Are you about starting a food truck business? If YES, here are the requirements plus a guide on how to get your food truck license and permits without stress.

You may have had the intention of starting a food truck business in your locality for some time now. You may have acquired a sturdy truck, picked out a Business Name, decided on your menu offering and the perfect parking locations. The next thing for you to sort out now is the various licenses and permits you need to run your business.

Typical of any business that involves food, food truck businesses require several licenses and permits to operate in a state. These licenses and permits must be obtained before you can ever think of putting your truck on the road. The food truck licenses and permits you need for your food truck business usually differ for each city, county, and state in the united states.

Not having the right paperwork can hold up or stagnant your business for weeks or months. In a worst case scenario, incomplete paperwork can make the government to shut down your business indefinitely.

Depending on the area you reside in the country, you may be required to register your business annually, and you would be required to pay a fee each time. To know the licenses and permits you are required by law to possess as a food truck operator, you will have to talk to your city clerk.

Common Food Truck Licenses and Permits You Need to Have

Like have been said before, the rules and regulations on food trucks vary from state to state and city to city. But there are some common permits and licenses across regions that food truck owners are required to have. These licenses and permits may go by different names, but they cover similar things. Here are the licenses and permits you would require to get before you can put your food truck on the streets.

  • Business license or vendor license

Every food truck business must get a business license to operate. Depending on the city and state, and scope of services you provide, you may be charged a percentage of your gross sales or a yearly fee, along with the license fee. Available from your state, a business license (sometimes called a vendor license) registers your food truck as a business.

  • Tax ID

A tax number is basically a permit from your state that gives you the authority to collect sales tax. You’ll also need it if you are purchasing ingredients or supplies in bulk or wholesale. In some states, this number is often also your business number assigned to you on your business license. Your state might require other tax permits when registering your food truck business.

  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)

An EIN is a federal identification number for your business. Food trucks typically require several employees. To operate within the boundaries of the law, you need an employer identification number (EIN). An EIN is used by the IRS to identify your business and collect the appropriate taxes from you and your employees. Having an EIN allows you to hire employees under your business name.

All your employees must complete an I-9 (certifies that the employee can legally work in the United States) and a W-4 (to determine income tax withholding). Within 20 days of hiring a new employee, the government requires that you report him or her to the state directory.

You can apply free for your state EIN by mail, fax or online by visiting the IRS website. It will be used on forms and applications instead of your personal social insurance number. You will be mailed posters that detail worker’s compensation and minimum wage information, and are required to display them prominently.

  • Vehicle License

Because your business is on wheels, you’ll have to make sure the truck itself and its drivers are properly licensed. Depending on the length and weight of the vehicle, certain states may require a commercial driver’s license to operate your food truck.

  • Commercial Driver’s License

For any business, driving a motor vehicle that weighs over 26,000 pounds requires a commercial driver’s license (CDL). If you, your partners, or employees intend to drive the food truck, you’ll have to take the written and driving tests related to your CDL class.

Keep in mind that owning a CDL license puts you into a new class of drivers, and penalties for tickets and infractions will be more severe. Note that the weight of your truck matters for the type of license that you need. It’s also possible that your truck will need commercial plates.

Operational Permits your Food Truck Business Will Need

  • Seller’s Permit

A seller’s permit is a permit you apply for from your state to allow you to sell products or services and collect sales tax. The purpose of a seller’s permit is to allow the state to control the process of collecting, reporting, and paying sales tax in that state. The permit can also help you to purchase food and other goods at wholesale prices without paying sales tax.

Most states allow you to file your application for a seller’s permit (or other sales tax registration) and pay online. Go to the website of your State Department of Revenue (or other designation) to find the online link.

  • Mobile food vendor permit

The Mobile Food Vending License is issued to an individual who will prepare and/or serve food from a permitted mobile food vending unit (truck or pushcart). The license is issued by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) as a photo ID badge.

Sometimes called a “mobile food vendor license,” it’s the hardest permit to obtain. Some cities have a limited number that can be in use at one time, while others do a lottery to decide who gets one, and even others have years-long waiting lists. Check with your city to see what’s in store and how hard or easy it’ll be for you to get yours.

  • Food handler or certified food manager certificate

Some cities and states require one or more employees of a food truck to get a food handler’s permit. The city or state may require one or more employees to take a food safety class before the permit is issued. You need to protect your food truck business by making sure you have someone with a valid food handler’s permit be on the truck during open business hours. Food handler training, (also known as a “food manager certificate”) is required for storing, cooking, and handling food.

  • Facility record and food purchase records

In some cities and states, food is not allowed to be prepared on a truck; instead the use of a cooking facility is required. In this situation, paper records of use of the facility, depot, or commissary is necessary.

  • Parking permit

Pretty much in every state in the United States, food trucks are not permitted to park wherever they want. So you’ll need permits for the areas in which your truck will be stationed. You’re often required to pay for parking, too.

  • Health Department Permit

Just as any restaurant is required to be inspected by the health department, your food truck (and commissary) will also need to pass annual health inspections. The primary reason for health inspections is to spot any problem areas—potential or existing—that breed food-borne illnesses. Food and water supplies are checked, among other areas of interest. The review and approval of your local health department will verify that the food you prepare is being maintained and created in a safe manner.

In the United States, this permit may cost between $50.00 and $150.00 depending on the city. Again these permits can often be done online at the city’s website followed by a simple on side inspection once your food truck has been delivered to you.

The local health department wants to be sure that both you and your new Food Truck meet local standards. In order for them to ensure this, the health department will specify certain technical requirements for your Food Truck. These vary from region to region, and from county to county.

Generally though, these requirements are for the mobile kitchen to be made in such a way that it will be safe and clean and capable of providing healthy uncontaminated food. The health authorities may ask you to submit details of your Food Truck specifications. They want to check that your mobile kitchen will meet all of the local health codes.

  • Fire Certificates

The fire department will undoubtedly inspect your food truck if you’re using cooking equipment on board. They’ll educate you on the regulations you need to follow, and they’ll do routine inspections on your food truck fire suppression system.

  • Food Truck Commissary Permits

A food truck commissary is a commercial kitchen space where you can prepare and store food, so that all your cooking and storage doesn’t have to happen in your truck. It’s your food truck’s home base.

Commissaries make it easier to get ready for an occasion by pre-portioning dishes and stuff where there’s room to spread out, and you can store extra ingredients you can’t keep on the truck there. Some commissaries also offer a place to park, recharge electricity, refill water and propane tanks, and dispose of greywater (if your food truck has a restroom).

Food truck commissaries can be rented from a larger commercial kitchen (within either a private or shared space), which is a less expensive option than building and licensing your own. Here are a few things to note about food truck commissaries and the permits required for them:

In some cities (such as Boston), you are required to have a commissary set up before getting your food truck permit. In most areas, you’ll be covered by the licenses already in place at that commercial kitchen, but you will have to provide your own insurance.

Just remember to choose your rented commissary wisely. If they lose a permit, you’ll have to find somewhere else to prep, cook, and store your food. You’ll also be subject to whatever inspections happen at the kitchen, whether you’re physically present or you’re just storing food there.

To run your own commissary, you’ll be in charge of getting and maintaining all the standard permits and licenses required of a commercial kitchen in your city, including a food service establishment permit (food handler’s permit), building health permit, employee health permit, and any other local permits.

How to Get your Food Truck Permit

  1. Gather your documents

Before you can apply for a food truck permit you need several paper works that may include;

  • Permits from Inspectional Services and Fire
  • A Hawker and Peddler License
  • A Business Certificate
  • A Trimble GPS contract
  • A Certificate of Liability Insurance
  • A business plan, and
  • A written agreement from your commissary

You may also be required to provide other documents by your state or county, so make you you verify.

2. Complete your application

After you must have gotten all your documents together, you can now register and complete an application online. Your application needs to give reasons why you want to start a food truck business. In some instances, you may not be required to write a full application, you can just fill out the application that was provided in the online portal.

3. Application fee

There is a $500 annual application fee require for someone seeking a food truck permit. You need to make this payment so your application would be complete.

4. Find a location

When you have submitted your application, it is now time to start looking for the perfect positions for your food truck. There are three types of recognizable locations:

  • Public locations: You can apply for these spots through a lottery system.
  • Private locations: You need permission from the property owner before you can be allowed to set up on their property.

Each type of location has its own rules and licensing. Once your application has been made and you have chosen a location, it would take up to two weeks for your application to be approved. After the two weeks elapses, you can then pick up your permit from the public works office.

Note

You need to have food truck licenses and permits for any area you plan to visit to sell your food. If, for example, you are crossing state lines to sell at a music festival, you will have to comply with your home state and the visiting state. So, always check in with your local city and state business offices to obtain a list of the permits and licenses you’ll need so you don’t contravene any laws.

Ajaero Tony Martins