Independent livestock handling specialist Jennifer Woods of Alberta, Canada, says the United States needs a national program to address livestock hauling accidents.
The cattle and hog industries, which rank first and second, respectively, in the number of livestock hauling accidents, don't have adequate programs to deal with this animal transportation issue, she charges.
Woods has consulted with Murphy-Brown and Cargill Pork, both of whom have dedicated livestock accident reduction programs. But more industry efforts are needed, she says.
Pork Board Sets Changes
The pork industry may soon be expanding its efforts in that area. Erik Risa, Education Program manager for the National Pork Board, coordinates the five-year-old Trucker Quality Assurance (TQA) program. He says plans are in the early stages to reposition TQA's focus from just truck drivers to all who are involved in livestock transport from farms to packing plants.
Risa says the Pork Board projects it will relaunch the TQA program in the first quarter of 2008, renamed as the Transportation Quality Program.
At the same time, those trained in TQA will become recertified. Currently there are 11,155 certified truckers and 400 certified instructors.
Woods expects the revised TQA program will be a major focal point at a full day's workshop on livestock transportation issues during the American Meat Institute's Animal Care & Handling Conference Feb. 13-15, 2008, in Kansas City, MO. She is also working with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
Livestock transportation programs need to be more than how to handle accidents when they happen. In helping Murphy-Brown, Woods stressed that accident prevention should be an integral part of the driver-training program.
“We found out that if the drivers talk about their accidents to other drivers, they are actually less likely to have another accident,” she says.
So as part of the training DVD for drivers at Murphy-Brown, “we didn't just include what to do in the event of an accident, but steps needed to prevent accidents,” Woods notes.
She is currently assembling a comprehensive paper evaluating more than 400 wrecks involving commercial livestock haulers, which looks at time of day, type of animals, number of animals euthanized, cause of accident, etc. She says it will be completed by the end of August.
“Beef cattle are first in the number of transportation accidents, and hogs are number two,” she reveals. For beef, trailers hauling feeder cattle have the highest rate of accidents. In the pork sector, market hogs represent 80% of accidents documented, with 16% involving feeder pigs or weaned pigs and 3% for sows.
Interestingly, 80% of the mishaps are single-vehicle accidents. Driver error accounts for about 85% of the problems, making driver training a key element, stresses Woods.
Weather and mechanical problems account for only 1-2% of the causes of livestock hauling accidents, she adds.
Most of these accidents occur between midnight and 9 a.m. from drivers falling asleep at the wheel. The high profile of a livestock trailer provides little margin for error. When the truck veers right onto the shoulder, it's very difficult to keep it from ending up in the ditch, she says.