Motor carriers are being encouraged to take advantage of a comment period extension covering new regulations promulgated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) back in February as many in the industry are concerned those proposed rules could increase the “risk exposure” of fleets involved in foodstuff transportation.

“There’s really not enough attention being paid to this regulatory effort,” Sam Rizzitelli, national director for transportation at Travelers Insurance’s Inland Marine division, told Fleet Owner.

“People need to provide as much information as possible to the agency [FDA] because the development of those rules is still ‘in process’ right now,” he stressed. “We think there will be a lot of changes but we just don’t know because the rules are still in draft form. We do know that FDA is very receptive to receiving information concerning its proposed rules.”

Rizzitelli noted that the comment period for these proposed regulations – tied to the Sanitary Food Transportation Act of 2005, which is part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) – has been extended to July 31 and that trucking firms involved in either or both human and animal food transportation should take advantage of that extension.

“The critical component is all of this is greater risk exposure,” he explained. “What’s really important is that the rules transcend the supply chain, affecting not just carriers but shippers and receivers too.”

The FDA noted back in February when it rolled out these proposed rules that they not only would apply to domestic shippers, carriers, and receivers transporting food to be consumed or distributed in the U.S. but also to international shippers transporting food via international air freight containers or by oceangoing vessels, then arranging for the transfer of intact containers onto a motor vehicles or railroads in the U.S.

It’s important to note that the FDA’s proposed rules would not cover shippers, receivers, or carriers engaged in food transportation operations that have less than $500,000 in total annual sales.

In addition, the requirements in the proposed rule would not apply to the transportation of fully packaged shelf-stable foods, live food animals, and raw agricultural commodities when transported by farms. The FDA also noted that these proposed regulations would also not apply to shippers, receivers, or carriers who are engaged in transportation operations of food that is transshipped through the U.S. neither to another country, nor to food that is imported for future export and that is neither consumed nor distributed in the U.S.

Finally, the FDA said it is planning to stagger the implementation dates for its proposed rule based on business size, ranging from one to two years after publication of the final rule.

At the heart of the FDA’s new regulations is a particular focus on establishing sanitary transportation criteria, such as properly refrigerating food, adequately cleaning vehicles between loads, and properly protecting food during transportation.

Rick Schweitzer, general counsel for the National Private Truck Council (NPTC), noted during a speech at the group’s annual convention back in April that there is “some concern” when it comes to enforcing those rules as the FDA has no experience in trucking and “no resources to do it.”

Still, although the proposed rulemaking contains new requirements for processes and procedures, employee training, recordkeeping and auditing, Schweitzer said he believes the rule “is essentially what you are already doing. I am very confident that carriers in this room already meet or exceed these standards.”