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Food Safety Rules Are Set to Change

New federal regulations will have a direct impact on how clean a refrigerated transport truck and trailer should be. While the final details are still up in the air, it’s looking like shippers will be responsible for deciding, whether or not they are ready to do so.

The Food and Drug Administration has been preparing a set of rules to comply with the 2014’s Food Safety Modernization Act. Different aspects of the rule will be phased in over the next 11 months.

The law was passed by congress after a series of incidents where contaminated food was sold in stores. One consumer became seriously ill and died, which prompted this new wave of regulation. Although the cause was traced back to the food processing plants, Congress threw transportation into the mix as well.

What Is The Rule?

Under the new rule, shippers will be responsible for writing the sanitary requirements necessary for vehicles carrying perishable products. Temperature settings must be worked out and maintained on the shipper’s side of things.

While temperature requirements are nothing new, cleanliness is. The FDA has decided that shippers should be communicating with truck operators on what they want and how to accomplish it.

The bulk of products included under this new rule includes meat, poultry, fresh produce and frozen foods. Bulk grains, juices and milk transported in tankers also made the list. If a product can be affected, contaminated, or adulterated through temperature variation, air or sunlight exposure, it’s on the list.

How Will it Affect Trucking

The law explains “transportation equipment” as trailers and railcars, pallets, bins, hoses and fittings. Any pumps or gaskets that are integral to the food handling system are also included.

While the upkeep of these systems is often governed by state regulations, the federal rules will require additional layer of recordkeeping for both shipper and motor carrier.

Truckers responsible for the cleaning are also required to record and document standard operating procedures. Truck driver training will be mandatory and what happened during the sessions must be logged.

From Trucking’s Perspective

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) has already come out asking that the regulatory comment period that closed earlier this year be reopened. Their main concern lies in the increased training and record keeping requirements.

One such example is the provision that stipulates mandatory pre-cooling of a trailer before loading. The ATA questions how that rule will be enforced and who will enforce it. According to Warren Hoeman, senior vice president of the ATA, there will be “additional costs with no quantifiable benefits.”

He goes on to state that “the FDA does not require temperature thresholds for products. They require the carrier to follow those thresholds put forth by the shipper… the FDA does not provide guidelines or require cleaning your trailer a certain way.”

The main thrust of this rulemaking lies in the shipper’s guidelines explaining how and when to clean the equipment. A visual inspection should follow, then documentation.

What This Means for the Future

Even now, the Food Safety Modernization Act is evolving. It will be important for private fleets to tap into their quality assurance talent in the quest to find out how these new FSMA compliance requirements will affect them and their customers.

For-hire carriers should touch bases with their food facility customers in order to properly understand how they intend to be in compliance with the new regulations. There will be new checks all along the line, so shippers, carriers and receivers will all need to communicate how they intend to handle what’s coming.

This may come in the form of fleet managers approaching shippers to offer guidance if they seem slow to adopt procedures that comply with regulations. After all, new safety and compliance rules seem to hit by the week. Fleets want to make sure they aren’t on the receiving end of a country’s ire because one of their customers failed a food safety requirement that led to contamination.

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