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5 Reefer Hauling Tips for New Food Safety Rules

by Hannah Marcom | May 30, 2017

food safety rules

5 Reefer Hauling Tips for New Food Safety Rules

It’s always a challenge to stay cool in the summer. Popsicles, ice cream, and watermelon are things we often consume to beat the heat. But the real challenge is keeping them cold on the way to the grocery store! Refrigerated trucks, or “reefer trucks”, help deliver fresh produce and other temperature-sensitive products across the country.

If you’re hauling reefer loads, you know how important maintaining your trailer is for a safe delivery. Hauling refrigerated cargo can be risky because if the refrigerated truck temperature range fluctuates too much, the cargo could be ruined and you could be held responsible.

Because reefer loads are risky, there are new rules and regulations to ensure the safe transportation of food. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) went into effect last month for large carriers, brokers, and shippers. According to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), carriers, brokers and shippers are considered large companies when they employ over 500 people or have $27.5 million or more in annual receipts. The good news is that most carriers don’t fall into the large business category. So, small businesses have until April 6, 2018 to comply with the new laws on food safety. But putting the rules into practice now is a good habit to start.

With these 5 tips, you can reduce your risk and help keep your load FSMA compliant, so everyone can enjoy the tastes of summer.


    1. Keep your trailer clean:
      • An odor can stick around after a shipment is delivered. Some experienced reefer drivers say a can of coffee can help absorb odors, however it’s safe to get the trailer washed in the case of hauling fish or other strong smelling cargo.
      • If you’re hauling meat, blood can spread across the trailer floor and possibly contaminate your next load. To avoid this, be sure to wash out your trailer after each load. Some warehouses will have a hose you can use.
      • Take measures to make sure ready-to-eat food is not touching raw food, and that there is no possible cross-contamination between food and non-food items.
    2. Always Pre-Cool:
      • Refrigerated cargo should always be loaded onto a trailer that has been pre-cooled to the required temperature. Pre-cooling prevents the cargo’s internal temperature from rising during the loading process.
      • Be aware how long pre-cooling will take before the trailer is at the designated temperature, reaching 32 degrees or lower in the middle of summer could take hours.
    3. Monitor the temperature:
      • Always ask the shipper at what temperature you should keep the load. Being off even one degree could get the load rejected by the receiver. And remember, the temperature danger zone for bacteria growth is 40° F – 140° F.
      • Don’t rely on the temperature gauge inside the trailer. Instead use a pulp temperature thermometer to record the temperature of the goods when they’re being loaded and record it on the bill of lading (BOL).
      • Check and record the temperature of the freight and trailer when it’s loaded, in transit, and at delivery.
    4. Fuel up:
      • Arrive at the shipper with a full fuel tank. Some shippers might not let you haul a load with less than ¾ of a tank. Because most cooling units run off a diesel generator, losing power due to low fuel could damage the load.
    5. Keep Records:
      • The food safety regulation requires maintenance records of written procedures and agreements that describe how you provide temperature data and your practices for cleaning and sanitizing the trailer. These records need to be kept for a 12-month period.

Keeping your reefer’s fuel tank full can be easy with the TCS Fuel Card! Get huge discounts off the cash price at the truck stops you visit most. To learn more, call us at 844-827-7702 or sign up here!

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