The OU has made great strides in the last several years towards ensuring that kosher products are transported only in kosher approved tanker trucks. To this end, we now certify fleets of kosher dedicated tankers and kosher truck wash stations throughout the country.
The OU sends mashgichim to audit truck depots to monitor that dedicated trucks are only carrying kosher commodities (even on their backhauls) and that they are cleaned with a kosher maintenance wash.
A kosher maintenance wash is a washing that will maintain the kosher status of an already kosher truck. It is not a kashering. After a truck delivers a load, it must be washed and sanitized before it can be reloaded. A kosher wash does not use non-kosher recycled water. It is the responsibility of the Mashgiach who visits the trucking depot to make sure that dedicated kosher tankers are only receiving a kosher maintenance wash. A mashgiach, shipping or receiving product at a plant, only needs to verify that the tanker is kosher certified but does not need to verify that a kosher wash was performed. The OU as well as other kosher certifying organizations have created a network of kosher maintenance wash stations across the country to service these fleets.
If a tanker is not part of a certified fleet it is permitted to transport kosher commodit if it underwent a kosher upgrade wash. Mashgiach must obtain a kosher upgrade wash ticket before loading product. A kosher upgrade wash is a prolonged washing with roschim water performed in the presence of a mashgiach and determined to be a sufficient kashering.
One should not confuse a kosher maintenance wash with a kosher upgrade wash. While an upgrade wash is a kashering, a maintenance wash just preserves the status quo. It is common for companies and truckers to think that they are permitted to load a non-certified truck because they have paper work showing that it had received a kosher maintenance wash. I recently spoke with the operator of a truck wash facility who had difficulty understanding this difference. It is important that that this distinction be understood.
It is incumbent upon the mashgiach who visits a location that receives bulk tanker transports to review the bills of lading of all the products that arrived since his last visit, to ensure that the truck that delivered the product was from an approved fleet. (If one is not sure which trucks are certified, they should contact Rabbi Gavriel Price for an updated list.) Similarly, a mashgiach that visits a plant that dispatches products in tanker trucks should make sure that these tankers are certified.
What should a mashgiach do if he finds that a tanker was not certified?
If the kosher commodity was not heated, then the product will always be permissible bidieved, since kevisha only takes place after 24 hours. At that point the tank will always be nosain ta’am lifgam. While this does not permit the lichatchila use of such tankers nonetheless the kosher product remains kosher. Since the product was already sent, we may accept the product. However, if the tanker originated from an OU certified plant, then the RC should contact the company and remind them of OU trucking policy.
If the kosher commodity was heated or was a davar charif (alcohol, vinegar…) that can rejuvenate old bliahs (mechalya lay lishvach), then we have a more significant issue. We have found that tanker trucks in America typically carry loads that are more than 60 times the dimensions of the walls of the tank. In general, American 6000 gallon tankers that are more than 75% full will meet this criterion. If a heated commodity was loaded when the tanker was an aino ben yomo then the product can also be accepted bidieved. However, if the product was a davar charif that was kavush in the tank for 24 hours and there was no bitul b’shishim then the office should be contacted immediately. It should be stressed that commodities transported under the supervision of the OU should be transported in kosher dedicated trailers only.
Group one products are often produced by uncertified companies and it is beyond our control to ensure that they are sent on certified trailers. As noted above this situation is acceptable for products sent at ambient temperature. However, the transport of heated group one products should be evaluated by the RC/RFR to ensure that the criteria above are being met (e.g. that the tankers are sent full or do not carry non-kosher).
In parts of the world where we have not yet developed a system of dedicated tankers, a mashgiach should verify that the prior loads were kosher commodities before sending out products. If we have documentation that the three prior loads were acceptable then we may allow OU products to be loaded onto these trucks.1 Where this is difficult, Rabbi Genack said that we may rely on the immediate previous load being acceptable.
Transportation issues are by nature complex, as they involve many variables. The scope of these halachos cannot be adequately captured in one page. It should be noted, in addition, that some commodities have unique halachic considerations such as stam yayin or milk as a previous load.2 Therefore, in cases of extenuating circumstances, one should consult with the poskim for a ruling.
- Mashgichim should be verifying that liquid bulk transports are sent out and delivered by approved carriers.
- If an ambient (non-charif) product is delivered by a non-certified tanker then it is always permitted but the RC should be informed that the company was not complying with OU guidelines.
- If a heated or charif product is delivered by a non-certified tanker then the mashgiach should verify that the product was more than 60 times the walls.3 (In 6000 gallon tanker that it is more than 75% full.)
- If a heated tanker was not batel b’shishim then we must verify the previous load.
- In areas where we do not have a system of certified tankers, we rely lechatchila to send product when we have verified the three prior loads.
- Special leniencies should be approved by the office.
1 Aside from the tanker being an aino ben yomo, the tanker itself usually carries 60 times the volume of its walls. This might be comparable to a kli shemishtamshim bo bi’sheffa which some poskim are lenient if it is an aino ben yomo. Additionally, a typical truck wash consists of an extended irui of 180 F with caustic. Although below roschim, this is above the transporting temperature, and b’shas hadchak we can say kibolo kach polto and bidieved allow a kashering with sha’ar mashkim. Although not every washing is guaranteed to meet these standards, after three loads and three separate washings we may assume that one of the washings was effective.
2 Wine that was kavush in a vessel has certain leniencies as outlined in Y.D. 137:4. Additionally, wine and milk that were kavush have more lenient methods of kashering and a kosher maintenance wash might be all that is required.
3 If one needs help making this computation, I would be happy to assist.