Arizona milk cooperative maintains steady, strong growth
Sep 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Mary Davis
Drivers typically handle about 70,000 loads annually on routes. On an average day, a driver will haul three routes, averaging about 80 miles each. During the peak season, larger dairies produce enough for 12-14 loads per day while smaller dairies produce about one-to-two loads. UDA contracts with 10 individual drivers who themselves collectively employ over 86 drivers to pick up milk. Each contractor is assigned specific routes for their drivers to handle. Cindy Susoreny, O'Carroll's assistant, coordinates routing.
“Drivers are trained in the procedures for loading milk at the farms,” says O'Carroll. “When they arrive at the location, they are required to agitate the milk in the storage tank for 10 minutes, clean the farm's loading hose ends and valves, and take milk samples.”
Samples are taken from each silo or bulk tank to monitor product acidity, temperature, butterfat, protein levels, and antibiotic residue.
“Drivers have to be accurate,” O'Carroll notes. “The ticket they fill out is a legal document and the milk market administrator checks records for accuracy to ensure members receive correct payments.” (UDA is planning to replace the paper method with hand-held electronic devices that will automatically download the data.)
Roughly 75% of the loads are weighed by scales at the farms while the remaining 25% are stick-measured by the drivers. Weight is confirmed upon arrival at the processing plant.
Approximately 90% of drivers are assigned to local routes. “It's very good for driver retention because they go home every day,” O'Carroll says.
In the co-op's service area, drivers contend with a variety of highway conditions — some in rural areas with rough narrow roads and others in cities with traffic congestion. One route weaves five miles into the Gila River Indian Reservation via a gravel road that limits speed to 25 miles per hour. Drivers also have to be careful not to back into a dairy's mail box or other structures — or leave a gate open. Drivers become familiar with site-specific procedures as they regularly drive the same routes.
Since most of the drivers are local, they fall under the 100-mile radius rules that permits them to work 14 hours per day. If they work fewer than 12 hours, they are not required to fill in a transportation log, O'Carroll says.
The co-op requires driver applicants to be at least 23 years old with two years tanker experience. O'Carroll conducts driver training sessions annually that include company policies, Department of Transportation and Arizona Department of Agriculture regulations, defensive driving, as well as the specific requirements for loading and sampling milk.
O'Carroll also uses a video produced by Chris Thompson, a dairy specialist at the University of Kentucky, that illustrates the requirements of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, which O'Carroll says is the bible of interstate milk commerce. The contract drivers supplement the classroom training by accompanying new drivers, or having one of their more experienced drivers provide coaching at the dairy.
The driver's role is part of the chain that gets the perishable product to market safely and efficiently. Milk hauling operates 24/7 just as do the dairies.
Sanitation and maintenance
To ensure a sanitary transportation of the product, interiors of the 68 co-op tank trailers are washed every 24 hours at UDA's on-site facility. Six receiving bays at the plant are equipped with clean-in-place (CIP) systems. An on-site automated exterior cleaning bay washes tankers in less than 10 minutes and maintains a high standard of cleanliness. This also helps the co-op to present a positive image of the dairy industry to the general traffic public.
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