Free Market

Finally Food Truck Freedom

Governments often apply a jumble of arbitrary and redundant regulations to local businesses. These unnecessary regulations must be curbed to allow businesses to grow. 

Food trucks, specifically, have experienced the detrimental impact of nonsensical regulation up close. Utah’s cities have continuously struggled to accommodate these businesses appropriately, despite legislative victories championed by Libertas. 

Perhaps the greatest problem that remains for food trucks in Utah is the inability to efficiently move from city to city. It is unfortunate that this problem remains as a food truck’s mobility is at the core of their business. 

In Utah, food truck owners still must secure a different business license for each new city that they operate in. This handicaps food truck owners and their ability to effectively operate and grow their businesses.

To see how arbitrary obtaining a new business license for each city of operation is, just imagine if this rule was applied to other industries. For example, if your favorite online retailer had to obtain a new business license for every city and town that it shipped to, this retailer would not enjoy the same level of success and might even fail, leaving you without your favorite store.  

Libertas is committed to limiting the unnecessary regulations that food trucks face. Working with now Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson, Libertas was able to pass Senate Bill 71 and Senate Bill 250. These bills were designed to streamline the market for food trucks.

Senate Bill 71 included:

  • Requiring the cost of licenses to be limited only to the actual cost of processing the license. 
  • Prohibiting cities from requiring permits or fees for a food truck to operate on private property. 
  • Prohibiting cities from requiring food trucks to preemptively specify the date, time, or length of stay they will be in a city.

Senate Bill 250 included:

  • Requiring a political subdivision to grant a business license to a food truck operator who presents certain safety certificates and a business license from another political subdivision.
  • Preventing a political subdivision from requiring multiple business licenses, permits, or fees for a food truck to operate in more than one location within the political subdivision.
  • Prohibiting cities from establishing protectionist boundaries around restaurants in which food trucks are denied the opportunity to operate.
  • Prohibiting cities from denying a business license for a food truck on the basis of the applicant’s criminal history.
  • Requiring that counties honor health and fire permits issued in other counties.

With these pieces of legislation, it was intended that onerous regulations that hindered food trucks would be quashed. Unfortunately, these legislative victories have not stopped cities from continuing to cause headaches for food truck owners. Many cities have ignored state law and continued the practice of nonsensical regulation for food trucks. 

For example, to skirt laws implemented in SB 71 and SB 250, some cities started charging additional fees or failed to appropriately reduce the cost of a redundant business license.  

The law clearly states that cities and counties must “reduce the amount of the business licensing fee to an amount that accounts for the lower administrative burden,” but many have stubbornly refused to reduce the prices for an administrative task that takes mere minutes. 

Food trucks should not have to pay redundant and costly fees for a government permission slip in each city (which other traveling professionals aren’t required to have).

To solve the problem presented by these cities, Representative Karianne Lisonbee is sponsoring a bill that would finally put a stop to these problems. This legislation (currently being drafted) would specify that a food truck owner is required to obtain only one business license within the state to operate in any city. For example, if a business license is granted to a food truck in Lehi, this food truck could operate in Ogden without having to obtain and pay for a new license. 

This is a welcomed change as it would save these businesses owners from the costs associated with unnecessary licensing. It would also minimize contact with city governments that have taken advantage of the licensing requirement to impose additional and unlawful burdens on food truck owners.

Food trucks are highly popular, provide a service to communities, and create economic development opportunities. These businesses shouldn’t be burdened with unnecessary regulations and restrictions, which is why the forthcoming legislation is so important.

Ben Shelton is a policy fellow at Libertas Institute.