Parallel parking a food truck is often one of the most difficult driving skills for new food truck owners to master. It takes time, patience, and confidence. Unfortunately, when driving a food truck in a busy city like Los Angeles, Washington DC or Chicago, parallel parking may be your only option when trying to set up for your next shift, especially when it requires parking in a busy downtown area.
What is parallel parking?
Simply put, parallel parking is whenever you park your food truck at a curbside location, between two other vehicles or objects. You will be backing your truck into a space parallel, or beside your truck, rather than pulling forward, or backing straight into a parking space in a garage or lot. You will also be using an imaginary or real vehicle ahead of the spot you plan to enter, and parallel to your vehicle, to help guide you into the parking spot.
How to Parallel Park A Food Truck
- Before you even slow down your truck, the first step to take is to check your mirrors to make sure traffic behind you is a safe distance away. Once you are sure of this, and you’re sure the parking space you’re eying up will fit your vehicle, turn on your signal and then slow down.
- Stop beside the vehicle parked in front of the spot you plan to enter, leaving roughly 2 to 3 feet separating your vehicle from the one parallel to you.
- Once you are stopped and in place, check your mirrors again to make sure traffic is still stopped. Now, begin backing up slowly, turning your wheel sharply toward the curb.
- Once your vehicle is about halfway into the space, turn your wheel back the opposite direction to align your vehicle with the curb. If you hit the curb at any time, simply put your truck back in forward gear, check your mirrors for traffic, and follow the path back out of the space. You will need to begin turning your wheel earlier to align your truck with the sidewalk and avoid hitting the curb.
- Once you’re in the parking space, pull your vehicle forward or back to assure you are lined up with the vehicles in front and behind. You’ll also want to check to make sure your vehicle is sitting 6 to 8 inches away and parallel to the curb.
- Place your food truck in park. If your truck has a manual transmission car rental, apply the parking brake.
Now it’s time to get in the kitchen and get it ready to open your service window for a great day of sales.
4 Tips For Parallel Parking A Food Truck
- Practice, Practice, Practice. Before you ever attempt parallel parking a food truck on a busy city street, take a day (or week if needed) to get to know your truck. Get familiar with the width or length of the vehicle. Walk around the vehicle so that you can begin to process the dimensions of your truck. Find a large open area (school parking lots are great) where you can set up a driving course with cones to represent the cars or trucks on a street. Lay out the different situations you might run into. Bring a spotter with you to help explain what is going right and wrong and begin the process of getting muscle memory for this process.
- Never pull your food truck forward into a space. Driving forward into a space between two vehicles may seem like the simple answer, but it isn’t. Often when parallel parking a food truck, it is on a busy street with traffic. When you pull in forward, you will likely leave the rear portion of your vehicle sticking out into the street. As well, when you reverse your vehicle to adjust it into the space, you will likely have less maneuverability due to the angle of your vehicle and rear wheels.
- Take a deep breath and relax. Even though traffic might be waiting behind you, it’s always important to take your time. Moving slowly into the space will protect your vehicle, allow you to check your mirrors, and will make adjustments easier. Parallel parking is a part of operating a food truck in an urban area, and most drivers expect small delays for vehicles parking.
- Use a spotter. I have always stressed this to any food truck owner that has brought up this issue. If you have a team member working with you, have them either get out of the truck or waiting for the truck to show up to a spot in a position outside of the vehicle where you can see them with your mirrors. If you are a one person team, get help from a fellow food truck owner or in a worst case scenario, ask someone one the street to help you park your huge rolling kitchen. Don’t start your shift off with having to call the police to report the accident you just caused.
Road and Track gives a mathematical equation on how to parallel park perfectly!!!
Are a proclaimed master of parallel parking? Share any additional advice to beginner food truck operators in the comment section below.