Why Advocate for Food Trucks?

Governor Jay Inslee signs HB 2639 on behalf of food truck owners in Washington! 03/22/2018

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.  

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.  

The Washington Constitution protects individuals from economic protectionism. Article I, section 12 of the state constitution—the “Privileges or Immunities” Clause—provides, “No law shall be passed granting to any citizen, class of citizens, or corporation other than municipal, privileges or immunities which upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens, or corporations.”


The purpose of the Privileges or Immunities Clause is to “prevent people from seeking certain privileges or benefits to the disadvantage of others.” From the earliest days of statehood, the Washington Supreme Court counted the right to earn a living among the “privileges” with respect to which the government cannot play favorites.Thus, throughout the early 20th century, the court routinely struck down regulations that burdened the economic liberty of some citizens while granting special favors to others.

City Guidance & Other Resources

We reccomend cities look to the Seattle Director's report  for guidance on creating or revising their own municipal code.  Changes were made to their street-food vending laws in 2011 to address the old regulatory barriers, which include allowing access to public property and the right-of-way via permit.

We would also suggest cities add a mobile food vendor's checklist so it is clear just exactly what a vendor needs in order to meet the requirements of each individual municipality as Seattle has done here.

A Report on the Impact of Street Vendors on Brick & Mortar Restaurants, click here.

A Report on Street Vendors & Sidewalk Use, click here. 

MIT Thesis for the Department of Urban Studies and Planning:  

"Mobilizing food trucks to activate public space" can be found here.

WSU Hospitality Report - Market Potential for Mobile Food Vending found here.

A report showing food trucks and carts are safer than restaurants by the

Institute for Justice can be found here.


U.S. Chamber of Commerce - project on city regulations and starting a food truck business.


City Guidelines and Best Practices Mobile Food Vendors in the Right-of-Way
Adobe Acrobat Document 317.1 KB

Food Truck Wars is a short documentary shot over several months in Grenada Hills, California.  It shows the perspective from existing local, small business owners and how they embrace the food trucks that come to park every Wednesday and Friday evenings, due to the increase in foot traffic and how it brings the community together.

Our Current Issues

High Event FeesMost 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.

Parking prohibitions in multiple cities - current code only allows mobile food vending for special events (e.g. Liberty Lake near Spokane), limited amount of permits being issued (e.g. Edmonds), no parking on public or private  property (e.g. SeaTac) etc.

Department of Transportation Permits - Current SDOT applications for annual curbside vending are very lengthy, costly 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.   Inability in some areas to pay for permits online.

Open up Park & Ride/commuter lots to mobile food vending. (SDOT, Sound Transit, & County owned) 

Lack of fire inspection standards and permit reciprocity - No single NFPA code or standard addressed all the fire protection and life safety challenges inherent in mobile food preparation and service until June 2017.  NFPA 1: Fire Code and NFPA 96: Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations to more thoroughly address the hazards of temporary cooking operations has just been updated and our state food truck advisory board has voted to implement fire safety but this must also come with permit reciprocity.

04/2017 Update - membership has voted to legislate an annual fire safety training class and we will also plan to introduce legislation in 2018/2019 for state-wide fire permitting and to streamline inspections.

Lack of available commissary kitchen space -  make your comments about  code change here.

Unequal application of state health codes from one county to the next -  

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

Our Accomplishments

King CountySea-Tac ’s Food Truck regulations proposal for a new city ordinance was submitted to the city council, accepted and passed 03/27/2018.  The new ordinance creates a business license for mobile food vendors and changes the land use & zoning code.  The Association's director spoke at the land use committee meeting and  was supported by several other food truck owners over 4-months in subsequest committee and council meetings.  


Thurston CountyYelm’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.  

Update- 06/2017 Yelm passed their food truck ordinance


Whatcom County - BellinghamPlanning 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 and has installed power for vendors at City Hall.


Snohomish County:  Annual health permit: 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. 


Snohomish County - 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.   Update - 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.


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. 


State Department of Health -  many examples of uneven application from one county to the next of the state health food code.

Update 11/01/2017 - we have brough enough issues to the state health department that they have agreed to open up the code for change, a stakeholder committee was formed and meetings have begun.  Check this page here for updates and to report your own issues to be addressed: https://www.wafoodtrucks.org/health-department-issues-form/

Washington State Labor & Industries - risk classification codes.

If your food truck is not moving to different locations during the day, all operations are reported under code 3905, with a base rate of .41.   Food trucks have been erroneously reporting under Code 1101 - (base rate = 2.15), which is for route food services that travel to various locations throughout the day.  06/2017 Update - L & I agreed the verbage used in the risk code classification is misleading and they are working to change this for clarity and have begun a review of all vendors who have possible been overpaying.



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.

Washington State Codes/Laws/Regulations

Mobile food trucks and carts are regulated under the Washington Administrative Health Code, WAC 246-215  Specifically: (See Part 9, Subpart A - Mobile Food Units)


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


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


Find your city's municipal code here: http://mrsc.org/Home/Research-Tools/Washington-City-Codes.aspx



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 - 

Washington cities with overly restrictive parking:

  • Snohomish
  • Liberty Lake
  • Marysville
  • Edmonds
  • Everett
  • Lake Stevens
  • Burien
  • Rustin
  • Lakewood
  • Tacoma
  • Renton
  • Kent
  • Auburn
  • Puyallup
  • Bellingham
  • Des Moines
  • Olympia