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Food truck rules and regulations

Food truck rules and regulations

Learn about the rules you must follow as a mobile food vendor.

The City passed an ordinance in 2011 to allow food trucks in the City. You must follow the rules and regulations in this ordinance if you want to work as a mobile food vendor.

VENDOR TYPES

There are different regulations depending on vendor type. You'll have to get a permit and other licenses before you can open. Learn how to get a food truck permit.

All vendors must buy ingredients and food from a wholesaler.  Push carts or canteen trucks that use an open flame or propane must get a permit from the Fire Department and approval from Inspection Services.

Non-food mobile vending

Contact the Licensing Department of the Boston Police at 617-343-4425 if you want to start a non-food mobile vending business. Rule 401 regulates all mobile vendors in the City.

Still have questions? Contact:
Small Business Development
617-635-5729
1 City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201
United States
New Mobile Food Business

Contact us at food@boston.gov if you want to start a business that doesn't fit in one of our categories.

Rules by vendor type

Rules by vendor type
Food Push Carts
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Description

The cart can’t run on a motor. You also can only sell certain food.

Locations

Some public parks, the Downtown Crossing Business Improvement District area, and on private properties (with a permit).

Restrictions

You need a handwashing station if you're selling potentially hazardous foods like burritos or salads. You have to meet time and temperature regulations. You must give proof that you're a certified food manager.

If you don't have a handwashing station, you can only sell non-hazardous foods, like coffee, cupcakes, and hot dogs (which need to be stored in a fridge).

Canteen Trucks
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Description

Trucks that have handwashing stations, refrigeration, and hot food equipment can sell more types of food. Some trucks may have grills or pizza ovens.

Locations

There are many vending locations throughout the City. Learn about locations, costs, and how to apply for a spot.

Restrictions

You must cook and serve all food outside the truck.

Ice Cream Trucks
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Description

You can serve ice cream and other frozen desserts. All food is kept in refrigerators or freezers and is sold right from the truck.

Locations

Ice cream truck locations are regulated by the Boston Police Department. Read rule 401 to see where you can operate.

Restrictions

You need a handwashing station and a health permit from Inspectional Services to sell soft-serve ice cream. You also have to pay a $100 manufacturing fee for your soft serve machine.

Scheduling Rules and Regulations

You can't work more than one shift at City Hall Plaza, and you can't have more than three lunch shifts at the same site.

Prime site shifts are put into a lottery each year. We can't guarantee that any food truck will have a prime shift for more than one year. New sites are considered prime sites for their first year.

If you want a non-prime shift in a site that's already taken, you have to wait until the shift opens up.

Non-prime shifts are put into a lottery every three years. You can renew a spot up to three years.

Site Lotteries

All public spots are awarded through a lottery system. There is an annual lottery before each vending season and three mini-lotteries for dropped shifts. Annual lottery spots are available for the whole year but need to be renewed every three months.

New vendors can join before any lottery deadline:

Lottery type application deadlines Lottery dates
Annual live lottery

New vendors: February 16, 2016
Returning: March 1, 2016

March 14, 2016
Mini-Lottery 1 June 1, 2016 June 14, 2016
Mini-Lottery 2 September 1, 2016 September 14, 2016
Mini-Lottery 3 December 1, 2016 December 14, 2016

 

Adding and dropping shifts

After the annual lottery, vendors can add or drop shifts at the next mini-lottery without penalty. You can add or drop shifts through an online form. Email foodtrucks@boston.gov to get access to the form.

We'll hold a mini-lottery if more than one food truck applies for a spot. You'll lost fees paid to the City if you drop a shift outside of the deadline.

HOW THE DROP SYSTEM WORKS

If you wanted to drop a Monday lunch shift in the third quarter, you would need to submit the drop form by September 1, 2016. You could pick up your updated license on or after September 28. It would go into effect on October 1.

Shift Add/Drop Deadlines

Quarter 1
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Drop Deadline

N/A

Add Deadline

March 14, 2016

New Schedule Starts

April 1 - June 30, 2016

Quarter 2
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Drop Deadline

June 1, 2016

Add Deadline

June 14, 2016

New Schedule Starts

July 1 - September 30, 2016

Quarter 3
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Drop Deadline

September 1, 2016

Add Deadline

September 14, 2016

New Schedule Starts

October 1 - December 31, 2016

Quarter 4
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Drop Deadline

December 1, 2016

Add Deadline

December 14, 2016

New Schedule Starts

January 1 - March 31, 2017

Rules of the Road

You get points if you violate the rules of the road. Too many points will lead to fines and suspended licenses. There are different classes for each type of violation. 

The daily maximum fine is $300. If you get multiple citations in one day, you'll only be fined $300.

Points are added during the vendor season from April 1 - March 31. They reset at the start of the new season.

ADDING UP THE POINTS
  • Getting six points (equal to three Class 1 violations) will result in a three-day license suspension.
  • Twelve points will result in a suspension with a hearing to discuss suspending you for up to one week.
  • Eighteen points or more will result in a one-year suspension.
Other Violations

Other possible violations (like ones from the Fire Department) will be checked during your annual review. You may be able to appeal by sending a letter to our department.

Suspenses by Class

Suspenses by Class
Class 1
Worth 2 points and will result in a $300 fine
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Enforced by Boston Police:

  • Vending without a Food Truck Permit
  • Vending without a site license
  • Operating at a site not listed on a license
  • Reckless driving
  • Operating outside a shift schedule
Enforced by our department:
  • Dropping a shift after the deadline (unless you’re willing to pay one-month of rent)
Class 2
Worth 1 point and doesn't carry a fine
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Enforced by Boston Police:

  • Vending with a generator outside of your truck (unless you have an exemption)

Enforced by our department:

  • License not picked up within one week
  • Handling money without a valid Hawkers and Peddlers license
  • Vending without active GPS
  • Advertising with an A-frame sign
  • Parking closer than 15 feet to another truck on a public site, or 10 feet on a private site
  • Improper parking
  • Tables outside a truck
  • Waste Management violation (no trash can or not cleaning the site within 100 feet)
  • Idling truck while vending
  • Serving a sugar-sweetened beverage on a public site
  • Not providing healthy menu options
  • Not providing utensils for customers
Class 3
Worth 1 point and will result in you losing your site
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Enforced by our department:

  • Not showing up for the same shift for two weeks in a row