Propane Safety in Food Trucks

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Thus far most government offices inspect the sanitation of food trucks and rarely check for gas leaks or other similar potential dangers. That is, until one food truck in Minneapolis parked in Lakeville blew up because of a gas leak. This incident triggered a domino effect as one after another sectors of society began to question the safety of food trucks to the point of many consumers worried that they may not be safe being in close proximity to trucks that do not have to follow any propane safety measures.

In Minnesota, food trucks have annual inspections before a license is issued just like restaurants. And although gas leaks are rare, some feel that food truck employees should be trained to know the smell of gas leaks to prevent an explosion from happening.  Aside from the incident at Lakeville, there were 4 other similar cases with food trucks last year with 2 deaths. Some of the safety procedures that must be observed are:

  • Buying propane gas only from licensed dealers
  • Twice yearly check of valves: once before the start of truck season and midway through the season
  • Consider using other cooking methods other than propane gas
  • Buying insurance to cover such incidents
  • Report food trucks that are in violation of any safety standard for commercial vehicles

The Lakeville food truck was not in violation of any safety code. In fact, it was approved for licenses and permits every year since 2012. It never violated any city ordinance or law and only got citations for handlers not wearing sanitary gloves and the use of high concentrated cleaning solutions.

Food truck owners should have a protocol for employees to follow should the following happen:

  • Smell of gas
  • Changing of propane tanks
  • Checking for leaks

Some of the do’s and don’ts for food truck operations using propane gas are:

  • Evacuate the area after shutting down the gas and anything else that is heating
  • Always make it a point to check the vents
  • Never modify the propane set-up without a professional
  • Make sure there is sufficient ventilation

Propane gas is dense so if there is a leak, the gas will settle at the feet level. Make sure you have nothing at the feet level that can cause a spark. You can also buy a leak detector and remind your staff to always shut off the gas at the end of the day and during rest periods.

Factors To Consider When Setting Up A Food Truck Business

The food truck business began way back in the late 1990s or even earlier but was never seriously taken because people just didn’t want to buy food from a truck. Today however, the food truck business is off the charts. It is exciting, “new,” interesting, and you actually have legitimate chefs manning the truck ovens. Perhaps the TV cooking shows contributed to its acceptance into the mainstream food industry or the fact that many are now willing to buy from food trucks because the food prices are cheaper and the choices are varied. Whatever the reason may be food trucks are here to stay and they are getting bolder, quirkier, and more popular.

In setting up a food truck business, you have to consider these factors:

Licensing and Permits

Each city has its own requirements and policies for a food truck. The license is given once a year. If you apply for your license in July, it covers the calendar year; not July to the following July. This is one reason not many new food trucks or businesses are set up in the last quarter of the year. Permits are different because it is treated like a franchise and in some cities like New York, the permits give to food trucks can be for as long as 15 years.

Most cities have a fixed number of food truck permits that they can issue. This is because the trucks can clog up the streets and cause traffic to get worse. It can also upset the restaurant business which is not something the city government would want to happen.

Buying A Food Truck

A food truck can cost as much $75,000 to $100,000 if brand new and much lower if you can find one that is used. Used trucks will need to be refurbished and updated. The cost of the food truck is high because of the requirements from the health department. Food trucks are categorized alongside restaurants so you will need industrial ovens and other kitchen equipment manufactured for restaurants. You can’t buy home appliances and try to create a kitchen in a truck. You will not get approved.


You will need to find an insurance company offering modified standard car insurance. The food truck is a business on wheels so a detailed inventory of what you have inside your food truck will have to be taken into consideration. Naturally, the insurance premium will be higher because of the nature of your business.

Health and Sanitation

Food trucks have to be inspected by quite a number of state and local agencies but the standards are different per city. For example, Los Angeles food trucks need to park within 200 feet of a public bathroom so the food truck workers can wash up. In parts of Nevada, all the workers in food trucks have to be certified food handlers while in New York, food trucks do not have to comply with the same letter grade requirements as restaurants. Overall though, food trucks must pass a sanitation exam, have hot and cold running water, proper waste disposal system, and a fridge.

Food trucks are also not allowed to clutter up the sidewalk with tables, chairs, waste bins, boxes, etc. They must have storage facilities inside the truck. They cannot emit smells of rotting vegetables, seafood, and other kitchen odors except for the usual smell of cooked food.

Designated Areas for Street Parking

Finally, food trucks must follow city ordinances on where they can go to sell their food. They are given specific areas where they can park. Some food truck businesses opt to rent out space in a parking lot instead of having to compete with other food trucks in the area. Aside from day parking, food truck owners have to make they have the garage to park their truck at night so it does not obstruct access or be tempting to thieves and graffiti fanatics.