EDMONTON, Alta. - There are fewer and fewer farmers who will allow a dirty livestock trailer onto their property, due to the risk of disease.
Problematically however, there are fewer and fewer places being provided for cattle haulers to clean out their trailers.
Unlike a normal tractor-trailer combination, a cattle hauler is usually unwelcome at a typical truck wash bay.
"I highly doubt any wash bay would welcome with open arms a cattle truck with a lot of manure on-board, especially with straw bedding," said Tim O'Byrne, operator of Calico Beef Consulting and an expert in cattle handling and transportation. "Those options are not available anymore. It's highly subjective today and there's no industry-designated clean-out places."
Some feedlots let truckers drive out into the field to clean the trailers - but during the growing season that is not an option. Auction markets usually are equipped with proper clean-out facilities - but unless you're dropping off a load of cattle at the market, it's unlikely they will welcome dirty trailers stopping in just to clean out. There are some livestock-specific wash bays in business, which offer biosecurity cleaning - but they are not always located where a trucker will need them.
"At the end of the run, the trucker has to deal with the manure left on-board, but nobody else wants to take responsibility for that material," explained O'Byrne. "If you're hauling strawberries, you don't get to keep the pallets they're on, somebody wants those pallets."
The cleanliness of a livestock trailer is important, and someone has to take responsibility for the leftover material, as it will allow a trucker to pick up the next load and is an important biosecurity measure.
"The transportation of farm animals is the primary vector for disease and one of the critical control points in preventing the spread of disease," explained Crystal Makay, executive director for Ontario Farm Animal Council (OFAC). "Ideally the trailers are cleaned before they arrive on a new premises and once the animals are unloaded it gets cleaned again."
The cleanliness of cattleliners is an industry self-regulated practice. There are a number of recommendations and codes of best practices in the industry; and as well as being a byproduct of good client relations, there are market demands and protocols set by feedlots, farmers and other places where trucks travel to pick up and drop off loads.
"Some farmers have specific protocols truckers must adhere to before entry into the gate. The protocols also apply to people delivering feed, fuel or other supplies onto the farm," Makay told Truck West. "They could include pressure washing the truck, cleaning tires, and for drivers not being allowed in the barn or in the loading facilities."
As Makay explained the best practice for a trucker would be to know the rules of a particular facility and adhere to them before arriving.
For hog haulers, cleaning facilities tend to be more readily available.
There is a component of the Trucker Quality Assurance program for hog haulers that addresses trailer cleaning and many facilities require a truck to be TQA-certified.
"It's been effective in the States for a number of years and is spreading into Canada," noted Makay.
"It's a whole biosecurity standard feature for hogs and they do that between every load," added O'Byrne. "A dirty liner that has hauled hogs needs to be disinfected."
The need for disinfection of trailers in the hog hauling sector has provided carriers with more readily-available facilities.
While many cattle carrier operations will have proper cleaning facilities at their terminals, it's not every night a trucker is able to return home.
"I don't think we've done a very good job at all in addressing this and we've passed the buck to the trucker," O'Byrne told Truck West. "I tried, eight to 10 years ago, to get a project off the ground with the Canadian Cattleman's Association to provide facilities and handle it in an environmentally friendly manner and they never stepped up."