Automation aids in classifying truck sanitation status

Platforms allows swine producers to automatically record events concerning truck-wash, market pig deliveries.

June 27, 2024

5 Min Read
National Pork Board

A pilot project funded by the Swine Health Information Center Wean-to-Harvest Biosecurity Research Program, in partnership with the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research and Pork Checkoff, aimed to address the challenge of documenting truck washes between visits to slaughterhouses and return to swine barns, a critical aspect of market haul sanitation in the swine industry. Led by Daniel Linhares and Edison Magalhães of Iowa State University, the study updated the online inventory of truck washes in the Midwest and assessed three different methods for automatically recording truck wash events and market pig deliveries at packing plants. To enable producers to verify trailer cleanliness, automated reports were produced on the status of each trailer to identify non-compliance, such as those trailers not washed between packing plant loads.

Read the truck automated sanitation classification study industry summary here.

SHIC, along with FFAR, a non-profit organization established in the 2014 Farm Bill, and Pork Checkoff, partnered to develop the Wean-to-Harvest Biosecurity Program to investigate research priorities in three areas – bioexclusion (keeping disease off the farm), biocontainment (after a break, keeping disease on the farm to lessen risk to neighbors), and transportation biosecurity (live haul, culls, markets, deadstock and feed haul along with innovative ways to stop pathogens from moving from markets and concentration points back to the farm).

For the recently completed TASC study, the overall objective was to assess three independent platforms to allow swine producers to automatically record events concerning truck-wash and market pig deliveries at packing plants. Specific objectives included:

  1. Update the inventory of truck wash stations available in the Midwest.

  2. Develop the TASC platform to evaluate the field implementation of three methods to capture and manage truck movement data on slaughter plant and truck wash station visits.

  3. Develop the TASC dashboard to provide real-time information.

  4. Enable a search function to allow producers to identify the sanitation status of trucks.

The project was conducted in collaboration with one Midwest swine production system to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of different technologies in recording truck-related events for this company in Iowa.

In collaboration with the Iowa Pork Industry Center, the truck wash inventory and mapping, originally developed in 2015, was updated utilizing a 52-question survey applied to truck washes across 12 different states. The goal of the mapping was to provide producers information about the publicly available truck wash location and details related to facility operations, such as services provided, time and type of wash, and other information.

The updated map of truck washes with the results from the work mentioned is available at this link.

For the development of the TASC platform, three approaches were tested:

  1. GPS tracking of trucks and trailers.

  2. A software application (CleanTrailer app) for automatic creation of electronic tickets for washing events.

  3. Manual data collection at truck wash and packing plant sites.

For the truck and trailer GPS approach, beacons were installed in all trucks and trailers to enable data recording every 30 seconds in trucks and every 30 minutes in trailers. Once the beacons were installed and running in trucks and trailers, geofences were established to differentiate between vehicles entering and exiting the packing plant or the truck wash.

For the second approach, the CleanTrailer software application was utilized to create tickets for each trailer wash during the pilot study. The goal was to utilize a technology that is feasible for implementation by the truck wash personnel while automatically storing truck wash information. The CleanTrailer app collected information regarding truck wash events including worker name, trailer plate photo, and pictures captured before and after washing the trailer. For the third approach, manual collection of data on truck movement at the truck-wash and packing plants was performed.

Data was collected in this study between the periods of July 10, 2023, and August 11, 2023, representing 799 deliveries of pigs to the packing plant and 792 trailer washing events. Data was utilized to compare and evaluate the accuracy and reliability of each method.

Further, the collected data was utilized to build the TASC platform using statistical algorithms based on output generated by the three approaches utilized in this study, which captured data concerning GPS movements, the CleanTrailer app, and on-site manual truck and trailer check in. Algorithms were built to summarize the information from all trailers and trucks, across the three approaches into data visualization reports. Information was organized at both the trailer and truck level. Information in the reports included: number of loads per day, number of visits to washing bays, number of dirty (did not visit washing bay) truck movements, number of dirty (did not visit washing bay) trailer movements, number of pig loads between washes, time (minutes) at the truck wash, and number of movements before washing.

Findings of the TASC study revealed that while all three approaches had strengths and limitations, GPS-based tracking showed higher accuracy in documenting truck wash events and deliveries at packing plants compared to other approaches. However, GPS-based methods were susceptible to errors such as false or duplicate events and geofence limits, highlighting the importance of optimizing technology parameters to minimize discrepancies. In comparison, despite the CleanTrailer app having slightly inferior performance for recording truck wash events, it provided an electronic ticket with pictures of before and after the wash, providing additional information beyond the electronic wash ticket. Despite some missed washes, the agreement between GPS data and the CleanTrailer app was generally high, indicating the potential of automated systems in ensuring compliance with sanitation standards.

Overall, this study demonstrates the capability of utilizing currently available methods used in the swine industry for recording truck wash events and deliveries at the packing plant, thereby establishing a framework for ensuring compliance with sanitation standards and verifying the status-quo of trailers. Examination of the data reveals that trailer-related information was more accurate than truck information. Through automating the processes of integrating data from multiple technologies and reporting wash compliance, the developed TASC platform is a valuable tool for decision-makers within swine production systems, enabling them to identify potential avenues for enhancing market haul sanitation practices.

The results of this study have significant implications for the swine industry, as providing producers with automated reports to monitor truck wash compliance will change behaviors. The scalability of the methods tested suggests broader applicability across production systems, offering a standardized approach to monitoring market haul sanitation practices. Ultimately, these findings empower producers to make informed decisions regarding truck sanitation, thereby safeguarding animal health and improving overall industry practices.

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