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11 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Ice Cream Trucks

The classic sound of the ice cream truck puts kids (and those young at heart) in a tizzy. Find out the secrets hiding in those sweet mobiles.

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Ice cream bars including pop bombs photographed from above.CL Shebley/Shutterstock

Top sellers never really change

Despite all of the advancements since the introduction of the ice cream truck, the true favorites never really change. At least according to Hamidu Jalloh, an ice cream truck driver with 25 years of experience. He told The Washingtonian that his best-sellers are “ice cream sandwiches, the Bomb Pops, the cartoon (popsicles)—Bug’s Bunny, SpongeBob, Spiderman.” No local ice cream truck? Try out these ice cream treats when a craving hits

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Ice Cream Cone , Selected Focus Bellie Design/Shutterstock

Mister Softee’s machine is top-notch

Without the Electro Freeze soft-serve ice cream machine, Mister Softee couldn’t possibly churn out its iconic soft-serve ice cream so quickly. According to, the integral truck appliance can turn the brand’s ice cream mix into bonafide soft serve in just two minutes. If you prefer to score your ice cream from a brick and mortar, these are the best shops for ice-cold treats in each state.

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Ice cream truck in Queens. Mister Softee is a United States-based ice cream truck franchiser popular in the Northeast founded in 1956Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock

Mister Softee even has a secret menu

The iconic ice cream truck kicked off in 1956 in Philadelphia. Despite being an industry vet, it still boasts a secret menu like many quick-serve restaurants and food trucks. You only needs to have knowledge of Mister Softee’s ice cream bases, vessels, toppings and novelty items to indulge in a one-of-a-kind treat. They make an example of The Popsicle Dip, a coconut pop dipped in a magic chocolate shell. Amazing!

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White ice cream truck on a street in New York City - July 1, 2015, 51st street and 5th avenue, New York City, NY, USAanaglic/Shutterstock

Ice cream truck style hasn’t changed much for a reason

Sure, you have some hip, modernized ice cream trucks, like Recess out of Los Angeles, but for the most part, these vehicles stay true to the traditional look and feel. The reason has a lot to do with human psychology and our inclination to be attracted to vintage items because they offer a sense of escape, bringing us back to a simpler, easier time, similar to these vintage recipes we’re still cooking up.

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Zero-emission ice cream is on the way

Ice cream trucks tend to have diesel engines and some “vintage” models have to run their engines 24/7 in order to keep the freezers working. But Nissan is working on a zero-emission ice cream truck model called Sky to Scoop that will hopefully revolutionize the industry, according to Tech the Lead. In other important news, this is America’s favorite ice cream flavor.

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Man sells soft ice cream cone to customers on Columbus Circle. eddtoro/Shutterstock

Truck maintenance gets expensive

You might think maintaining an ice cream truck is a less expensive way to get into the ice cream game than, say, opening a brick-and-mortar shop. But keeping up the vehicle can get costly. “I buy a new engine almost every other year,” Teddy Athas, a Mister Softee truck driver, told City Lab. “I don’t really keep track of how much it costs, but it’s a lot. Plus, I have to pay for gas. The truck has two tanks, so that’s the expensive part.”

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An ice cream truck on May 20, 2011 in Toronto.ValeStock/Shutterstock

Ice cream truck drivers are independent contractors

Back in the day the big brands, like Good Humor, would hire full-time employees to hit the road in their iconic vehicles. But the Washington Post reports these days drivers own their individual trucks, meaning they work for themselves. It’s a bonus because they can set their own schedules, but is laborious in terms of all that this entails. They must get permits, health inspections, find legal parking spots, among other responsibilities of the self-employed. We may love ice cream trucks here in the US, but around the world there are a host of other ice cream traditions.

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There are rules of the road

Every job has its rules, and ice cream truck operating is no different. In a story published on Medium, former driver Chris Mohney shared what his boss told him before sending him to hit the streets. “Drive at a walking speed of three miles per hour when selling and always have your music on,” Mohney wrote. “Never put your truck into reverse—shift into neutral and get out to push it backward, if needed. This was because reversing ice cream trucks had a chance of hitting a child,” and no one wants that.

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Ice cream truck standing and serving people on the hot weather in London.Tania Volosianko/Shutterstock

Sales can go down when you wouldn’t expect

When it’s 100 degrees outside an ice-cold popsicle or ice cream cone sounds refreshing, don’t you think? But drivers say that when it’s too hot there are fewer people willing to go outdoors, and therefore not as many customers around to here the truck’s alluring jingle. When it’s sweltering and you’re still up for a cone or cup, here’s how to make homemade ice cream without an ice cream maker

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woman buying soft ice cream in the ice cream van near Covent Garden in Londonphaustov/Shutterstock

Ice cream truck drivers are members of the community

Drivers often zero in on a route over time, learning the rhythms of a neighborhood or city. Reshelia Cook, who drives the Atlanta Ice Cream Truck, told Atlanta magazine, “If they (kid customers) get a good report card, I give them free ice cream. I love to see them waving that report card for me to stop. The kids know I will tell their momma or their daddy if I see them doing something they shouldn’t be.”

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Ice cream van and customers on London streetI Wei Huang/Shutterstock

Successful drivers know their audience

As in any business, in order to succeed, you have to know your customer and know them well. This industry is no different. In an Inc. article, writer Jim Haudan shared what he learned from reading Lessons from an Ice Cream Truck, penned by a man who goes by Pineapple XVI. One of the most important lessons is that a good ice cream man knows that his or her business is all about “joy, excitement and caring relationships.” Next, take a look at 28 ice cream recipes that’ll keep you cool all summer long.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest