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Unpublished Paper
A Hungry Industry on Rolling Regulations: A Look at Food Truck Regulations in Cities Across the United States
ExpressO (2012)
  • Crystal Williams

Although street vending has always been a part of the American food economy, in recent years, modern food trucks have become a dining trend that is sweeping the country. With the booming popularity of food trucks, cities across the country are considering ways to regulate the growing number of vendors selling convenient and creative meals to patrons. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of regulations and ordinances that govern the operation of mobile food units, commonly known as food trucks, in a variety of American cities. Food trucks are regulated by local government agencies, which take a wide range of approaches. For example, in 34 of the nation’s largest cities, entire areas are off-limits to vendors, often including the most desirable commercial districts. Nineteen cities allow mobile vendors to stay in one spot for only short periods of time, forcing them to spend resources moving rather than selling. Five cities prevent vendors from stopping at all unless flagged by a customer, making it difficult to connect with buyers.

Despite the wide range of regulations, cities throughout the nation have seen food trucks become highly popular and financially successful, offering a large variety of food options to consumers. This article will analyze the different types of regulations, from strict to lenient to in-transition, that govern food trucks in localities across the United States. More specifically, it will look at cities with stringent regulations such as Chicago, Illinois and Dallas, Texas; cities with few regulations such as Indianapolis, Indiana and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; cities undergoing change such as Washington, D.C. and Jersey City, New Jersey; and cities with food-truck-specific regulations such as Portland, Oregon and Los Angeles, California. Regulations are developing and changing across localities involving many competing interests. Some cities are attempting to balance those interests by regulating food and traffic safety without impeding the creation of a new and popular market in the food industry.

  • food truck,
  • mobile food unit,
  • restaurant,
  • street vending,
  • food safety,
  • traffic safety,
  • food
Publication Date
August 7, 2012
Citation Information
Crystal Williams. "A Hungry Industry on Rolling Regulations: A Look at Food Truck Regulations in Cities Across the United States" ExpressO (2012)
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