Indiana law expands police authority over food trucks

Less than a year after trucks in Indiana were found to be transporting food at unsafe temperatures and raw vegetables soaked in meat drippings, a new state law will penalize truckers who transport food without complying with state health rules, beginning in July.

Tom Karst of The Packer reports that the law means trucks transporting perishable foods without proper refrigeration can be inspected, detained and in certain cases, impounded by law enforcement officers.

The law would expand police powers, giving state police the authority to confiscate equipment and loads, said Joe Rajkovacz, regulatory affairs specialist with the Grain Valley, Mo.-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

During an investigation in 2011, Rajkovacz said distributors from Chicago who were supply food to ethnic markets and restaurants were flagged as transporting unrefrigerated loads of perishable food. He said police never found the same issues with long-haul trucks coming out of California.

The law states a person may not operate a motor vehicle for the transportation of food upon a public highway unless the vehicle complies with state rules regarding transportation of food.

An officer may inspect vehicles use to transport food to determine if the vehicle complies with state health rules.

If an officer finds that the temperature of the food is more than two degrees above the acceptable temperature, or if the food exhibits outward signs of contamination, of if the food is improperly loaded so as to risk cross-contamination, the law authorizes the officer detain the vehicle and to contact a health inspector to conduct an investigation. The law also states that a health inspector may order the disposal of certain food and the impoundment of noncomplying motor vehicles.

Barb Hunt, vice president of the Indiana Motor Truck Association, Indianapolis, Ind., said the legislation found overwhelming support in the legislature following the media reports about hot trucks last summer.