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SPOILER ALERT! 2017 Industry Outlook

Trends, insight, and analysis you need to know
MS_Spoiler Alert

Food Safety: Game On
The coming year in food safety is all about rules and compliance. As compliance dates for the Food Safety Modern-ization Act (FSMA) go into effect, experts deal with a range of emotions: from fear and dismay at the expense and inconvenience to acceptance that the regulation is truly needed.

Dan Vaché, vice president of supply chain management for United Fresh Produce Association, warns that while FSMA makes good business sense, “it is not a panacea since the majority of produce has no guaranteed kill step to eliminate pathogens, and consumers still need to be reminded they too have a role in food safety.”

Totta calls food safety the “hottest topic in our industry” for several reasons. First will be a “merging of increased demand for precut vegetables with increased scrutiny,” followed by food safety management and protocols taking precedence over other business facets. “It’s going to take the energy and resources of the whole industry to keep up with the new laws.”

In addition, Totta notes, “People are creating positions in their companies for directors of food safety. Typically, producers don’t have complete expertise in the area so they either outsource it or hire someone. There’s a lot of demand for this type of position to be filled right now.”

Shipping & Delivery
Transportation is in a similar boat as new regulations are hammered out and implemented. Vaché says both hours of service and electronic logging—which have been immersed in controversy for some time—will be finalized. He believes these two issues “will change the dynamics of the industry, with many current drivers deciding to retire or leave, due to mounting regulatory issues and the physical demands of the job.”

Transportation issues that still need to be resolved, according to Vaché, are infrastructure and the driver shortage. “We’re behind in investing in our roads and bridges, and air, river, and sea ports that must be upgraded and maintained,” he contends. Regarding the driver shortage, demographics are playing an increasing role and so is the economy. “When the economy is good, many drivers jump out of trucks and go to the construction industry where it pays well and you get to go home every night.”

Looking to the future, Vaché sees a few reasons to be optimistic, as parts of the industry are benefitting from less-than-truckload (LTL) or freight consolidation services and saving energy. Though not all products are suited for LTL shipping, he notes “we are seeing more of the traditional cold storage facilities reaching out to handle produce.”

As long as the economy remains stable, Vaché predicts the demand to move freight will grow along with driver income. He also stands by last year’s prediction on further “research, development, and real-world testing of autonomous vehicles, including trucks. We may see ‘truck platoons’ on interstates, perhaps not in 2017, but in the not-too-distant future.”