little to no knowledge of the STR.
Many people have asked whether the rule is actually being enforced, and if so,
what should a company expect if and when it is asked to produce proof of compliance. While published reports of actual investigations relating specifically to the rule
are difficult to find, shippers and truck drivers have informally referred to instances
when, during an inspection for FSMA or Department of Transportation (DOT)
compliance, an inspector informally asks questions specifically related to compliance with the STR. A closer look at enforcement is discussed later.
The State of the Transportation Industry
In the transportation industry, knowledge of and compliance with the rule depend on the character of the company. Carriers that identify themselves as progressive and/or innovative are typically the companies that have participated in a food
safety training, know the rule and its requirements, and have protocols that align
with the rule’s requirements. But only about 25 percent of the largest fleets in the
nation would be part of this “progressive” group.
Many of these are contracted carriers for some of the largest foodservice, retail,
and wholesale companies. Driving through fresh produce-growing regions, such as
California’s Salinas Valley, one can find quite a few of these fleets loading or waiting for a pickup at a shipper’s facility that supplies these food companies. Often,
when asked why compliance is not a priority within their organization, a carrier’s
response is that “no one,” meaning their
customers, is requiring compliance yet.
What does a carrier mean when it says
no one is “requiring” it to comply with the
Typically this comment refers to a contractual obligation with which a carrier has
agreed as part of its transportation contract. When the rule was first published
and food shippers began to understand
that FDA had placed primary responsibility for specifying food safety protocols
on them, they contractually shifted the
burden for compliance onto the carriers’
backs. In many cases, food safety personnel relied on the company’s legal department to create, via a contract, the compliance required to meet FDA’s expectations.
This shift was anticipated by FDA in
the rule, as they made it clear that while
the shipper knew best how to take care of
its product, it was acceptable for the shipper to specify how that should be done
and then require the carrier to bear the
shipper’s burden for FSMA compliance.
The reality of the situation is that the
food companies that are depending on
their food safety departments to ensure
FDA compliance are assuming (or hop-
ing) that this is happening on the basis of
contractual agreements. Unfortunately,
these carriers are operating under a few of
their own assumptions, such as the fact
that if they have signed a contract, that
alone is proof that they have adequately
complied with the rule. Actual compli-
ance pieces, other than making sure
their drivers have seen the 1-hour FDA
video, may or may not be written and
implemented in their company’s safe
food transportation plan.
It seems that many carriers don’t
even have a food safety plan.
And worse for food companies, par-
ticularly shippers, if they do not have
a contract in place with a carrier or
haven’t implemented a safe food trans-
portation plan, the chances are real that
the carriers supplying their company
with transportation for its food products
may not have any idea that the STR ex-
ists and that legally they are responsible
for compliance (see “A ‘How-To’ Carrier
A “How-To” Carrier Guide
for a Food Safety Plan
While putting a food safety plan in place is necessary, it does not need to be
complicated but does need to be completed. It does not need to be perfect, but it should
be a work in progress and will change as you start implementing your procedures. It will
need to be prepared and performed. “Prepared” refers to the procedures that are planned
out, written with achievable outcomes, and focused on preventing problems that happen
in transportation. “Performed” refers to the actual implementation of your plan. Build in
methods, including documentation, that ensure that your employees and your company
partners (customers, suppliers) are able to consistently and completely comply.
Here are three simple steps to start:
1. Assign a person to supervise and manage the process. This is the Competent
Supervisory Person (CSP) required in Section 1.908(a)( 2) of the STR who should be
skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced in all relevant areas like food safety and
2. Make a bucket list. The “buckets” will help organize all the responsibilities required
in the rule. Use the rule to make the buckets: CSP; Vehicles and Transportation
Equipment; Transportation Operations; Training; and Records.
3. Under each bucket, start listing your company’s activities that fall into each group.
Make a table or chart that can be helpful in knowing how your compliance is going
and what you need to get done. In each group (e.g., Vehicles and Transportation
Equipment), the rule has defined areas of responsibilities. Under each area, using
labels such as Doing, Not Doing, and To Do, write the activities that your company is
already doing and what you are missing: The latter becomes your To Do list, which
should include dates and people responsible for making sure a task gets finished and
moved to the Doing list.
If you have signed a contract with a shipper or another party named in the rule for
specific compliance requirements, those requirements become your bucket list. If and
when your customer asks for your compliance records to show you are meeting your
contractual obligations, your plan will be complete.
Remember, cross your t’s and dot your i’s. It’s one thing to have a plan, but it is not
truly complete unless it is implemented. Your CSP is responsible for ensuring that the plan
has moved from preparation to performance!