By Clarissa Kell-Holland
Small-business truckers who haul the majority of this country’s fresh food have significant real-world experience when it comes to food safety and security concerns involving the entire supply chain.
With the heightened focus on protecting the nation’s food supply, the Center for Agriculture and Food Security and Preparedness (CAFSP) located at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Veterinary Medicine has been given the task of developing a training program through a $5 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security.
The focus of the program is to “promote intelligence information sharing and dissemination between federal, state and local officials and the private sector on the topic of importation and transportation of food, food ingredients and animal feed.”
Dr. Sharon Thompson, CAFSP’s director, invited OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Joe Rajkovacz, a former produce hauler with more than 29 years of trucking experience, to serve as an expert on the transportation aspect of the training program.
“The reason I was asked to be a part of this is to help tighten up the training program by providing them with the right terminology and real-world examples of how things work in the trucking industry,” he said.
As of press time, Rajkovacz had participated in the initial pilot of the training program, which will eventually include an instructor-led and online course that will be rolled out to approximately 7,800 trainees. He said this is the first of at least three more tests in the next few months.
He said the hope is that this training module will eventually become part of the First Observer, a highway security program funded by FEMA and administered by the Transportation Security Administration. OOIDA is a partner in First Observer.
“I’m giving them a perspective they may not have already,” he said. “This is a real opportunity to educate others in the various government agencies and let private industry know how critical we (truckers) are in discussions about food safety and security.” LL