As if dealing with a
recession and stricter emissions standards weren't enough, carriers of
fresh fruits and vegetables must also find ways to meet customers' new food
While the transportation
industry is more than willing to do its share to make sure the nation's
supply of fresh produce is safe, it's also looking for more of a hand from
its supply chain partners.
The heightened importance
of food safety in the fresh produce industry has made extra work for
truckers, said Kerry Byrne, executive vice president of third-party
logistics specialist Total Quality Logistics, Cincinnati.
And for the most part,
they've made the adjustment, he said, whether they've wanted to or not.
"My perspective is
it's definitely creating additional burdens, but carriers and drivers are
doing a pretty darned good job of dealing with it," Byrne said.
Making sure no one gets
into trucks while they're en route from shipper to receiver has been the
primary food safety focus, he said.
"The number one
thing has been the integrity of the seal," Byrne said. "Carriers
didn't used to have to deal with it, but they do now."
One key to effective
traceability is giving truckers and carriers a seat at the table and
cooperating with them on possible solutions, rather than just telling them
what they need to do, said Kenny Lund, vice president of operations for
Allen Lund Co. Inc., La Canada, Calif.
"It's working with
transportation providers, not putting unrealistic expectations on
them," he said.
There are about half a
million transportation providers in the U.S., Lund said, and the average
one has a fleet of seven trucks.
Expecting so many small
companies to upgrade their fleets with GPS systems and other technologies
aimed at improving traceability and overall food safety excellence is
unrealistic, he said.
"You can't rely on a
fragmented carrier pool," he said.
One solution Lund said
the industry should pin its hopes on is a portable device, provided by
shippers, that would stay with individual loads, transmitting location,
temperature and possibly even humidity information digitally - and checked
every five hours.
Such devices could retail
for as little as $35, Lund predicted.
"The great thing is,
the technology is there," he said. "Now it's just a matter of who
wants to pay for it."
Another bright spot on
the food safety scene is the rising standards for refrigerated units, Lund
continues to get better and better," he said. "There aren't
nearly as mainly claims on temperature."
Chuck Nelson, president
of Chuck's Transport Inc., San Antonio, agreed with Lund that stricter
food-safety requirements, while obviously necessary, are unworkable if all
links in the supply chain don't come together.
"People pay more
attention now to trucks being locked when they arrive, but it's hard to get
people on the same page on how to seal trucks," he said.
Also, Nelson said,
there's not much of a happy medium when it comes to properly sealing
"There are those who
do well, and those who don't participate at all," he said.
As a result, many loads
are rejected at retail because the shipper, the transporter and the
receiver never agreed on a proper protocol.
Another place heightened
attention to food safety in the transportation industry is being felt is
ports, said Doug Stoiber, vice president of produce transportation
operations for L&M Transportation Services Inc., a division of L&M
Cos. Inc., Raleigh, N.C.
Drivers are beginning to
be certified through the Transportation Worker Identification Credential
program, a federal program administered by the Transportation Security
Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard.
"It's still a bit of
a shakeout process, but it will be in all the ports, sooner rather than
later," he said.
The program requires all
truckers, dockworkers and anyone else involved in loading or unloading
vessels to carry a special ID granting them access, Stoiber said.
"It's absolutely a
good thing for homeland security," he said. "It's not a lot of
red tape for us, though there is more for owner-operators."
In addition, Stoiber
agreed with his industry colleagues that sealed loads are becoming
increasingly important to shippers and receivers.
And deliveries are much
more coordinated in advance and more controlled than in the past, he said.
"The old days of
backing down and hollering for someone to come and get their load are
over," he said.