Refrigerated carriers face a bevy of new mandates governing not only the condition and operation of equipment used transport foodstuffs but the capture and preservation of shipment temperatures, along with driver training requirements, due to go into effect March 31.

The new rules devolve from the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama back in 2011, noted Don Durm, director of strategic customer solutions for PLM Trailer Leasing, during a panel discussion at the 2016 Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) meeting last week in Las Vegas.

“It really should be called the ‘Food Safety Documentation Act’ because there is nothing really new in it in terms of ‘modernization,’” Drum said. “But what it does is involve the FDA [the U.S. Food and Drug Administration] in the food supply chain as an enforcement agency. So why you need to pay attention to this [FSMA] is due to two words: criminal prosecution.”

He noted that while shippers and receivers are the main targets of the FSMA, refrigerated carriers become involved as the new rules require detailed temperature data to be collected and maintained, while imposing equipment and driving requirements as well.

Drum noted that refrigerated carriers are affected in three broad areas: They would be required to develop and implement written procedures – subject to record keeping, probably for a 12 month time period – that describes how they provide temperature data; their practices for cleaning, sanitizing, and inspecting vehicles and transportation equipment; and establish requirements for the training of carrier personnel engaged in transportation operations, including a requirement for records that document the training.

[At right: Don Drum speaking with arm upraised while R. Fenton May of CarrierWeb looks on.]

He added that while the FDA “won’t tell shippers and carriers how to deliver foodstuffs” it will be in charge of establishing the framework for what’s required to deliver such goods and enforce those requirements.

“The FDA now becomes an integrated part of the supply chain,” Drum said. “Rather than standing apart, they will become an enforcement agency – and one of their tools will be criminal prosecution. This will be about documentation, verification, and enforcement and they [FDA] will not be reactive; they will be proactive.”

As an interesting side note, one of the key architects of the FDA’s more “proactive stance” on food safety – Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Michael Taylor – plans to step down June 1 this year right after the new rules are announced.

“He departs just before all of these rules are enforceable,” noted Durm. “So it is interesting that all of the folks that really pushed this [rule] to realization are now leaving when it has to be enforced.”