Anytime that you haul a load of pigs, it is essential to properly clean the truck between groups. Certainly that should be among the standard-operating procedures included in your herd’s biosecurity program.

To help you with that task, here’s a list of practical truck-cleaning protocols from IowaStateUniversity'sCollege of Veterinary Medicine and Alex Ramirez, DVM, with the university’s diagnostic and production animal medicine department.

Start with the Basics

  • Completely empty the truck’s cavity of all straw and fecal material before entering the wash area.
  • Remove all detachable equipment from inside the truck.
  • Once you’ve pulled into the washing station, raise the front of the truck on mounts.
  • Plan to soak the trailer before washing to reduce overall wash time.
  • Using soap during the pre-soak period can further loosen debris and reduce washing time. However, don’t allow the soap to dry or it will be hard to rinse off.
  • Spray detergent inside the truck’s trailer using a low-pressure spray (300 psi 30 bar) or a foam gun. Set the detergent application at a concentration of 2 percent.

Ready to Wash

  • Begin with the inside front of the top deck; start the soap application at the wall/floor junction. Work up the wall sides from bottom to top; this reduces streaking and provides more surface contact time. Soak the roof and floor while working toward the back of the trailer.
  • After you have applied soap to the entire trailer, go outside and start rinsing and cleaning the trailer from the top down. Once the rinsing session is complete, apply soap and wash the cab. This provides additional soaking time for the inside of the trailer.
  • When you return to the inside of the trailer, the objective is to rinse and clean each deck from front to back and from the ceiling to the floor. Start with the top deck.
  • During the rinsing, washing and rinsing process, make sure that you spray the flooring supports located on the ceiling of the bottom deck (in a multi-deck trailer.) Also spray behind all gates, in all corners and on the inside of the roll-up door. Don’t forget to wash the unloading ramps.
  • During the winter, it’s essential to wash all of the winter panels as well as the storage box after you’ve completed each trip.
  • Always wash and disinfect the cutting boards, paddles, boots and coveralls that you’ve used following a load of pigs.
  • Allow the inside of the truck/trailer to dry for at least one hour-- longer is better. The objective is for it to dry thoroughly. Cold weather will require additional drying time, so plan accordingly.

Disinfect and More

  • The next step is to disinfect the area with the right product and at the right concentration. (Visit with your veterinarian for product advice.)
  • Start on the inside of the trailer and finish on the outside.
  • Apply the disinfectant at a low pressure. This often results in more effective disinfectant dilution rates than when the sprayer is used on a high-pressure rate.
  • Allow proper contact time for the selected disinfectant. Most require at least 10 minutes of contact time.
  • Next, thoroughly clean out the inside of the cab. Wash and disinfect the floor mats.
  • Once you’ve finished with the disinfectant, park the truck on a slope so that all of the remaining water can drain out. During the winter it’s best to leave the truck in the wash-out bay or park it in a protected area to ensure that there’s no pooled frozen water in or on the truck.
  • Record the vehicle-cleaning event by entering the information in a designated log-book.
  • It’s a good idea to monitor the washing crew’s technique and periodically review basic procedures with them. Over time, this is an area where it becomes easy to cut corners and forget important details.

Other Options to Consider

  • Farm out the task. Increasingly there are truck-washing services that will do the dirty work for you. It may be worth investigating and making the investment.
  • There also are truck washes available at specialized sites, so you don’t have to set one up yourself. You can go to to identify truck-wash locations by state.
  • Post biosecurity signs at the premises entry, including the stipulation that you allow only clean vehicles to enter your site. Don’t be afraid to turn back dirty vehicles trying to enter your operation. 
  • Designate a parking area for all visitors, including repair and delivery personnel and truckers. Post adequate signage. Make people walk up, not drive up, to your office.  
  • Set up an off-site, load-out/transfer facility if possible.
  • Establish rendering, composting or dead-animal removal sites away from live pigs. Make sure dead animals are removed promptly and with proper precautions.
  • Establish separate load-out chutes to receive pigs, and ones to ship out pigs. 
  • Another option is to establish a dirty-versus-clean line on your loading chutes. Actually mark it with paint so it’s easily visible. The line designates that site workers can only step so far into the chute, and the truck driver can only step so far into the chute at the other end.
  • Do not let pigs or the driver run on and off the truck and cross your marked line.
  • Finally, know your driver, and ensure that he knows your overall biosecurity, load-in and load-out protocols. If you use a service, see that you get the same drivers repeatedly. Switch out any driver that presents a challenge to your herd’s health.

Future truck-washing protocols could include heat treatments following the washing period. “We’re seeing that temperature is important to kill viruses, especially with the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus,” says Ramirez. “Research in this area is underway to learn more about this, as well as the potential costs and benefits.”

For today, running a profitable pork production business relies on making herd health a priority. As such, maintaining biosecurity protocols is a necessity. Refreshing your procedures, your staff and your strategies is always wise. You don’t want to truck in a herd-health problem that could have been avoided.