Bill to streamline food truck licensing passes General Assembly

A bill that streamlines the health inspection and licensing process for food trucks operating across county lines has passed the Maryland General Assembly.

The bill (Senate Bill 262/House Bill 771) allows a food truck to operate within 90 miles of its home base without having to obtain multiple health department licenses for each county it visits — giving food truck owners more time on the road and saving them money.

Under the new legislation, which is awaiting Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature, the health department in a food truck’s home county would provide the license and inspection needed to operate within a 90-mile radius. The truck could be inspected at the request of another jurisdiction's health department, which could impose fines if food trucks don’t comply with their regulations. The new bill also stipulates that each truck must pay up to $300 for a permit in each county where it wants to serve food outside its home jurisdiction.

Until now, food trucks were required to obtain health inspections and permits in each county where they wanted to operate. Each inspection takes a food truck off the road for an entire day, said Dave Pulford, president of the Maryland Mobile Food Vending Association, and the new regulations will help keep trucks on the street serving customers.

“What it's going to mean is we’re going to get some relief from some time that we have to spend to go from county to county to get approved,” Pulford said.

The new regulations could also save food truck operators money in counties where permits cost as much as $600 annually.

The bill passed Friday, just ahead of the final day of the 437th General Assembly on Monday. It’s an emergency bill, meaning it will take effect as soon as Hogan signs it into law, which is expected to happen later this week. (Most bills are activated later in the year.)

The legislation was originally introduced during the 2016 General Assembly, when it failed to pass. Stakeholders held work sessions during the summer to adjust the original bill and allay concerns that food truck operators would seek their licenses from counties with the lowest fees and most relaxed regulations.

This time, the bill met no opposition.

Although the bill will make it easier for food trucks to set up shop in other counties, Pulford said he doesn’t expect trucks to rush to too many new jurisdictions.

“I think there’s probably going to be a few more but not a tremendous number more,” said Pulford, who owns the Upslidedown Dave food truck. “What is really going to happen is it’s going to help those trucks that have been operating.”

Drew Pumphrey, who owns the Smoking Swine food truck, said he lined up work outside his home jurisdiction of Baltimore City starting in mid-May, in anticipation of the bill's passing. His food truck was featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” last year, and ever since he said he’s received a “deluge of requests” from Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties.

“That gave us a level of exposure that not a lot of other mobile vendors have,” he said. “This will be the litmus test to whether you’re going to be able to grow your business quickly and efficiently in the state of Maryland.”

smeehan@baltsun.com

@sarahvmeehan

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