June 22, 2015 4:00 AM, EDT

Opinion: Food-Hauling Regulations Set to Change

This Opinion piece appears in the June 22 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

By Bud Rodowick

Strategic Relations

Thermo King Corp.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will begin issuing final rules for the Food Safety Modernization Act in August, but the act will not fully impact the freight transportation industry until early next year, when the Federal Register publishes its most relevant section: Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food.

The road to FSMA’s implementation has been long and slow since it was first enacted in 2011, but its momentum is building. The Obama administration’s fiscal year 2016 budget — which requests an additional $109.5 million in new budget authority to support FSMA implementation — is proof of that building momentum.

FSMA changes the way the United States regulates the safety of its food supply, shifting the focus of federal regulators from responding to food-contamination issues to preventing them from occurring.

With the designated comment period complete, FDA is preparing to issue the final FSMA rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food in March 2016. From that point, the industry has just one year to implement new standards for the safe and secure transport of America’s food supply throughout its journey from farm to fork.

At Thermo King, we have spent considerable time reviewing FSMA requirements and assessing potential impacts on shippers and haulers of fresh and frozen food. We examined iterations of the rules impacting our industry with a fine-tooth comb and have worked with independent consultants and industry trade organizations to improve our understanding of the act and its implications. We also met with a wide range of customers, dealers and industry leaders to discuss FSMA requirements and implementation plans.

After our comprehensive research, we learned that many members of the freight transportation community have given little to no thought to the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food rule. Nor have they done much to prepare for its implementation, which is less than two years away. Refrigerated fleet operators and shippers need to understand FSMA and help their food producer and processor customers meet its requirements or face the risk of falling behind more proactive competitors.

We recommend that refrigerated fleet operators begin immediately to familiarize themselves with FSMA and its implications and begin discussions with the food producers and processors they serve to better understand their role in complying with regulations intended to protect the safety and integrity of the U.S. food supply.

Food producers and processors have primary responsibility for food safety and security under FSMA, but the regulations also impact the records fleet operators keep and provide to customers.

For example, the act requires food companies to provide information that improves the FDA’s ability to trace food within U.S. boundaries.

Food and beverage manufacturers are required to automate product traceability across the supply chain and have complete supplier, manufacturing and delivery data available for every product, covering every mile of a load’s journey.

Fortunately, technology advancements provide the capability to track, record and transmit a wide range of data that can help fleet operators validate time and location of a particular load as well as conditions inside the refrigerated truck or trailer. Automated control systems, data acquisition capabilities and data recorders, telematics systems and other capabilities are available that enable shippers and haulers to collect, aggregate and maintain vast amounts of data and use that data to create the required reports.

The impending changes in standards provide the perfect opportunity for shippers and haulers to meet with customers to discuss the new requirements. The following are some questions that may help stimulate discussion:

• How do you plan to comply with these new requirements?

• What do you expect from your shipper and hauler partners?

• What is your implementation timeline?

• What data will you need recorded, in what format and how will it be transmitted?

As FDA moves closer to issuing the final version of the

Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food rule in 2016, the most proactive shippers and haulers already are working with food processing and producing customers to understand their needs and help them comply with the new regulations.

There is no question food safety and security have become national priorities, capturing the interest of every segment of our society. The refrigerated transport industry must continue to play a critical role in ensuring that the U.S. food supply is safe, fresh and reliable.

Rodowick, who joined Thermo King in 2004, has 25 years of refrigerated transportation experience on the manufacturing and customer side of the business. Thermo King, with U.S. headquarters in Minneapolis, is a global leader in transport refrigeration and a business unit of Ingersoll Rand.