Rules & Regulations

The Legal Side of Owning a Food Truck.

Before you get rolling with your mobile food business, you will need to get your licensing together. It would be impossible to list all the numerous permits and licensing requirements for each state, county, and city. However, there are many universal concerns that can be addressed.

Your local department of health will have the information you need, you can get started by calling to inquire about the necessary requirements. Below, we’ve included a list of the licenses and permits you will encounter when operating your business.

Always check in with your local city and state business offices to obtain a list of the permits and licenses you’ll need.

Common Licenses

Business License

Similar to other businesses, mobile food vendors are required to have a state business license (sometimes called vendor license) which will register your food truck as a business. Some cities and counties typically require food trucks to obtain local business licenses as well.

Having a business license helps the government identify your business, and track the food truck activities for tax purposes. It assures the legitimacy of the food truck, as well as verifying you’ve met certain compliance requirements.

Before you apply for a business license, check with your local Secretary of State for any additional requirements or fees. You can research what permits and licenses you might need through the Small Business Association.

Visit SBA.gov

Tax Identification Number

A Tax ID is a permit from your state that will allow you to collect sales tax. It is sometimes required when purchasing supplies or ingredients in bulk or wholesale.

Depending on your state, your tax ID is oftentimes your business number that’s been assigned on your business license. Consult your local tax office or check with the IRS to find what is required or where to find your tax number.

Employer Identification Number (EIN)

An Employer Identification Number is also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number and is used to identify a business entity. Generally, businesses need an EIN. It is used on forms and applications instead of your personal social insurance number.

Consult your local tax office or check with the IRS to find what is required.

Vehicle Licenses for Food Trucks

Drivers license & vehicle registration

The type of license that you’ll need depends on the gross vehicle weight of the vehicle, you may be required to get a commercial license if your truck is above a certain weight. You may also be required to obtain commercial plates.

Check with your local DMV to confirm what is required.

Insurance

Some states require that your mobile business must be covered by commercial car insurance. If you run your food truck in fairs or festivals, you may also be required to have general liability insurance. Businesses that have employees will need worker’s insurance.

Your state’s website can help you find which insurance your business requires.

Operating Permits for Food Trucks

Location & Parking Regulations

While you may be mobile, you can’t park just anywhere. Some counties limit food trucks, trailers, buses and carts to specific locations. Additionally, you may also have to follow limited time parking restrictions or pay for parking meters.

Some businesses, such as brewpubs, consider food trucks to be complementary to their business and allow food trucks to provide service on their property.

A list of where you can and can’t park should be available from your local county website or DMV.

Food Handlers Permit

A food handler or food manager certificate is a common standard for any food service business. Food handler training is required for handling, cooking, and storing food.

Obtaining your Food Handlers card is made easy with eFoodHandlers. eFoodHandlers is a national, ANSI-accredited food safety training provider. Their interactive program includes videos and learning exercises to provide quality training options for every learning style.

Health Department Permit

Your food truck will need to be inspected by the local health department as any restaurant would. Health departments require detailed plans to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Health departments typically have countywide jurisdiction, so you’ll have to contact the local health department and obtain approval when you start operating in a new county.

Fire Certificates

The fire department may inspect your vehicle and your cooking equipment. You’ll be educated about fire safety and be required to install a fire suppression system.

Almost all local and state governments require a fire suppression system installed in your food truck.

Laws by City

Explore what the best cities are to operate a food truck.
Data from Food Truck Nation

  Procedures Trips Fees  
Number Score Number Score Costs Score Overall Score
Denver 10 100 8 100 $811 99 100
Indianapolis 19 59 10 87 $590 100 82
Philadelphia 18 64 11 80 $1,778 93 79
Minneapolis 20 55 10 87 $1,674 93 78
Orlando 20 55 11 80 $629 100 78
Austin 20 55 14 60 $1,139 97 70
Phoenix 19 59 15 53 $1,540 94 69
Portland 22 45 15 53 $1,877 92 64
St. Louis 22 45 17 40 $1,204 96 61
Houston 21 50 17 40 $1,788 93 61
Raleigh 24 36 16 47 $848 98 60
Nashville 25 32 15 53 $1,343 95 60
Los Angeles 23 41 16 47 $2,439 89 59
New York City 26 27 18 33 $1,075 97 53
Chicago 23 41 19 27 $2,713 87 52
Columbus 29 14 17 40 $1,560 94 49
San Francisco 32 0 15 53 $3,481 82 45
Washington 28 18 23 0 $2,720 87 35
Seattle 29 14 20 20 $6,211 66 33
Boston 32 0 22 7 $17,066 0 2
  Number of Restrictions Restriction Values  
Number Score Feet Score Overall Score
Philadelphia 4 90 30 99 94
Denver 2 100 320 86 93
Portland 5 85 0 100 93
Orlando 5 85 45 98 91
New York City 7 75 31 99 87
Houston 6 80 160 93 86
Boston 8 70 124 94 82
Los Angeles 5 85 700 68 77
Chicago 10 60 250 89 74
Austin 12 50 105 95 73
St. Louis 9 65 504 77 71
Nashville 10 60 546 75 68
Indianapolis 6 80 1,000 55 67
Raleigh 14 40 325 85 63
Seattle 11 55 1,120 49 52
Columbus 8 70 2,045 8 39
Washington 22 0 512 77 38
San Francisco 14 40 1,627 27 33
Phoenix 15 35 2,215 0 18
Minneapolis 22 0 1,636 26 13
  Procedures Trips Fees  
Number Score Number Score Costs Score Overall Score
Portland 7 100 7 100 $5,410 100 100
Phoenix 8 93 18 56 $25,187 39 63
Indianapolis 9 86 20 48 $20,435 54 63
Columbus 10 80 20 49 $20,820 53 61
Orlando 10 79 20 48 $19,621 56 61
Denver 10 79 21 44 $22,751 47 57
Houston 11 75 21 46 $22,746 47 56
Raleigh 11 72 22 40 $22,827 46 53
Seattle 13 59 13 77 $32,076 18 51
Los Angeles 10 79 21 47 $29,096 27 51
Austin 14 52 22 43 $22,168 48 48
Nashville 10 79 22 40 $29,579 26 48
Philadelphia 13 63 24 34 $25,292 39 45
Minneapolis 12 68 20 48 $31,694 19 45
New York City 12 66 25 31 $28,085 30 43
St. Louis 12 66 29 13 $26,191 36 38
Chicago 14 53 26 26 $32,461 17 32
San Francisco 17 33 27 22 $28,642 29 28
Washington 16 39 32 0 $29,382 26 11
Boston 21 0 32 0 $37,907 0 0