NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Food Truck Freedom

December 13, 2012

Food trucks are a hot trend across the United States. They provide chefs a low cost avenue to enter the restaurant business. It is important that policymakers recognize the importance food trucks play in local economies and create conditions that allow food trucks to prosper, say Robert Frommer and Bert Gall of the Institute for Justice.

Food safety:

  • Cities should follow their state and county health codes.
  • If a county or state food code doesn't deal with a specific issue, follow the requirements of Chapter 10 of the California Retail Food Code, which specifically governs food trucks.
  • Furthermore, trucks should be inspected when they are first permitted and periodically when they are in the field, holding them to the same standards as restaurants.


  • Do not create proximity restrictions and restricted zones.
  • Have a 20 foot distance from intersections.
  • Allow food trucks to operate from metered locations.
  • Have no duration restrictions.
  • Don't allow food trucks to operate in a way that would interfere with passage of pedestrians or vehicles that would cause congestion.


  • Create an application process that models that of Los Angeles County.
  • Cities should impose a flat annual fee anywhere between $200 and $300.
  • The license should cover the overall vending business rather than the individual vendor.
  • Finally, there should be no limit on the number of food truck permits.

Other recommendations for cities to consider:

  • Don't require trucks to purchase liability insurance.
  • Don't have laws regarding hours of operation.
  • Require handwashing stations for trucks that prepare foods and do not require that trucks have bathroom-access agreements with businesses that have bathrooms.
  • Exempt food trucks that carry all the equipment to satisfy health and safety concerns from associating with a commissary. But if commissaries are required, allow them to share commissary space. Furthermore, shared commercial kitchens should not be forbidden.

Source: Robert Frommer and Bert Gall, "Food Truck Freedom," Institute for Justice, November 2012.


Browse more articles on Government Issues