Safe milk equals good business

YOU'VE GOT early morning and late night schedules, unbaffled tanks, valuable cargos, and big vehicles. That's a list of givens that milk haulers handle every day of the year.

If that list weren't enough, there is always the possibility of some catastrophic animal disease, such as hoof and mouth disease, that in an outbreak could add even more challenges to the transporters.

Allen Sayler of the International Dairy Foods Association recalled a 2001 outbreak of the disease in England that led to extreme responses to prevent the spread of the disease.

Sayler, Mark Oesterle of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Matthew Malleis of Garan Lucow and Miller PC, and Scott Wichmann of DFA/Haylor discussed safety issues impacting milk transportation.

Should hoof and mouth disease occur in the United States, drivers would be on the front line as they loaded milk at dairy barns. “The disease spreads widely and rapidly,” Sayler said, adding that hoof and mouth disease in US cattle could interrupt the milk supply and create distribution headaches in just a few days.

He advised milk transporters to learn about the disease and the precautions that would be required should there be a outbreak in the US similar to the one in England. IDFA has information about the disease on its Web site at idfa.org that also includes a response manual.

Rule updates

Oesterle talked about hours-of-service regulations and noted that the rule approved in 2003 remains in effect despite many court challenges from various public and industry groups. The rule was updated in an effort to increase safety by addressing truck driver fatigue.

He advised milk transporters to make themselves familiar with the rule, which includes some exemptions for certain situations that might apply to their operations. Those exemptions are based on distance from the company's location and the time drivers spend at the wheel.

Oesterle also said that driver drug and alcohol testing are required prior to employment and after an accident that results in an injury, fatality, or citation. Random testing also is mandated. He also added that FMCSA has information for motor carriers at the Analysis and Information Web site, http://ai.fmcsa.dot.gov.

Insurance side

Turning to the insurance side of safety, Wichmann said “Transportation has always been a challenge for the insurance industry.” He pointed out that the industry has a high exposure rate due to the nature of the business, and when accidents do occur, they can be serious.

Driver management is the number one essential for having a safe operation — from the point a driver is hired, through training, and while on the job. On-going performance evaluations should be part of the driver management process, Wichmann said.

In today's environment of driver recruitment and retention challenges, he advised the transporters to maintain rigorous hiring policies and avoid the temptation to hire drivers who are not qualified.

Product purity in the foodgrade industry also can be assessed from the insurance standpoint. Product rejections due to problems, such as breaches of seal integrity, can push up premium costs, he said.

Malleis discussed a vehicle leasing alternative that has become available through legislation supported by rental car companies. Companies can hold assets and lease them to a second company while a third company acts as a broker. The arrangements can lessen liability in certain instances. However, a negligent and untrustworthy driver can “defeat” the structure, he said.

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