AHEAD OF THE GAME: Erb Transport was one of the first three Canuck food haulers to complete the voluntary trucking food safety program.
TORONTO, Ont. – A new Trucking Food Safety Program for food haulers is whetting the appetite of shippers and carriers alike.
The program – developed by the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) with the help of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada – encourages carriers to adopt best practices that ensure food safety is not jeopardized during transport. The program applies to carriers of all types of food (including live animals and dry bulk) and will soon become an industry standard, says Robert Roy, chief executive officer of Kasar Canada, the company hired to administer the program.
“I think that time is going to come very quickly when the program will be spread across the industry,” Roy told Truck News. “We’re already seeing shippers saying that it’s going to become a condition of doing business with them.”
The program is based on the widely used Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system, which has been customized for the trucking industry. All participating carriers must complete the core program which addresses issues such as sanitization, pest control, equipment specifications and transportation procedures. Then carriers branch off into different modules, depending on the commodities they haul.
There are currently 10 modules including: refrigerated products; frozen products; produce; dry grocery products; dry bulk; dairy; seafood; live animals; mixed loads and liquid bulk. Trucking companies can conduct the training in-house or hire a consultant to do it for them. When they’ve completed the applicable modules, they are audited and then accredited under the program.
The Trucking Food Safety Program is the first nationally-recognized program of its kind in the world, says Roy. The new program was the brainchild of the CTA which had heard rumblings that government may mandate a food safety program for the trucking industry. Rather than have such a program forced down the industry’s throat by government, the Alliance decided to take a proactive approach and develop its own.
“The trucking industry has always been very good at food safety, sanitation practices and proper transportation practices,” Roy says. “But the shippers were increasingly asking for documented evidence of that.”
“We wanted to get out ahead of the curve on this one,” adds Ron Lennox, vice-president of trade and security with the CTA. “We didn’t want other sectors of the food industry dictating what type of program we should have. We think this one will stand up to any sort of rigours they want to impose on us.”
So far the initiative has been welcomed by food carriers who have been able to use their participation in the program as a competitive advantage.
At press time, three carriers had completed the program including Erb Transport, McConnell Transport and ColdStar Freight Systems. Another dozen or so carriers are currently enrolled in the program, Roy adds.
Wendell Erb, general manager of Erb Transport, said completing the program was “a further service to our customers, assuring them of the finest possible protection for their food shipments.”
While the process can be somewhat onerous and costly (the materials cost $200-$300 and the audit required upon completion will run a company another $2,000-$5,000), Erb’s communications manager Patricia Kiral said the company welcomed the challenge.
“People here were fairly enthusiastic about it,” she says. “It’s not a simple program to implement, you have to do a lot of work to ensure everything is done correctly, but we have a good team here who got on-board to make sure everything was up to snuff. We recognize the importance of it too; it’s something that’s important to our customers and it gives them peace of mind.”
As food shippers learn about the program, many are making it a requirement for their carriers, Roy says. In fact, he noted a case where a trucking company won a substantial new contract because it was in the midst of completing the program while the other fleet being considered hadn’t taken part.
And Roy is quick to point out the program can actually save a carrier money in the long run. In Eastern Canada, he says, a trucking company was able to prove a shipment of meat that was rejected by the receiver was improperly loaded by the shipper. The shipper had tried to pin the blame for the spoiled product on the carrier’s reefer temperatures but the fleet successfully defended its claim thanks to its improved procedures.
In order to remain competitive, Roy says food carriers will eventually have little choice but to get certified through the Trucking Food Safety Program as it gains credibility among shippers. Participating in the voluntary program is a win-win for shippers and carriers alike, he says.
“When the CTA was putting this thing together, they wanted to make sure the end result was two things: That it was practical and cost-effective for the carriers and that it was credible to the shippers and we think that was accomplished,” says Roy.