What is a Food-Grade Trailer?

As a company that ships food intended for human and/or animal consumption, you play an important role in the protection of life. Since countless people (or animals) eat your products, it’s imperative that safety is prioritized from your production facilities and warehouses to store shelves

Food-grade trailers are important for maintaining your product’s quality during transit. That said, food-grade trailers are also necessary for distributing food that’s safe to eat — a fact that can’t be overlooked. 

Failing to secure a food-grade transportation solution creates risks for all parties, including your company’s reputation and supply chain fulfillment. The last thing you need are spoiled products because your truck showed up without being pre-cooled or damaged goods because their trailer wasn’t properly cleaned prior to pickup.  

Anderson Trucking Service (ATS) provides transportation services for many kinds of food products. After decades in this industry, we’re not strangers to the oversight and planning needed to safely haul food shipments. 

Meeting food-grade trailer standards for all of your shipments can’t be overlooked or avoided. This article will give you a definition of what a food-grade trailer is and outline what to consider when formulating the trailer requirements you ask transportation companies to meet. 


What is a Food-Grade Trailer?

A food-grade trailer is one that’s used to transport products intended for consumption by humans and/or animals. Every food shipper sets its own guidelines for the trailers it’ll allow to transport products. Many of these are designed to ensure the quality of products following transport; keeping a trailer that just hauled garbage from moving its load of chicken, for example.

That said, first and foremost, a food-grade trailer must be capable of meeting the “vehicles and transportation equipment” guidelines outlined in Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  

Under this section of the FSMA, every vehicle and piece of equipment used to carry food products must be able to do so without contaminating the safety of consuming them. The FSMA is primarily concerned with maintaining a safe food supply chain and doesn’t focus on the quality of human and animal food products.

Chocolate is a good example of this; if a chocolate bar melts in transit, its quality might be compromised, yet melted chocolate isn’t unsafe to consume. 

To meet the food-grade standards expected by the FDA, the vehicles and equipment used in transportation operations must:

  1. Be designed and of such material and workmanship as to be suitable and adequately cleanable for their intended use to prevent the food they transport from becoming unsafe during transportation; (21 CFR 1.906(a))*

  2. Be maintained in such a sanitary condition for their intended use as to prevent the food they transport from becoming unsafe during transportation; and (21 CFR 1.906(b))*

  3. Be stored in a manner that prevents their harboring pests or becoming contaminated in any other manner that could result in food for which they will be used becoming unsafe during transportation. (21 CFR 1.906(d))*

Additionally, food requiring temperature control for safety must be designed, maintained and equipped as necessary to provide adequate temperature control to prevent the food from becoming unsafe during transportation. (21 CFR 1.908(c))*

*Definitions are taken from the FDA’s Compliance Guide for the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food.

Great transportation companies have systems and procedures in place to keep trailers in food-grade condition, including those for cleaning, inspection, maintenance and storage.


What’s Your Role in Securing a Food-Grade Trailer?

Injecting safety into the food transportation process is the main focus of food-grade trailers. Be sure to work with transportation companies that have an extended history of moving food products and the resources needed to adequately service, maintain and store their vehicles and equipment

That said, as long as they meet the FSMA’s expectations, each company can hold more specific requirements for the food-grade trailers it uses. 

These decisions are up to you. As the party most familiar with your products, it’s your responsibility to relay all specifications and requirements for your transportation provider’s trailers. 

Write down these requirements and share this with each transportation company you utilize. 

Include as much information as possible like: 

  • Whether your commodity requires temperature control and at what temperature
  • Whether your trailer needs to be pre-cooled
  • Whether pre-cleaning procedures are necessary and if a certificate is required showing proof of being professionally cleaned. 
  • What you don’t want to be hauled prior to your cargo (garbage, hazardous waste, etc.)
  • Whether special transportation certifications are required from your driver

Be as in-depth as possible; limiting ambiguity will ensure you receive adequate service and the right food-grade solution.  

Shipping Food Products? Understand the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

When it comes to moving food commodities intended for consumption by humans and/or animals, you can’t cut any corners — especially if you ship perishable items that could spoil. 

Pay special attention to cross-contamination, especially of foods that may be allergens such as shellfish, nuts or others that pose a serious risk.

Now you know what a food-grade trailer is and why it’s important to ensure your transportation company can reliably offer them. 

Your journey into learning about the FSMA and what it means for your transportation supply chain should not end here. 

Read this article on What the Food Safety Modernization Act Means for Your Transportation Supply Chain where you’ll learn what’s expected of you, as a shipper, and what you can do to ensure compliance and safety. 

Finally, don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions. It’s important you feel comfortable with the safety of your transportation supply chain and we’re happy to help in any way you need.

Tags: Transportation Services, Safety

Brandon Voigt

Written by Brandon Voigt

As a sales representative for ATS Logistics, Brandon provides worldwide transportation solutions to current customers and new customers — specializing in spot quotes for dry vans, refrigerated shipping, open deck shipping and more. He also provides a customizable approach to assist with every problem his book of business brings to him by working closely with his peers.

Get the Latest Content Straight to Your Inbox!

We Have a Podcast! Find Us on Your Favorite App.

Apple Podcasts logoSpotify logoGoogle Podcasts logoAmazon Music logoAmazon Music logo

Beyond the Road Podcast logo

Recent Posts

Work With a Transportation Provider You Can Trust

You don't want your freight in just anyone's hands. Find a transportation provider that cares about your safety and your reputation. Learn how ATS can help.

Connect With an Expert