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 serving up various ways to regulate the growing number of vendors selling convenient and creative meals to patrons from mobile food units, commonly known as food trucks. Food trucks are regulated by local government agencies, which take a wide range of approaches. For example, in thirty-four of the nation’s largest cities, entire neighborhoods 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, food trucks have become highly popular and financially successful, offering a wide variety of food options to consumers. This Essay 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 only a 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. City leaders are discovering that regulating this industry involves many competing interests. The challenges lie in balancing those interests with the need to regulate food safety and traffic safety—without creating too many roadblocks to this new and popular food industry.

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