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Technology’s role in helping meet food compliance mandates

Technology can help carriers meet new sanitation mandates.
/ Industry News & Trends /

By: Phil Sneed

The recent release of the final rule regarding sanitary transportation will have an impact on the relationship between the transportation industry and its use of technology.

This relationship is not new, and in fact, today's semitrailers can trace their roots back to 1851. Railroads were the dominant mode of transportation at the time, and it was around then that carts began to utilize refrigeration techniques to transport food, according to Food Safety News.

In turn, refrigeration technology has been heavily implemented into the trucking industry, showcasing an embrace by the transportation industry.

But with the finalization of the rule, refrigerated carriers may have numerous operational changes by the 2017 deadlines. In some instances, carriers, shippers, loaders and receivers may have to adjust well before that deadline, which can pose significant issues.

"The transportation industry will once again have to embrace technology in a positive manner."

In order to meet these deadlines and challenges, the transportation industry will once again have to embrace technology in a positive manner.

The challenges

Refrigerated carriers are currently feeling the pressure because there are additional safety requirements that they must comply with, according to Fleet Owner. In an interview with the online publication, Hugh Latimer, chief operating officer for the food safety compliance firm Iron Apple, said shippers are the ones now held responsible under new rules.

"You must prove that you are following [safety] protocols now; you must prove you are washing trailers between loads, what cleaning agents you are using, and what training your drivers have received and are practicing," said Latimer.

He added companies must take detailed notes about what is going on during a continual basis. If not, and a serious situation arises, such as a foodborne illness outbreak, companies will have to explain themselves.

Additionally, carriers must act to close the gap between the information they think they need and what is actually required.

Implementation of preventive control plan and technology

A preventive control plan will help companies stay on top of various regulations. With the help of certain technologies, this can be made even easier.

As mandated by the U.S. Federal and Drug Administration, carriers will have to keep tabs on the following areas:

  • Process control
  • Procedures for food handling
  • Health, knowledge and hygiene of employees
  • The cleanliness of facilities

These plans have to be rigorous to ensure there are no oversights. Carriers can monitor their preventive control programs by evaluating hazards, explicitly stating how various procedures will be monitored and identifying how issues can be solved. Furthermore, documentation of everything must be kept in case such information is needed at a later time.

Technology comes into play in a few different instances. First, carriers will need to ensure refrigerated trailers are well maintained and their equipment is up-to-date. Without monitoring temperatures, carriers risk compliance issues with the FDA.

"Some GPS technology can also monitor the temperature of cargo."

To help remedy or avoid this issue, trailers can be outfitted with Global Positioning System technology that handles two tasks. It first tracks the shipment to ensure deliveries arrive on time, but some GPS technology can also monitor the temperature of cargo.

Some of these solutions are also low cost and don't require drivers to keep track of the temperature, which will enable him or her to focus on the road.

Another requirement the FDA has mandated is for carriers to ensure equipment is thoroughly cleaned to help prevent food contamination. To comply, companies can set up a geofence around a wash bay. The data that is collected can then be connected back to the wash ticket and carriers will receive information stating trailers were cleaned.

Geofencing is helpful because it involves the creation of a virtual boundary around a designated area – in this case, around the wash bay. With the help of GPS, carrier management will have hard data stating if a truck was cleaned, and if not, can ensure the equipment undergoes a thorough cleaning to avoid any potential food safety issues.

Many companies within the transportation industry already abide by strict sanitation standards when transporting food. But those regulations are going to become tougher in the near future, and to help meet all mandates, companies can benefit by using various technologies.