ground Support Vehicles

Battery-powered ground support vehicles at airports offer zero emissions and reduced fuel consumption, but they also present new safety risks. Our Standard, UL 5840, addresses the risk of fire, electric shock and explosion from these vehicles.
Ground Support Equipment being used to load cargo onto an airplane

As lithium-ion battery technology has become more efficient and affordable in recent years, many major airlines started to transition away from internal combustion powered ground support equipment (GSE), in favor of battery-powered vehicles. These vehicles, which are designed for specific airplane service uses, include pushbacks, belt-loaders, container loaders, luggage tugs, water trucks, and platform lifts. Currently, between 70-80% of GSE at major airlines is powered by lithium-ion battery technology.

Although the battery-powered vehicles offer many benefits, including cleaner airport transportation and a reduction in fuel consumption, this new and evolving technology does present its own risks. Recognizing the current and increasing need for safety requirements, UL Standards and Engagement published ANSI/CAN/UL 5840, the Standard for Safety for Electrical Systems of Battery Powered Aviation Ground Support Equipment on May 25, 2022. The Standard provides requirements that address the risk of fire, electric shock, and explosion for the electrical systems of battery-powered airport GSE. In addition to covering new technology, the Standard also provides requirements for electrical systems when they are used to convert fueled GSE to battery-powered GSE.

Standard Development and Maintenance 

The initial plans for UL 5840 emerged from conversations held at the Singapore Aviation Safety Summit, which was hosted by Underwriters Laboratories in November 2019. The summit convened key experts and authorities to examine safety concerns for the utilization and transport of batteries and other dangerous goods and hazardous materials by air. Presenters at the summit noted that the majority of Li-ion battery fire cases occurred during ground handling, which raised concerns regarding the safety of battery-powered GSE. In July 2020, a standards technical panel (STP) was formed to serve as the consensus body in the development and publication of the Standard.

As a binational U.S./Canadian Standard, UL 5840 is nationally recognized and approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Standards Council of Canada (SCC), offering greater consistency in safety of battery-powered GSE across both countries and jurisdictions. It also offers greater efficiency in maintenance, with one document – rather than two – maintained by a single STP with stakeholder representatives from both countries. Additionally, the binational status eliminates the risk of de-harmonization as updates are implemented while reducing potential barriers to trade by enabling manufacturers to design and evaluate GSE for both countries.

Standards Technical Panel Membership

The STP for UL 5840 is comprised of subject matter experts from airlines, airport authorities, air carriers, battery manufacturers, manufacturers of ground support equipment, and government agencies. The STP has strong binational participation with representatives from the U.S. and Canada. Applications for membership can be submitted at any time; however, membership may be limited to maintain balance among interest categories. Canadian stakeholders are encouraged to apply and help increase Canadian representation on STP 5840. 

Open Process

The UL standards development process is open to anyone, and comments and proposals can be submitted at any time. If you would like to propose changes to UL 5840, please submit a proposal through our online Collaborative Standards Development System (CSDS)

UL 5840 is available for purchase and free digital access in English and French on the UL Standards Sales Site. The creation of an account is required to access the digital view.

Fast Facts

UL 5840 provides requirements that address the risk of fire, electric shock, and explosion for the electrical systems of battery-powered airport ground support equipment (GSE).

Between 70-80% of GSE at major airlines is currently powered by lithium-ion battery technology.

UL 5840 is a binational U.S./Canadian Standard that will be maintained by a single STP with stakeholder representatives from both countries.

The Standard was published on May 25, 2022.