D.C. Food Trucks Want New Laws

Food truck owners lobby for updating laws that were written to govern ice cream trucks
D.C. food trucks bristling under antiquated regulations.
Wikimedia Commons

A theatrical, mobile Indian food truck in Washington, D.C.

Food truck owners in Washington, D.C. are frustrated over the antiquated regulations that govern their business, originally created for ice cream trucks. As the Washington Post reports, current laws are "making life unnecessarily complicated."

For example, trucks are not allowed to pull over to serve food unless someone flags them down. The city has given owners a little leeway by counting tweets as "hailing" a truck, but it is still an inconvenience.

As soon as the line disappears, trucks must pack up and drive away. And there’s no wiggle room this time — according to Che Ruddell-Tabisola, executive director of the D.C. Food Truck Association, authorities have forced trucks to move on more than one occasion because there was a lull in customers.

Finally, food truck owners say operating licenses are unnecessarily difficult to obtain. Each license costs $450 and every truck must have at least one licensed vendor on board in order to sell food. Unfortunately, because of the high costs, the truck owner might be the only person with a license. If he or she is sick, the truck can’t go out.

The D.C. mayor’s office is in the process of approving new regulations to address these concerns. The D.C. Food Truck Association supports the changes, but believes certain aspects will still harm their small businesses. 

For example, the new laws propose that sweet trucks are only allowed to wait for customers for 10 minutes, and then must move on, but the same limit is not imposed on savory trucks. They also object to the city mandating shorter hours for food trucks as compared to restaurants. 

With the recent explosion of food trucks in Washington, D.C., this battle will be one to watch.