A food truck parking permit is a document that allows your food truck to park in certain places and sell food. A food truck parking permit in New York City is only $200. However, the city only issues 3,100 permits. The process sometimes can take months. Regulations vary from state to state, and the costs often add up to much more than anticipated.

Food truck permits are different from traditional parking permits since you’re requesting permission to park on certain streets and remain on the curb or in an area for a set amount of time. You may also need to pay for parking separately. In cities like Portland and Los Angeles, securing parking permits can be a nightmare if you don’t have the required paperwork.

Food trucks are quite inexpensive to start when compared to a traditional restaurant, and the overhead is also small. But remember, once you get the food truck on the road and ready for business, there are many costs associated with the day-to-day operation, including insurance, permits, and other fees.

Large markets tend to differ considerably from smaller ones too, so don’t assume that what works in one area will automatically work in another. You are advised to take time researching your target market to gain a better understanding of local challenges and needs within the food community. Understand the food truck climate in your area before you write that first check.

Have it in mind that a parking permit will indicate where and when you can park your truck during business hours. It will also indicate if you can leave your truck on the street overnight or if it is expected to be stored in a garage when not in use.

How to Get Food Truck Parking Permit in the United States

Food truck popularity has skyrocketed in some cities over the past decade, in large part due to the relatively low operating costs involved in the business. However, they all have something in common — a food truck parking permit. This is more or less a legal permit that allows you and your truck to sell food in a certain municipality. The process to get your license can vary depending on where you need one. Nonetheless, here are steps to consider;

  1. Understand Your Local Laws and Regulations

In the United States, food safety law has many levels to it. Although the FDA may govern food and drug processing on the federal level, many of the laws aimed toward food trucks are from the state and local government level. It simply means that location is a big factor in what licenses a food truck might need.

In most states, food trucks are particularly affected by this because they may do business in several different locations in a single day. Driving your food truck across county lines can change the requirements for licensure or require a separate license.

Ensure to be conversant with the information about the food truck laws in the area (or areas) that you intend to operate within. Start by consulting your state licensing website, then move to city websites, and finally go to the requirements for individual counties that you will be working within.

If you are not so sure about the exact department you’re looking for, go to the state or county government website and use the search function to look for “food truck”. Once you have found the right area of the website, you need to find out about the eligibility requirements for a license from the government. Then, you need to find out about the process. Remember, all of the details may vary depending on which government entity you want to get your license through.

  1. Know the Parking Permit You Need

Depending on the municipality you need to go through, you might have varying types of food truck parking permits available. For instance, in some states, there’s the option for a temporary license. This would be required for situations where your business will only be selling food for a limited time, such as a single festival or street fair.

Furthermore, you might have the option of a restricted food truck parking permit. These restrict sales to a certain area of town or on a certain property, such as a public park or commercial area. On the other hand, unrestricted licenses allow sales in all locations with no restrictions.

In some states too, a food truck parking permit might be limited or unlimited. Limited licenses only let you to sell pre-packaged food and have less strenuous requirements for health inspection. Unlimited licenses let you sell both packaged and prepared foods. The permit fees can vary on these two licenses so it is ideal to pursue a limited license if it would cover your business’ needs.

Have it in mind that some municipalities have separate food truck parking permits for individuals and their trucks or carts. For instance, New York City distributes a license to the owner of the food truck himself that shows a photo of the food truck and his permit number. But if he is using a cart, that license has a separate application process and fee that comes with a sticker to affix to the cart.

  1. Know the Application Process

Just as it was stated above, the application process may vary depending on where you want to use your food truck parking permit; however, there are some general steps across board. First, you will need to get the application from the website of the municipality you’re hoping to operate within. Fill it out completely.

Note that it is going to ask you for information about your business structure and the locations you plan to sell your food out of. If it is a permanent physical location, the application will ask for the address. If you intend to be more mobile, the application will likely ask you for your proposed location schedule.

In bigger cities, there may be a limited number of food truck parking permits available at any given time. Notably, this helps to keep the industry competitive yet prevents overcrowding. If you want to operate in one of these municipalities, it may be very challenging to get a new permit. Sometimes, there might be a long waiting list, but in some cases, there will be a lottery you can enter.

Once you complete your food truck parking permit application, you will more or less have to pay the application fee at the time of submission. Once your application has been reviewed and approved, you will need to pay the permit fees before you receive it. Most permits are good for a year and then you will need to renew them.

Also note that the process can vary too, but it generally requires you to fill out a renewal application, pay any fines you may currently have, and then pay the renewal fee. In most cases, the renewal fee will be significantly less than the original permit fee.

  1. The Health Inspection

Have it in mind that your food truck parking permits will more or less come with a health department inspection of your facilities or unit. Depending on the process where you apply for your license, you will either need to report to the local health department building at your appointed time or the inspector will come to you.

Note that this inspection will just make sure that the local food handling laws are being followed. For instance, you might have to have restroom facilities available in the areas or waiting a particular range of where you are selling.

The inspector will likely want to make sure that food items are being stored at the correct temperature. Another common check is that you are not selling any food prepared outside of the location being permitted or any food that is outside the scope of your permit.

Also, have it in mind that the health inspection is a separate fee from the license fee. You will need to pay for it when you schedule your appointment or send your request for inspection. If your business does not pass the health inspection, you will need to schedule or request another one as well as pay for the re-inspection.