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Marcie Newman

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Marcie Newman is a Safety Manager for a company-owned fleet of 65+ food trucks stationed at United Caterers, Inc. - a commissary with over 200 customers operating in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Over the last 6 years, she has developed and administered the industry’s first comprehensive Risk Management Program for hot trucks, featuring Vehicle Maintenance, Equipment & Workplace Safety, Driving Safety, Food Handling Safety, and First Aid. She also conducts accident investigations, handles insurance claims, serves as legal liaison, and works with over 85 North Texas municipalities to facilitate the permitting process for their customers. Home to 20 of the area’s first gourmet trucks, she recently started a blog to discuss compliance and safety-related issues, located at www.FoodTruckSafety411.com. Contact: MarcieN@unitedcaterers.com

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Today we would like to welcome and introduce a new contributing author at Mobile Cuisine. Marcie Newman is a Safety Manager for a company-owned fleet of 65+ food trucks stationed at United Caterers, Inc. – a commissary with over 200 customers operating in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Over the last 6 years, she has developed and administered the industry’s first comprehensive Risk Management Program for hot trucks, featuring Vehicle Maintenance, Equipment & Workplace Safety, Driving Safety, Food Handling Safety, and First Aid. She also conducts accident investigations, handles insurance claims, serves as legal liaison, and works with over 85 North Texas municipalities to facilitate the permitting process for their customers.

In Marcie’s first article at Mobile Cuisine, she covers some basic food truck driving safety that everyone that drives a food truck should be aware of. Not only do these rolling bistros handle differently than most privately owned vehicles, they are the life blood of a food truck business. Every time your truck is in the shop means you are not able to hit the streets to sell your food truck fare.

Just when you thought you were having a bad day . . .

Whenever one of the girls in the office starts to complain, we have a little saying to remind us of how lucky we are: “If you think you’re having a bad day . . . just go out to the shop!”   Our mechanics are definitely some of the hardest working people around, and new challenges are always just around the corner.   Every once in a while I get the opportunity to see them in action – usually when I’m dispatched for an accident investigation.

I have to admit . . . when I first arrived at the scene of this accident, I was very tempted to just keep on driving.   A few months before, those colorful “Look at me!” decals seemed like a really good idea when we decided to install our first full wrap, but now . . . not so much.

Luckily, our mechanic arrived quickly, and I was hoping he would be able to get us out of there just as quick.   He exited the tow truck . . . I looked at him . . . he looked at me . . . I looked at him.   We knew we were supposed to do something, but what?   After years of investigating food truck accidents, this was a new predicament for both of us, so I decided I would just start taking my photos.

By far, this one’s my favorite:

Food Truck Accident

Thankfully, everyone was alright, and after speaking to the driver, I learned that she was “just driving along” when she hit a slick patch, and the truck “went flying”.   Since I was pretty sure this was not 100% exactly what happened, I knew I was going to have to find a way to dig deeper.   While the mechnic tried to figure out how to get her down and bring her home, I went over to speak with the special investigator.

It turns out that speed was a huge factor (you don’t say!) – he determined that she had to be going more than 70 miles-per-hour at the time of the accident.   In fact, in his opinion, if she’d been traveling only a few miles-per-hour faster, the truck would’ve rolled right over the median (instead of straddling it ever so gracefully), heading straight into oncoming traffic. In light of the fact that she was not wearing her seatbelt, he was certain that (in this scenario), not only would the driver have been killed, but it is very likely that there would have been more serious injuries.

So how did this accident happen?

  • Experienced driver . . . check!
  • Well-maintained equipment (with fully-functioning brakes and seatbelts) . . . check!
  • Active participation in a safety program . . . check!
  • No more stops for the rest of the day . . . check!

Actually, we can all guess how it happened . . . she was obviously speeding, and the truck hydroplaned, spun around a few times, triple toe loop, etc.   But the real question is “why?”   In my experience, the answer is usually that the driver was distracted.   Whether she was worried about picking her kids up from school, calculating how much gas to put in her tank, stressing about the business she lost in the rain, or even talking on the phone, the reality is that food truck operators can be some of the most distracted drivers around.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.   On top of the usual distractions, it is critical for food truck operators to realize that every time they step into their truck, it’s a different truck.   The weight is constantly shifting from loading product, melting ice, washing dishes, etc.   For this reason alone, operating your vehicle demands your full attention, especially when road or weather conditions are a factor.   Every time you take the wheel, you have the power to decide what’s important, and make a priority of driving safely.

So eliminate all distractions, adjust your safety cushion, focus your attention – and remember . . . you might think you’re having a bad day, but it can always get much worse!

Stay safe!

 

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With this year’s record-setting triple-digit temperatures and a noticeable warming trend settling in across the country, this Summer has already shown to be a scorcher for food trucks stationed across the country!  For newcomers and seasoned food truckers alike, it’s easy to become distracted by the everyday demands of a food truck operation, but it’s important to make a priority of protecting yourself and maintaining your temperatures during periods of extreme heat.

Heat-Wave
PROTECTING YOURSELF

  1. Timing is key.  Whether you’re negotiating a new stop along your route or planning a special event, always try to limit activitiesduring the hottest part of the day. Since lunch is typically the busiest time for food trucks, you may not be able to avoid the midday sun, but making slight adjustments to your start time and the length of your shift can make a big difference when temperatures begin to soar.
  2. Park strategically.  Be sure to discuss the location where you will be parking your truck with property owners and event planners in order to address any safety hazards and other concerns beforehand.  If you are given the opportunity, select a location where you will not be parking in direct sunlight, and make sure that there are shaded areas nearby where you and your customers can eat and rest.  You will also want to ensure that the location will provide for: safe access and parking (avoid backing when entering and exiting); proper ventilation of exhaust fumes; containment of potential leaks from automotive fluids, grease, and wastewater; and a safe perimeter to prevent visual obstruction in areas where traffic and pedestrians mix.  Always consult with all applicable regulatory authorities to avoid being cited or shut-down for traffic or health code violations.
  3. Dress appropriately.  While it may be tempting to break out the tanks, shorts, and flip-flops, it’s important to maintain proper etiquette and attire when working in a food establishment.  If you’re working with equipment that requires pilot lights or open flames, or if you’re working near equipment that generates hot liquids (e.g., deep fryers and steam tables), you will want to choose clothing thatprotects your body from heat, splatters, and spills.  Clothing should be light-colored and made from breathable, lightweight fabrics, such as cotton and other natural fibers, to keep cool.  Loose-fitting attire is not recommended when working near open flames, nor are items made from synthetic fabrics, as they can stifle air circulation and have a tendency to be more flammable.  Closed-toe shoes with skid-resistant soles are suggested to protect again these and other hazards, such as slips, trips, and falls.  Don’t forget the sunblock!
  4. Stay hydrated.  In order to avoid heat stress, it is important to take preventive measures to hydrate your body during the hours leading up to your shift and replenish lost fluids by drinking approximately 1 cup of water every 15 minutes.  Since the heat may cause changes in your metabolism, be sure to consult with your doctor before consuming sports drinks or energy drinks which may contain sugars, caffeine, and other stimulants.  Some of these may actually cause a rise in body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, or changes in blood sugar that may pose risks to your health.   It is a good idea to designate a convenient, secure area for storing beverages and other personal items in order to avoid injury from dropping or spilling these objects near cooking equipment such as deep fryers.
  5. Take a break.  Whenever possible, take intermittent breaks to cool off in the shade or find shelter nearby.  When sweating and replenishing with cold fluids isn’t enough to cool you down, you may begin to experience weakness, headaches, dizziness, confusion, fainting . . . or you may even begin to vomit.  All of these are signs of heat exhaustion, which may lead to heat stroke or death if you do not take immediate action to remove yourself from the situation. If you suspect that your or another member of your crew may be suffering from heat-related illness, call 911 immediately.

MAINTAINING YOUR TEMPERATURES

  1. Keep the door closed.  Repeatedly opening and shutting the door to the refrigerator allows cool air to escape and hot air/moisture to creep in.  Keeping the door closed is the simplest and most effective way to maintain the temperatures in your refrigerator.
  2. Don’t overload.  Overloading the refrigerator reduces the unit’s efficiency and increases the time it takes to cool food products, particularly when the air flow is blocked.  When space is tight, it may be necessary to divide products into smaller portions, leaving space around storage containers so that heat can escape and become absorbed by the refrigerant.  This will allow items to cool more rapidly, keeping them out of the danger zone.  If the unit is reaching capacity or the cold plate is sluggish at the end of a long shift, you may want to cool items in an ice bath before placing them in the refrigerator, and be sure to store any high-risk perishables toward the back of the unit.
  3. Lose the cardboard.  Cardboard, paper products, styrofoam, wood, and other porous materials soak up the cool air and harbor mold, which begins to become a concern when the humidity levels reach 70%.  These materials also act as insulation, increasing the amount of time it takes food products contained within them to cool.  Whenever possible, remove these materials and opt for metal storage containers.
  4. Have a backup plan.  You may want to consider carrying a chest to keep extra ice on hand for boosting temperatures during periods of extreme heat. It may also be used to temporarily store and transport product in the event of a mechanical malfunction.  When using ice to help cool items in your refrigerator, remember to place these items on the lower rack to avoid contamination from ice melting and dripping down onto other products.
  5. Maintain your equipment.  Be sure to consult with a qualified mechanic to devise a schedule for inspecting and maintaining your equipment, and discuss the proper use of over-the-road devices to maintain temperatures while the truck is out and about.  It is important to maintain your electrical cords and any electrical outlets you may be using to charge the unit.  Ensuring that all three prongs are present will protect against electrical hazards and make the connection more secure.  Thermometers should be testedregularly and used frequently to verify food storage temperatures.

If you have any tips or tricks for staying cool, please share!

 

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On top of the long hours, scorching heat, and other factors challenging food truckers across North Texas, there’s a new danger lurking in the shadows, just beyond your service windows.  While customers are feasting on your tasty treats, city officials warn that mosquitoes could be feasting on you!

West-Nile-Virus

In an interview with Fox 4 News, Dallas County Health and Human Services spokesman Zachary Thompson reports that, as a result of the steady rise in mosquito populations and cases of West Nile Virus over the last 6 years, the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex has become the epicenter for outbreaks of West Nile in the United States.

With 2 confirmed deaths this season and another 70 confirmed cases, Mr. Thompson says that, in spite of the City’s efforts to treat the affected neighborhoods, “we can’t spray ourselves out of this situation” and “there are going to be more deaths” if residents don’t take responsibility to control these populations and protect themselves from being bitten.

As a growing hot spot for the gourmet trend, many DFW food truckers are extending their hours, bringing dinner and late-night options to frenzied fans during peak mosquito hours – from dusk ‘til dawn.   Route truck operators serving breakfast and lunch are also vulnerable during the early morning hours when heat-seeking insects are better able to spot them against the backdrop of cooler temperatures.

To protect against the virus, food truckers and their fans should take special precautions when participating in outdoor activities during peak hours from May through October.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is closely monitoring these outbreaks and promoting their “Fight The Bite!” campaign, which calls for:

  • Applying Insect Repellent Containing DEET to exposed skin and the outside of clothing
  • Wearing Clothing to cover exposed skin when weather permits (long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks)
  • Being Aware of Peak Mosquito Hours
  • Draining Standing Water
  • Installing or Repairing Screens

In addition to these recommendations, food truckers may also want to consider the following:

  • Avoiding service locations near areas with standing/stagnant water
  • Emptying/Rinsing pots and pans at the end of each shift
  • Repairing any leaks in the plumbing system (sinks, ice bins, water/waste tanks)
  • Repairing screens/windows and closing them when the truck is not in operation
  • Consulting with event planners and owners of food truck venues to make them aware of the risks

According to the CDC, West Nile is a neuroinvasive disease with an incubation period of 2-15 days and symptoms lasting from a few days to several weeks.  While most people infected with West Nile show no signs of illness, approximately 20% will exhibit the following symptoms:

Mild Symptoms
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Body Aches
  • Skin Rash (on the trunk of the body)
  • Swollen Lymph Glands
Severe Symptoms
  • High Fever
  • Headaches
  • Neck Stiffness
  • Stupor
  • Disorientation
  • Coma
  • Tremors
  • Convulsions
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Paralysis

Educating yourself about the dangers of West Nile and taking precautions to avoid being bitten are the best ways to prevent a life-threatening infection.  Always remember to read the instructions before applying insect repellant, and be sure to seek prompt medical attention if you have reason to believe that you might be infected.

Visit the CDC website to learn more about the dangers of West Nile in your area:
http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm

Stay safe!

 

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