Truck cabs and biocontainment

National Pork Board Semi Truck (1).jpg
In recent outbreak investigations, including feed mill and truck wash audits, it is crucial to assess the cleanliness of the truck cabs within the system.

With a rise in disease outbreaks across the Midwest, many swine producers have begun to take a closer look at their biosecurity protocols. Outbreak investigations can be a useful tool to assess current biosecurity practices and look for areas of improvement within a system. Often, we may not clearly define the cause of a disease introduction or find the "smoking gun" per say. However, understanding the inputs and outputs of a farm can point in the direction of where to focus.

Vehicle movement around farms is one of the inputs that occurs on a daily, or weekly basis, depending on the stage of production. This includes over the road semi-trucks, feed trucks and employee vehicles.

When assessing these areas, we should think of two things. The first is bio-exclusion where we prevent pathogen entry onto the farm. However, we should also consider biocontainment. Biocontainment is our responsibility as personnel to prevent us from carrying around harmful pathogens from positive sites.

Semi-truck cabs are a cause for concern due to drivers being responsible for loading pigs and stepping in and out of the cab while at the farm. Many of these trucks receive exterior washes on a regular basis, but the cab cleanliness can be hard to regulate. Feed truck cabs also should not be ignored. Feed trucks may travel to multiple farms a day and drivers step in and out of trucks continuously while feed is delivered. All these trucks are very interconnected within the swine systems and may carry harmful pathogens with them if we are not careful.

In recent outbreak investigations, including feed mill and truck wash audits, it is crucial to assess the cleanliness of the truck cabs within the system. Visually, if a truck has been deemed "clean" then the truck cab should be completely free of debris and dust followed by disinfectant application.

A good measure for assessing cleanliness can also involve collecting environmental swabs for pathogen testing. Unless there is a particular health concern in mind, a simple protocol would be sampling truck cabs and submitting the sample for rotavirus PCR testing. While rotavirus might not be a primary pathogen of concern, it is generally ubiquitous in all swine manure. Therefore, if we assess any positive test results, we can assume there is potential for more harmful swine pathogens to reside in the truck cab as well.

If we complete truck cab assessments and pair that rotavirus testing, what's next? First, if we see any positive test results in conjunction with visibly dirty truck cabs, we may ask ourselves- what if this was porcine epidemic diarrhea virus or a potential foreign animal disease? If it is in our truck cabs, where else could it have spread to? The potential is there for possible spread to feed mills, truck washes, offices and other farms due to the inherent foot traffic of personnel.

While we can plan travel routes around system health statuses, we must remember that the entire vehicle should be clean before starting the next day or arriving to a farm with a different health status than the previous visit. This should include vacuuming or sweeping out all dirt and debris from the truck cabs. Dusting the surfaces, such as the dashboard and steering wheel, should also be considered before applying disinfectants to the cab. Ideally, we would don shoe covers when exiting all truck cabs. However, in the feed delivery system, this may not be practical.

Some tips for truck cab cleanliness:

  • Provide a convenient location for a truck cab cleaning station in your system. This may include a designated truck wash bay, wall mounted vacuum, dusting cloths and disinfectant that is easy to use.
  • Ensure truck cabs are comprised of easy to clean materials such as vinyl floors or large floor mats, leather/vinyl seats or washable seats covers.
  • Establish clear expectations for truck cab cleanliness. Create an end of day check list for cleaning this area.
  • Provide system follow-up with biosecurity education and third-party assessments to ensure we are doing what we say we are each day.

Keeping truck cabs clean is an easy request to make but can be a daunting task to accomplish. We must consider making biosecurity compliance convenient and easy to use. Otherwise, it simply will not be accomplished every day to the level of expectation.

Source: Erin Kettelkamp, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa.

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