In the United States, many consumers don’t realize how important the trucking industry is to their ability to shop for groceries, eat in restaurants and stock their refrigerators with fresh food.
I’ve been around the transportation industry for a long time, and the saying, “If it got there, it got there by truck,” has never been truer. The American Trucking Associations estimate more than 70% of all U.S. freight tonnage is moved by trucks. A significant piece of that payload is perishable food. Any way you slice it, there’s a lot of risk involved in transporting this cargo.
The amount of temperature-controlled shipments by truck is staggering. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ Commodity Flow Survey, the most recent of which was released in 2015, trucks for hire or private trucks transported 616.7 million tons of temperature-controlled items. More than 92% of the total tonnage of temperature-controlled goods moved by truck, and each shipment moved an average of 120 miles, according to the BTS survey.
Delivering food by truck is one thing. Getting it there intact and unspoiled is another. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is designed to ensure food safety, with good reason. Foodborne illness is a major problem, affecting 48 million in the U.S. every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
FSMA’s latest phase — which went into effect this spring — imposes a variety of new requirements on motor carriers that transport food. For example, did you know:
- Compliance is mandatory for small businesses. FSMA defines those as having $27.5 million or less in annual revenues. FSMA covers shippers, distributors, loaders, motor carriers and consignor receivers.
- Food needing refrigeration must be kept at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. Refrigerated trailers, or reefers, are critical to transporting temperature-sensitive foods safely. Keeping reefers in good working condition is important to reduce the risk of spoilage.
- There’s more paperwork. FSMA requires motor carriers to create and put in place written procedures and train their workers to monitor, verify and validate temperatures throughout the transportation journey.
- More inspections are likely. FSMA has strengthened the enforcement capabilities of the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA conducted about 20,000 inspections in 2011, and that number is expected to double.
A key to understanding FSMA is the law’s intent. FSMA exists to prevent the intentional adulteration of food and food products, which can cause wide-scale harm. Barriers to physical access are important means of preventing adulteration, whether packaged items are in a warehouse awaiting shipment or in transit. Cargo seals placed on a trailer’s doors traditionally have indicated that the cargo inside has not been accessed. These seals, however, are easily broken, which is a common and potentially costly risk that motor carriers face. A consignor receiver can reject an entire shipment if the cargo seal has been broken. The FDA has indicated that a broken cargo seal is not enough to automatically deem the cargo to have been adulterated. That’s good news for motor carriers, but it’s not yet clear if receivers will agree.
Motor carriers have a tough job, no matter what cargo they’re transporting. Food shipments present some additional risks to think about, and the Food Safety Modernization Act’s regulations are there to mitigate some of them.Tokio Marine America has deep understanding of transportation logistics and cargo risks. We help manage motor carriers’ risks through our expertise and proprietary needed coverages, including shippers’ interest with constructive total loss.
For more insights on FSMA compliance and transportation risks, visit our product page.
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