Philly considers regulations to bolster food truck safety, but it may be up to Pa.

 Propane gas detectors are exhibited at a City Council hearing. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Propane gas detectors are exhibited at a City Council hearing. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

A food truck explosion in Philadelphia last summer killed two people and brought to light that no one regularly inspects propane tanks used to fire up the grills on these mobile eateries.

Philly City Council is taking up the safety issue but might not be able to act on its own. 

Council members are mulling new regulations that would limit the amount of propane food trucks can keep on hand, cutting the average from 160 pounds to 120.  The regulations would also require testing for leaks.  

Council President Darrell Clarke said Monday he hopes Pennsylvania will grant the city inspection authority over the tanks.

“We here locally are fully prepared to engage in the opportunity presented as it relates to the inspection to insure that these things are safe, but the state has indicated that they pre-empt us,” Clarke said.

While the Philadelphia Health Department regularly reviews food trucks to ensure they’re clean, propane inspections are not part of that process.

Food vendor Rob Mitchell of the Mobile Food Association worries the proposed regulations would be too expensive for vendors to bear.

“The gas-leak detectors, there are two tiers of them. We would like every trucker to have the more expensive version,” he said. “But it’s economically impractical for food truckers, many of whom act on a shoestring budget.”

Council will not vote on Clarke’s proposed legislation while talking with the state about jurisdiction.  

Even if the state is inclined to let the city take on the task of regulation, city officials aren’t sure if the state would allow Philly to pass regulations or if state lawmakers would need to move a new law through the Legislature.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal