Five Things You Didn’t Know About Ice Cream Trucks

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The first notes of that familiar tune, running to catch the truck, the tasty treats melting on your tongue — these happy childhood memories are why everyone loves ice cream trucks. Nothing beats the heat better than delicious ice cream and, nothing says summer better than the iconic jingle of an ice cream truck. 

The first ice cream trucks carried ice cream because the majority of people couldn’t afford a freezer at home. As freezers became more affordable, ice cream trucks started selling novelty items like popsicles and ice cream sandwiches. Over 100 years later, ice cream trucks are still immensely popular. A lot has changed over the years, but the top sellers stay the same. Rocket-shaped Bomb Pop popsicles, push-ups, and vanilla cones dipped in chocolate covered with peanuts remind us of our childhood. So, we buy them for our children and continue the tradition. 

When it comes to ice cream trucks, there are so many things (and flavors) to love. But how much do you really know about ice cream trucks? Here are 5 surprising facts about ice cream trucks.

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1. An ice cream truck driver created the first ice cream bar.

In 1920, Ohio ice cream parlor owner, Harry Burt, invented “ice cream on a stick.” He bought a fleet of refrigerated trucks and started selling his tasty ice cream bars all over the city. Harry Burt’s ice cream bars are still sold today under the famous Good Humor name. But not only invented ice cream on a stick, but he also invented ice cream trucks as we know them. 

2. The first ice cream trucks didn’t play music.

Jaunty tunes and ice cream trucks go hand in hand. But, that wasn’t always the case. The ice cream pioneer, Harry Burt, wanted to attract neighborhood children to his trucks. So, he stripped the bells from his son’s bobsled and outfitted his trucks with them. It wasn’t until years later that ice cream trucks began playing music. 

In 1973, an electrical engineer by the name of Bob Nichols was watching The Sting when Scott Joplin’s ragtime tune, “The Entertainer,” caught his ear. Realizing it would be the perfect jingle for an ice cream truck, Nichols designed preloaded music boxes and sold them to ice cream trucks.

3. Ice cream trucks do more than just the neighborhood route these days. 

You can now book ice cream trucks for events. Bar mitzvahs, birthday parties, and events make up most of most ice cream trucks’ revenue. You’ll still see some trucks parked near playgrounds as that’s always a big draw, but pre-booking for events serving ice cream has become a popular way for ice cream truck drivers to grow their revenue.

You’ll also see trucks at food events, serving construction sites and office parks to offer a break in a long busy day.

4. Ice cream trucks are banned in some cities.

What sort of Grinch bans an ice cream truck, you’re wondering? Quite a few. 

Deer Park, California banned ice cream trucks over 30 years ago. Or more specifically, they banned moving vehicles from playing music while selling their products. Noise complaints and liability issues seem to be the main reasons ice cream trucks aren’t welcomed in certain places.  

Many South Florida cities banned ice cream trucks altogether or passed laws making it difficult for them to operate. Coral Springs, Florida banned ice cream trucks outright

5. Ice cream trucks are subject to regulations just like food trucks. 

Houston, like every other city, has its own regulations and operational guidelines for its ice cream trucks. And the consequences for not following them can be steep. Illegally operating an ice cream truck in Lubbock, Texas can cost you as much as $1,000 per day in fines. 

Luckily since ice cream treats are typically prepackaged, the food and safety handling guidelines are more lenient. Guidelines vary but the reasons behind them are the same. Protecting the public is the main concern. One common thing that all cities require is a permit. A permit shows that an ice cream truck has met the proper requirements and is legally operating. 

Lubbock, Texas has an additional requirement. The city of Lubbock requires all of its ice cream truck drivers to pass a criminal background check. Considering ice cream truck drivers come in close contact with children, this seems like a reasonable regulation. 

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Our prediction? Ice cream trucks are here to stay.

Despite some bans here and there, ice cream trucks are an iconic American pastime. When the ice cream truck rolls into town, it brings a smile to everyone’s face. For adults, it’s a throwback to happy childhood memories. As for the kids, we’re pretty sure they’re just in it for the sugar.

If you are ready, partner with Southern Ice Cream as your ice cream distributor to make your ice cream truck a success! We offer quality ice cream and snacks, rental spaces for your ice cream truck, safety materials and resources, safety signs, music boxes, and the expertise to get you off on the right foot.