Thursday, June 30, 2016

Keep Pedaling Down the STR Road

Last week I sent out to our carriers a document that will hopefully be a helpful tool for them as they begin to work on their compliance plans for the FDA’s Sanitary Transportation Rule.  I took apart one of the sections, put it into a simple table format, and included some suggestions on how to find their ‘gaps.’  You know, those little things that will become big things if they are not identified and addressed when the FDA, DOJ, or even customers come calling for ‘the plan.’  

How will you show compliance?  

I checked my Constant Contact results and found that half of the recipients had not even opened their emails.  Ya, ouch, hate that.  But after a few phone calls, it seems as though the reason why people are not acting on what must get done is that they are hoping that it (the rule and its enforcement) will either go away or not affect them in a big way.  

Neither of which will be the case in less than a year.

This sort of reminds me of a bike ride my husband took me on a few months ago.  He usually is good about asking where I want to go, and how long or far we should ride.

This morning was a little different.  It was a beautiful Davis, CA February morning, with Spring hinting that it was not far away.  But, my mom had passed away the night before after a long month of enduring the process of surviving multiple strokes.

So, I was a bit ‘disconnected’ and just needed to pedal.  Anywhere.  So Mark took the liberty to choose a few roads.  And it was all good until we stopped at a rural intersection where he asked if I wanted to ride down what I thought he said ‘Thistle Road.’  

Hmmm...I could see a very short section of paving material at the beginning, but it seemed like a short distance, and adventures are alluring on a bike, so I agreed.

When I hear the word ‘thistle’ I hear things like ‘ouch,’ or ‘pricked’ or ‘weedy nightmares that won’t go away’ kinds of things.  All of which could describe to a ‘T’ exactly what we got ourselves into in a matter of minutes.  

The surface was never solid.  Paving material, sand, and very loose gravel was more like it.  Road bike tires are made for hard surfaces, not this stuff.

And what looked like a short distance from our vantage point at the corner turned out to be a very long section of road, a country road, that had no sidewalks.  Only deep ruts, and endless soft ‘grab your tires and throw old ladies in the dirt’ material.

Of course, I survived, but there were a few takeaways from the experience.  

Difficult surface?  
Too soft, wet, or otherwise unpredictable?  Keep pedaling.  Stopping is a sure guarantee for falling over.  And it does not matter how soft the road is, it still hurts!

I find that when I get in weird stuff, I do what I know how to do well, stick with a rhythm, and don’t stop until it’s safe to do so.  Or I am done.

For sure, spend some time acquainting yourself with the terrain.  On a daily basis, I talk to new carriers that I see out here on Highway 101, all the time, who at best, have only heard of the rule.
I think a rut and soft dirt is bad.  But after reading about the energy and resolve the FDA and DOJ has in their veins, my strongest suggestion is to know, understand and comply with the rule.

When these guys grab you like a slick road bike tire, they are determined to make it hurt, because that is their method of getting your attention and forcing you to prove you move produce safely.

Never heard of this road before?  

Hmm...depending on where you are, better to ask around first and become familiar with what to expect in the distance.  And definitely know the distance.

The Sanitary Transportation Rule is here and is a road we will all have to take, and ride till the end. There are parts of this process that are unknown, and the only way most people involved in moving produce will get through it is to start, handle the issues that come up, and finish.

For sure, spend some time acquainting yourself with the terrain.  There is plenty of information available to know what the important parts of the rule are, so invest your energy, time and knowledge in knowing where you have to end up.  

That would be...compliant.  


Well, it is sort of like ‘Thistle Road.’  There was a beginning and an end.  I could take a break, or choose different ruts, but to turn around would be a waste of the time and effort I had already spent getting to where I had managed to ride.  And even though it was my body that was doing the work, trust me, the mental energy it took to focus on pedaling, choosing the best rut, and praying I didn’t fall, was exhausting.  No way would I even consider turning around!

So, yes, there are things to do to be more time and effort efficient, but in the end, the distance is the same, and the shortcuts will tip you over.  It’s better to accept (or as people use today, embrace) the fact that compliance is mandatory, time worthy, and best accomplished by choosing the safest path available.

One last takeaway…

Hopefully, this will encourage you.  I wouldn’t trade this experience with my husband for anything.  We share a great memory about a very difficult time.

So, enjoy the people who travel with you, and definitely know that once you get through it, you will have finished the ride, completed a difficult journey, and are ready to do the ‘next thing,’ whatever that may be.  

BTW, the road was actually ‘Thissell Road.’  But it will always be a tricky ride to me, no matter what its name.  

And if you have a fun riding story, I would like to hear it.  I always appreciate the fact that others get themselves into crazy places too!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Almost Here! STR Compliance in 5 Steps

Eighteen years and counting! Time flies when we’re having fun, and sometimes even when it’s not so much fun.  This July I will truly celebrate my anniversary here at Pam Young & Company, Inc.  It is a pleasure and a privilege to own a business that is so diverse and positioned to be an asset to so many people who trust us with their own businesses.

As the time gets closer, I will be sharing a bit more about our previous owner, Jack Pardue.  He is quite ‘storied’ and many of you remember him well.  One of you told me the first time we talked that whatever Jack said, you could ‘take to the bank.’

One principle that Jack drove home to me was to show up every day ready to be the best help possible to everybody who needed it.  I used to sit across the desk from him and listen as he seemed to be promising the moon to people.  But darn it, he always delivered.

And what was so amazing to me was how he just had a knack at listening to someone and within minutes out came an idea, a solution, a possibility, all sorts of options in Jack’s mind to be helpful.  Sometimes people didn’t even realize that then could use a little boost, but Jack just could see it, and always wanted to do it.  If there ever was an example of ‘If there’s a will, there’s a way,” Jack was it!

I can’t say that I am as in tune with people as Jack.  But I can say that for almost 38 years (Jack opened in 1978) our primary purpose has always been to find ways to help our carriers be as strong, healthy and happy as they can be.  

As we started talking about the FDA’s Sanitary Transportation Rule, it wasn’t long before I could tell that not many members of the trucking community knew much about it.  One of Aly’s carriers told her, “Just give me 5 steps to do to make sure we’re compliant.”  So, I did.

Section by section, I read the rule and broke it down into ‘compliance pieces.’ I have to admit, I would rather read case law than statutes and regulations, but digging into the nitty gritty has to be done to ‘get done.’  

The FDA’s overall goal, as it states throughout the rule, is really to build on current safe food transportation practices.  So while there are requirements, most carriers, at least the professional ones, are already doing most of what is required.  

I sent our carriers a link to a sample section so that they could check it out and let me know if what we are suggesting makes sense and has potential to be a tool in their compliance efforts.  If I get a ‘thumbs up’ and I can get things tweaked according to their suggestions, I will make the plan available to anyone who might be interested.

My hope that this is something that a) will help carriers get their plans done, b) be able to use as a tool with their freight customers, and c) give them confidence that they are completely compliant, which is the most important thing to me.  It is so important with all the changes in the industry to know you are on the right path and that a company can answer ‘Yes’ to the question, “Are you operating a safe and secure trucking operation?”

In our email newsletter, I also included a link to our How to Deliver your Cherry Load in ‘Cherry Condition.’  I want to believe that carriers are educating and training their drivers in the nuances of hauling produce.  But I am finding that there are definitely some holes in driver training.  If a carrier’s drivers and dispatchers follow these guidelines, they will eliminate unnecessary and unwelcome problems in their produce shipments.  

Trust me, this list was gained through more pain that I want to admit!  But 18 years driving this bus with very few claims (hear ‘knock knock knock’ on my wooden head) and I’m thinking this list is solid.  

Take advantage of my mistakes. I am happy to share this list.  Stop in and send me your email or call us and we can send you a link for access.

Jack’s advice to drivers who had fallen a bit behind their delivery schedules was always “Pick ‘em up and set ‘em down.  One foot in front of the other.”  This is sort of how I think of this new FDA rule and the path to compliance.  It’s all doable, and having a plan to help stay organized will make you all Produce Transportation Specialists!

Hang in there, safe travels.