On any given day, more than a million pigs are transported on U.S. roads to farm sites or to market. While pork producers and truckers work together to keep pigs safe en route, planning for the unlikely event of a truck rollover, an accident, truck engine failure or another emergency can’t be left to chance.

The Pork Checkoff’s Pork Quality Assurance® Plus (PQA Plus®) and Transportation Quality Assurance® (TQA®) programs provide detailed information on safe handling and transporting of pigs. This newsletter shares tips on keeping pigs safe, but full information can be found on pork.org.

“Safe transportation is, of course, an animal welfare goal, but it also has financial implications,” said Jennifer Woods, a livestock handling specialist based out of Alberta, Canada. “There can be large economic costs associated with accidents, such as loss of the value of animals, rescue and recovery costs, loss of equipment and potential increased insurance costs.”

Failing to Plan Equates to Planning to Fail

Woods provides emergency-response training to animal producers, transporters and emergency personnel across North America. She says that failing to plan for transportation emergencies equates to planning to fail.

“Without planning, people don’t know what to do with animals involved in an accident, she said. “Training can provide a better outcome to all involved.”

Sara Crawford, assistant vice president of animal welfare for the Pork Checkoff, said that emergency response planning is important to ensure animal care, as well as to maintain and build consumer trust and to promote the pork industry.

“Transporting pigs safely is important to the health and welfare of everyone involved in the food chain, including responders, handlers, animals and the public,” Crawford said. “Today’s consumers are interested in learning about how pigs are raised, including how they are transported.”

She added, “The pork industry’s We Care℠ initiative demonstrates producers’ ongoing dedication to doing what’s best for people, pigs and the planet. The TQA program focuses on the safe transport of pigs, offering detailed tips on avoiding accidents and what to do if one occurs.”

Woods and Crawford say that public perception is important when planning how to handle accidents and emergencies with today’s social media.

“I’ve conducted emergency response training for 20 years,” Woods said. “While animal safety has remained a constant, today we now also have to address the role of social media. Every phone has a camera, and it’s not uncommon for passers-by and even emergency personnel to snap photos and post them online within minutes.”

For everyone’s safety, transporters need a response plan, she said.

“Only first responders, local police, fire personnel and trained company emergency responders should work the accident scene, with everybody else at least 50 yards back. Emergency personnel need to be trained that this is a sensitive situation involving someone’s livelihood.”

Roger Lennartz, vehicle and equipment maintenance manager for Cooper Farms in Ohio and an officer in his local fire department for the last 15 years, agrees that public perception is critical. He says that drivers, companies and transport contractors should know what resources are available in the event of an accident.

“We train drivers that the first call is always to public safety officials and the next call to us,” Lennartz said. “Along with company drivers, contract haulers and their drivers should be trained on causes of transport accidents and have a who-to-call list if an accident occurs. After contacting emergency personnel, the owner/management of the animals should be contacted.”

Sherrie Webb, director of animal welfare at the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, said that in addition to having a plan and knowing who to call, producers and transporters also need to take steps to prevent accidents.

“For example, use caution when loading pigs to avoid top-heavy loads that can cause rollovers,” Webb said. “Drivers need to know signs of fatigue and how to manage and prevent them. They should practice safe driving – monitor their speed, slow down when navigating corners, be aware of road conditions and eliminate distractions.“