For 2005, it has been a year of recertification and minor but important changes in the pork checkoff-funded Trucker Quality Assurance (TQA) program.

The program launched in 2002, requires truckers to go through recertification classes after three years, explains Erik Risa, manager of certification programs for the National Pork Board.

This year's classes have an added video format, which poses questions and answers to provide an interactive dimension to the educational process, he says.

Truckers now learn about aspects of the Humane Slaughter Act and a new Emergency Response Plan that includes contact numbers in case the trucker has an accident or the packing plant is closed upon arrival.

The test has been upgraded using an outside vendor to provide more comprehensive questions and better emphasis on the important aspects of the TQA program, emphasizes Risa.

A policy added this year to the TQA manual and the Swine Care Handbook aims to improve animal welfare and reduce losses by limiting the number of “those animals that should not be loaded in the first place,” he states.

“Any hog that is unable to walk, is ill or injured, should not be transported into market channels,” says Risa. “When the likelihood of recovery is low, even with treatment, these hogs should be euthanized on the farm.”

Risa stresses the TQA manual has gotten away from the “downer” classification because it does not reflect the three distinct conditions of market hogs that should not be shipped, and treatment may vary for all three groups.

Since its inception, more than 10,000 truckers have been TQA-certified.

For more on TQA, go to the Pork Board's Web site, www.porkboard.org, or call the Pork Checkoff call center at (800) 456-7675.