Six years and over 4,500 gourmet food trucks (across the United States) later, the National Food Truck Association has become a real thing.

When I started Mobile Cuisine in 2010, the mobile food industry was still relatively new. Most of the big food truck towns hadn’t seen the rapid growth of vendors they have in the recent years, and I constantly wondered why there wasn’t a national organization helping food trucks.

The National Restaurant Association and many of its members were the most vocal opponents to food truck entry into markets across the country. Why shouldn’t there be a national voice for food truck owners?

At the time, I spoke with some of the local food truck association leaders about starting an umbrella organization and asked if they felt it was the right time. I consistently heard that it wasn’t. As it was explained to me, a national voice might prevent the voice of local associations from being heard in the media and could hinder any progress in getting outdated or non-existent food truck laws changed.

Now that there seems to be at least one local association in most of the major food truck markets, it makes sense that they would feel as though this is the right time.

The National Food Truck Association:

The NFTA was organized by a group of regional food truck association representatives. Their goal is to provide resources and support to food truck owners and associations nationwide. They will leverage the experience and knowledge of all associations involved to ensure that food trucks from coast to coast are provided great resources and access to information.

They hope to help vendors and associations work cooperatively with municipalities and governmental bureaucracies to review codes, ordinances and procedures so they can better address the realities and growing needs of this new industry.

The NFTA has launched a national initiative to support existing food truck associations and help in the formation of new associations. They will support food truck vendors start a regional association by providing bylaws, and help filing 501(c)6 paperwork to the federal government.  They will also help with providing successfully tested advocacy and fundraising strategies.

The best part of all of the services they provide is that there is no fee to join the National Food Truck Association.

The National Food Truck Association Board:

The inaugural board of directors consists of eight regional Association representatives that all have a great amount of experience to help guide the NFTA:

Matt Geller – Co-Founder and CEO of the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association

Brian Reed – Mojo TaGO; Co-Founder of Central Ohio Food Truck Association

Doug Povich – DC Red Hook Lobster Pound Food Truck; Co-Founder of District Maryland and Virginia Food Truck Association

John Snow – Taco de Paco Food Truck; Baton Rouge Mobile Food Vendors Association

Willy Dely – Kooper’s Chowhound Burger Wagon and Woody’s Taco Island; Co-Founder of Maryland Food Truck Association

David Weber – Rickshaw Dumpling Truck; Co-Founder NYC Food Truck Association

Jon Hepner – Aroy-D, The Thai Elephant; Co-Founder New Jersey Food Truck Association

John Levy – Andrew Zimmern’s Canteen; Founder and President of Minnesota Food Truck Association

What Else?

Because I have a deep rooted passion for the mobile food industry, there is something I’d like to see happen once the NFTA has gotten more traction across the country:

Creation of a national food truck building code. Coming from the architecture field, I am accustomed to a national building code. This code helps municipalities use standard yet safety driven guidelines that every building must follow (if the local municipality adopts). Using this type of guide line, food truck builders would have a national code to follow.

This would prevent a truck that is built to meet Los Angeles code from being un-licensable in another city across the country. I have heard far too many horror stories from food truck owners who have had to have their brand new truck retro fitted to meet their local code even though it meets the code of another municipality. There is no reason all stakeholders can’t get together in a room and create this type of code.

While I may see great things ahead for this organization and what it can provide the industry, the National Food Truck Association already has its detractors. Some of this discussion has delved into topics such as what impact a national association can have across the country and to whom the association will include as members. Both are valid points, but nothing that should derail the NFTA.