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Transportation

Transportation tree graphic

Transportation Decision Tree (Full Portfolio)

Components

Produce can be transported from the field to the packing area or from the farm to market. No matter where the produce is going, it needs to be transported in a way that reduces the risks of contamination. Keeping produce safe during transportation is important and often the last step in delivering safe produce to the customer.1

Vehicle cleanliness and worker training that encourages good handling practices are two areas where you can focus efforts to reduce risks. Keeping your delivery vehicle free of dirt, debris, and pets will reduce contamination risks and send the message that you care about all aspects of food safety from the field to the final customer. Maintaining the cold chain with refrigeration may also be important to some farms. If transportation vehicles have refrigeration units, they should be monitored and properly maintained to make sure they hold produce at the appropriate temperature. Even if you do not have a vehicle with an automatic temperature monitor and refrigeration unit, you can still apply practices that keep the vehicle at an optimal temperature to protect the produce during transport.2 Properly cleaned, packed, and temperature-controlled cargo areas will help minimize produce contamination, loss, and damage in transit.

Workers should understand how to prevent damage to produce during loading as well as ways to reduce contamination risks. In addition, inspecting all vehicles to make sure that they are clean before loading and not stacking dirty boxes or bins on top of clean ones will help reduce contamination risks.

Growers should develop a transportation management plan focused on produce safety. A farm transportation policy that includes requirements for all transportation vehicles including cleanliness and temperature expectations. Decisions about proper temperatures for cooling and holding produce should be science-based and follow recommendations of allowable temperature range depending on the produce being delivered.3 This policy could include contract requirements for hired delivery vehicles including the documentation of prior loads to ensure they have not carried cargo that could contaminate the fresh produce as well as the requirement to have functioning refrigeration units on the truck.

  • A checklist that should be completed prior to loading produce onto any vehicle. This checklist could include steps for monitoring cleanliness as well as temperature.
  • A maintenance schedule for each vehicle to prevent unintended roadway breakdowns and ensure they are kept clean.
  • Train workers on the vehicle SOPs, e.g., for cleaning vehicles and monitoring cleanliness, and SOPs for proper loading of vehicles.

A worker training program that informs workers how to minimize risks during the loading process as well as how to monitor truck cleanliness and temperature (if required) prior to loading. If the farm owns the transportation vehicles, worker training may also need to include how to properly clean the vehicles when they are dirty and what to do if the truck’s refrigeration is not working properly.

  • A checklist that should be completed prior to loading produce onto any vehicle. This checklist could include steps for monitoring cleanliness as well as temperature.
  • A maintenance schedule for each vehicle to prevent unintended roadway breakdowns and ensure they are kept clean.4

References

  1. Protecting Perishable Foods During Transport by Truck. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service, September 1995, reprinted July 2006.
  2. Kitinoja, L., & Gorny, J. R. (1999). Postharvest Transportation. Chapter 8 in Postharvest Technology for Small-Scale Produce Marketers: Economic Opportunities, Quality and Food Safety. Postharvest Horticulture Series 21. A publication of the UC Postharvest Technology Research and Information Center in association with the USAID/Agricultural Commercialization and Enterprise Project (ACE·India).
  3. Thompson, J., A. Kader, and K. Sylva. 1996. Compatibility chart for fruits and vegetables in short-term transport or storage. Oakland: Univ. Calif. Div. Ag. and Nat. Res. Publ. 21560.
  4. Ashby, B. Hunt. Protecting Perishable Foods During Transport by Truck. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service, September 1995, reprinted July 2006.