E. Coli and the Trucker

It was only a matter of time before another E. Coli outbreak in our food chain occurred. I have watched the cable news shows this morning and have learned some interesting facts about food harvesting and food handling.

Apparently the strain of E. Coli that reared it’s ugly head this week comes from the waste of cattle. This brings an interesting point, did fertilizer have anything to do with the E. Coli outbreak? What other explanation could there be? The spinach in question was from a so called “organic farm” operated by Natural Foods of Oxnard, California. Another explanation I heard on CNN was that the outbreak of E. Coli could have appeared from “IMPROPER REFRIGERATION” in the distribution network!

This could be the real cause of the outbreak. How many times have we worked for a big outfit with several refrigerated trailers? I think most CDL drivers have driven for one of the larger companies that run hundreds of refrigerated trailers. How many times have you backed under a trailer just to find out that the refer unit was A: out of fuel, B: overheated or C: just didn’t work at all! I recently left a refrigerated company that operated over 100 trailers. This company couldn’t even get the trailers in the yard to work right let alone a trailer 500 miles away in a drop yard. Have you ever picked up a trailer, pre-cooled it to 34 degrees (for produce), pick up the load and drive 300 miles down the road only to have the refer break down? I can’t tell you the number of times this has happened to me. The dispatcher usually informs you to keep the doors closed and drive 200 or 300 more miles to get it fixed. This is usually the case in the middle of Nevada or Utah where the nearest Thermo King or Carrier is in Denver! How long do you think the refer will stay at 34 degrees in the middle of August? Look at a map and draw a straight line from Oxnard to Minneapolis, two-thirds of the trip is desert and open road.

I am not speculating that a truck had anything to do with the outbreak of E. Coli. I am only pointing out how fragile our food chain is and as a driver, we need to make an extra effort to make sure our freight arrives safely to it’s destination.

We are entering the winter driving season and we need to take the same precautions with our equipment as we did going into summer. Make sure your equipment is properly serviced, make sure the refer is full of fuel, oil and anti-freeze. Check your tires, brakes, air lines and lighting. Make sure your tire chains (western states) are in good working order and free of rust and missing links. Washington, Oregon and California require ALL commercial vehicles entering and operating in the state to have a minimum of 5 sets of chains by November 1st. As a CDL driver, you have the responsibility to keep your rig safe and operational. Not only is your life at stake, but it could impact hundreds of other people too!


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