The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in January of 2011 as a means to give FDA authority to regulate the way food is grown, harvested, and processed. Within FSMA includes regulations specific to the sanitary transportation of food to protect food from farm to table. Motor carriers are specifically held responsible regarding prevention practices during transportation that create food safety risks. These risks include failure to adequately clean vehicles between loads, failure to protect food, and failure to properly refrigerate throughout the trailer. The rule applies to all shippers, loaders, carriers, and receivers.
Specific to the trucking industry, the regulations establish requirements for four key areas: 1) vehicles and transportation equipment, 2) transportation operations, 3) training, and 4) records. Under the regulations, the design and maintenance of equipment must be kept up to date to ensure transported food does not become unsafe for consumption at any time. The measures taken during the process of transportation to ensure food safety, such as adequate temperature controls, preventing contamination, and protection of food from contact with non-food items, are all covered under transportation operations. Training of carriers and utilizing best practices and documentation is required under the act throughout the carrier and shipper transport process. The question for motor carriers is how the process of records and maintenance will be examined and how fines may be enforced.
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The Right Documentation and Use of Data
Food safety remains at the heart of FSMA with documentation being required for compliance. Since documentation is critical, the widespread adoption of recently mandated electronic logging devices (ELD) will help significantly.
FSMA is requiring compliance that may create new challenges for shippers, carriers, and receivers trying to maintain standards of food products during transport, loading, and delivery processes. Shippers will need to document and communicate their food safety requirements to carriers in areas of equipment, operations, and training. Failure to provide documentation of the compliance can result in fines, cargo claims, and criminal sanctions.
This is where the ELD conversation comes into play, as not all ELD systems are created equal. Now that the ELD mandate is official, fleet managers are being forced to make an important initial decision: Do I view the ELD mandate as a “necessary evil” and spend the least amount to meet compliance, or do I go “all-in” and realize the true value of the data it provides?
Thinking strategically about the data that fleets need to provide proper documentation for FSMA is critical, but the right ELD goes well beyond this spectrum and can help manage the fleet’s overall performance, including driver behaviors and vehicle life cycle options. It can also assist with reefer trailer monitoring to help with FSMA compliance. Organizations must make a thorough and methodic “due diligence” approach to their ELD decision.
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More Than Just the ELD
In addition to the ELD, motor carriers should focus on the equipment design and specification phase of their truck procurement strategies, which can not only help in FSMA compliance, but can improve their organization’s financial bottom line.
Working with a consultative partner during specifications, with details such as ribbed flooring in refrigerated trailers that make it easier to clean, for example, can ease the burden of compliance and operations. But data extracted in the ELD and other aspects of operations can really pay off, including the identification of costly expenditures in maintenance and repair.
By using data analytics, motor carriers can monitor every aspect of data including FSMA to help determine the right life cycle of each truck. In addition to avoiding FSMA fines, data are helping save millions in bottom-line expenses with asset acquisition strategies. By doing so, fleets will ensure a stronger compliance record with FSMA, and will realize better bottom-line savings that can be utilized for critical business expansion opportunities or driver recruitment programs.
Rosenfeld is a Certified Transportation Professional and an expert on Department of Transportation regulations and Compliance Safety Accountability compliance. She also adds a customer-based perspective to fleet management analytical reporting, one of the foundations of Fleet Advantage’s life cycle management philosophy. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.