Why Advocate for Food Trucks?

Food trucks are an important source of economic opportunity for entrepreneurs of all types. They can enhance the culinary culture of your city, increase employment, enliven streets, and provide food options in underserved areas – if you let them.

Lobbying for Change

 Tim Johnson, a registered lobbyist and consultant from the Northwest Policy Group LLC, is our full-time Policy Director.  He provides the Washington State Food Truck Association insight regarding the current political climate in Olympia and assists us in the development of specific legislative goals and objectives.  Tim lobbies the state legislature and state agencies on our behalf, oversees our local government lobbying efforts, and helps us train and organize our statewide grassroots advocacy team.  


If you have an issue, or issues, that you feel might need to be resolved at the state level, please contact us.

Lobby Day

Washington's first "Food Truck Lobby Day" in Olympia was  held on Thursday, April 13th, 2017 from 11am to 2pm.  This new event incorporated 13-food trucks and trailers parked at the state capitol to introduce all of our legislators, staff, lobbyists, and more to the greatness of food truck owners as passionate culinary artists.  Mobile food vending continues to grow as an industry here in Washington and this community has real issues to still be addressed.  This was such a great opportunity for food truck owners to meet their legislative representatives in person and show them we are an important small business industry growing in their communities.  

Current Issues

State-Wide -  Most event hosts are over charging food trucks to participate in special events. Food trucks are a huge draw to the general public and increase foot traffic to their venues.  We aim to protect and defend our members in educating those who organize events to the unique logistics of using food trucks versus the typical  festival street food vendor and have a page for this purpose found here.


Thurston County - Yelm’s Food Truck regulations proposal for an new city ordinance was submitted to the city council by the Yelm Business Assn. (YBA) in November 2016. Our Director, Lori Johnson spoke at the town hall and was supported by Turan Wright of the Silver Spork food truck.   While newspaper polls and the public response has been overwhelmingly supportive, the council sits and has not readdressed the issue yet.


Pierce County - a new chapter has just been drafted for regulation of food truck vending activities in approved locations in the City of Tacoma "on public ways in order to more fully promote the public interest by contributing to an active and attractive pedestrian environment." This latest draft for a food truck vending license, has the changes identified from the version that was shared on April 22nd ( so you can see where the changes were made.)  Some of them are a clean-up of language and some are related to feedback received from vendors and city staff.  

Pierce Cty Tacoma Chapter 6B.175 Food Tr
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Whatcom County - The City of Bellingham - Planning and Community Development Department had reported (March 2016) that they are currently updating their sidewalk vendor regulations, to include food trucks.

02/01/2017 - Update

Bellingham has approved the "on street" vending pilot program to begin 2/13/17.

Spokane County - Liberty Lake -  current code only allows mobile food vending for special events.

Snohomish County:  The City of Edmonds only allows 15- Motorized Mobile Food Vendor permits.   Overly restrictive commissary agreements.  Cannot pay for permits/ fees online. (Plans to work w/Auditor's office), and has higher than average fees to participate in City festivals.

05/2017 - Update

Snohomish County Health has approved a new policy that allows vendors with a King or Pierce County permit to skip the Plan Review process as we pointed this out, to be redundant and costly. Vendors can also request a commisary in County exemption, approved on a case bycase basis.  Contact us for tips.


Pierce County:  The City of Rustin does not allow food trucks.  Tacoma has limited "street" vending locations.

Yakima County:  mobile food vending is not allowed on public streets or in the public right-of-way (any given parcel or premises), and cannot be in one location for more than 4-hours, etc. 


Island County: City of Langley only allows two food truck permits per year.

Walla Walla County - The City of Walla Walla staff is developing rules on permanent food courts within the city limits. Please note that Chapter 5.04 of the Municipal Code would not change  ( rules for individual vendors) and the new rules would only apply to food courts or a permanent gathering of multiple mobile vendors ( within the city) .  

Walla Walla Memo Food Truck Courts.pdf
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State Issues

Food trucks have been gaining popularity in recent years, and to date, there are no NFPA codes, standards, or guidelines to provide the minimum fire safety requirements specific to mobile food vending. After the 2014 Philadelphia food truck explosion killed a mother and daughter, the International Fire Marshals Association (IFMA) developed a task group  to address this issue.  Please find below the proposed changes (developed in June 2015) to the National Fire Protection Agency Code...

The Association plans to be a member at the table, as the discussion begins in Washington state, to implement these new standards.  We need your comments and feedback.  What part(s) of these new standards do you agree with?, would cause a hardship?, etc...  (The City of Chicago implemented these new standards ahead of contributions from local vendors and required them to install a GPS unit, making it easier for fire departments to locate them quicker.  We feel this is too much regulation.)


No single NFPA code or standard addresses all the fire protection and life safety challenges inherent in mobile food preparation and service -- such as the unique risk factor of fuel tank connections loosening while driving, causing propane leaks. A special task group of the International Fire Marshals Association (IFMA) is preparing language to submit as public input on NFPA 1: Fire Codeand NFPA 96: Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations to more thoroughly address the hazards of temporary cooking operations. An update on that effort will be provided based on Technical Committee decisions during upcoming First Draft Meetings. While changes to codes are underway, fire departments from coast to coast are developing their own standards to protect the public and responders and avoid disasters.

04/2017 Update - membership has voted to legislate an annual fire safety training class and we will also plan to introduce legislation in 2018 for state-wide fire permitting and to streamline inspections.

Short Term Policy Goals/ Current Challenges

* State Department of Transportation - Current SDOT applications for annual curbside vending are very lengthy and not guaranteed, causing a lot of food truck owners not to pursue SDOT vending locations. The vendors must seek out a vending site themselves, draft elevation maps, and measure everything, only for an SDOT surveyor to return to the site for a fee, and measure everything again themselves.   Open up Park & Ride/commuter lots to mobile food vending. (SDOT, Sound Transit, & County owned)


* State Department of Health -  streamline/uniting all of the main counties in the state, so a vendor/truck applying for King County would not have to utilize the temporary permit to vend in Snohomish or Pierce county, but could instead roll their annual application and fee payment into getting an annual approval to vend outside of King County- fee structure TBD...

Rewriting the state’s definition of "Catering" to accommodate mobile food vendors.  Each county seems to interpret the definition differently.


* State Department of Liquor and Cannabis -  redefine the Caterer's License for vendors who want to apply for a liquor license, to include mobile food vendors sharing commissary kitchen space.  

Update 02/01/2017 - we have accomplished the above!


Amended Section. WAC 314-02-112 What is a caterer’s license? Added language allowing the caterer’s licensees to share a commissary kitchen under certain conditions.  Licensees holding a caterer's license may share a commissary kitchen under the following conditions: (a) Each licensee has their own secure area for their own liquor stock. Liquor stock cannot be shared. (b) If using a shared commissary kitchen, each applicant/licensee must provide a sketch of the commissary kitchen to licensing indicating the separate secured area for each licensee. (7) The applicant must provide the liquor (control) and cannabis board with a copy of their commissary kitchen license issued by the city or county health department. 


Liquor infused pre-packaged food items -  board needs to define for mobile.


* King and Pierce Counties: - increasing commissary availability (without increasing cost).


* Festivals / Events: - we would like to address the increasing fees for food trucks to participate in food truck specific events.  Due to the draw and popularity of food trucks, they are being charged more each year by cities and independent event organizers.

Update 02/01/2017 - the Association has come up with an informational piece to event /festival hosts about the fair treatment and costs to include food trucks.


* Fire Departments - streamline regulations (propane use and generators) from one county to the next.

Association Achievements

City of Bellingham / Whatcom County

* 02/01/2017 Update The city has approved the 1-year pilot program for "on street" vending in 3-locations downtown to test the viability of food trucks in metered and other public right of way spaces.


Washington State Liquor & Cannabis 

* 11/2016 Update  The WSFTA submitted a Petition to Amend a state agency rule in July, to change WAC 314-002-112 and the definition of the new Catering license that passed in 2014.  This change was needed because most mobile food vendors share a commissary kitchen and offer catering services but due to "sharing" this kitchen space w/others cannot offer beer/wine.  We requested new language:  for all "locked" areas of a shared location where

alcohol is sold, served, consumed, or "stored."(6) A "shared" commissary kitchen shall be The caterer licensee is responsible for all "locked" areas of a shared location where

alcohol is sold, served, consumed, or "stored."...The caterer licensee must be able to prove they will store beer/wine in a secured and locked area.


Washington State Labor & Industries 

* 04/16 Update SB 2443 Passed and signed by the Governor

This bill that we were in support of:

 1. Eliminates the exemption for conversion vending units manufactured and used out of state for 6 months or more from inspection, permitting and plan review;

2. Identifies several groups of conversion vending units that are subject to plan review in addition to permit and inspection requirements...

3. Forms an advisory board of stakeholders that include two Association members.

* 06/16 Update: The first new food truck advisory board will meet on Wednesday, June 29th 2016.

City of Lynnwood's Ordinance Draft Proposal -

*  04/16 Update - Ordinance passed with a 7-0 vote on 03/22/16.  The City now allows mobile food vending with a city license.  The Association worked with the City of Lynnwood for 3-months providing comments and guidance.


* Mason County.  The City of Shelton had asked for public comments  on updating their Food Truck laws back in Sep 2015, and the State Association submitted comments and supporting information from the National League of Cities.   As of October 12, 2015, the city of Shelton is amending the Municipal Code.  Food trucks are no longer prohibited from staying in one location for more than two hours per day,  and they are now able to sell near schools.

Pilot Programs

** City of Everett:

The WSFTA began a 1-year pilot program for vending on the street or "in the right of way" October of 2016.  Mobile units can park on the street at 2710 Wetmore Ave from 11am - 2pm Fridays.  The city has already began to write a revised ordinance to update their mobile food vending laws after seeing just how popular the food trucks are!


** City of Puyallup


** City of Auburn

City Guidelines and Best Practices Mobile Food Vendors in the Right-of-Way
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Washington State Codes/Laws/Regulations

Mobile food trucks and carts are regulated under the Washington Administrative Code,

WAC 246-215  Specifically: (See Part 9, Subpart A - Mobile Food Units)


A mobile food unit must get approval, a permit and inspection from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industry.


Washington State Department of Health adopted the US 2009 FDA Food Code, see Chapter 5 for details specific to mobile food units.

National Movements

The Institute for Justice's National Street Vending Initiative, created in 2010, seeks to promote freedom and opportunity for food-truck operators.  This initiative also works to combat anti-competitive and protectionist laws that stifle the economic liberty of mobile-food operators.  For more current news about this initiative, visit: http://www.ij.org/vending.

Help the mobile food industry spread across the country without hindrance of laws that prevent food truck owners from operating under restrictions that protect one business model over another (i.e. brick and mortar restaurants).  The codes that typically govern mobile vendors are outdated and overly restrictive. Let’s agree to change these laws, so that they encourage new business, benefit neighborhoods, and build the strength of our city’s restaurant industry.


Some of the restrictive laws that should be eliminated are:

  • Those which prevent cooking onboard food trucks.
  • Those which prevent food trucks from parking in downtowns or business districts.
  • Those which restrict the distance from restaurants a food truck can park.
  • Those which limit the hours a food truck can operate if they differ from other businesses.
  • Those which prevent food trucks from parking in metered parking locations.
  • Those which prevent food trucks from operating in public right of ways.

So how can you show your support?

Find local food trucks and get in line.

First National Report on Street Vendors Highlights Their Economic Impact -