Proposed food transport safety rule should have limited impact on tank truck fleets

March 12, 2014

Tank truck fleets should see a minimal impact from the food transport rule that was proposed at the end of January by the Food and Drug Administration. This marks the seventh and final major rule proposed under the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act.

The proposed rule would require certain shippers, receivers, and carriers that transport food by motor or rail vehicles to take steps to prevent the contamination of human and animal food during transportation. As currently proposed, the rule would focus on industry best practices, such as those already used in the cleaning and sanitizing of sanitary tank trailers.

“FDA indicated in the proposed rule that they want to focus on good communication between carriers, shippers, and receivers to ensure that food is transported in a safe manner,” says Jon Samson with the Agricultural and Food Transporters Conference, which is part of the American Trucking Associations. “The proposed rule is very general, and we don’t see any new reporting or recordkeeping requirements that are specific to FDA.”

The proposed regulation would establish criteria for sanitary transportation practices, such as properly refrigerating food, adequately cleaning vehicles between loads, and properly protecting food during transportation. Part of the implementation of the Sanitary Food Transportation Act of 2005, the proposed rule is open for public comment through May 31, 2014.

“This proposed rule will help reduce the likelihood of conditions during transportation that can lead to human or animal illness or injury,” says Michael R Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. “We are now one step closer to fully implementing the comprehensive regulatory framework for prevention that will strengthen the FDA’s inspection and compliance tools, modernize oversight of the nation’s food safety system, and prevent foodborne illnesses before they happen.”

The proposed rule would apply to shippers, carriers, and receivers who transport food that will be consumed or distributed in the United States and is intended to ensure that persons engaged in the transportation of food that is at the greatest risk for contamination during transportation follow appropriate sanitary transportation practices. For example, the proposed rule would require that shippers inspect a vehicle for cleanliness prior to loading food that is not completely enclosed by its container, eg, fresh produce in vented boxes, onto the vehicle. The proposed rule would also apply to international shippers who transport food for US consumption or distribution in an international freight container by air or by oceangoing vessel and arrange for the transfer of the intact container onto a motor vehicle or rail vehicle in the United States.

It would not cover shippers, receivers, or carriers engaged in food transportation operations that have less than $500,000 in total annual sales. In addition, the requirements in the proposed rule would not apply to the transportation of fully packaged shelf-stable foods, live food animals, and raw agricultural commodities when transported by farms. The requirements also would not apply to shippers, receivers, or carriers who are engaged in transportation operations of food that is transshipped through the United States to another country, or to food that is imported for future export and that is neither consumed nor distributed in the United States.

The FDA is proposing staggered implementation dates for the proposed rule based on business size, ranging from one to two years after publication of the final rule.