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Ice cream trucks deliver sweet treats through the convenience of a slow-moving ice cream freezer on wheels.
We all recognize the music as it turns down the street and gets louder, causing children and adults alike to gleefully jump up to catch the truck before it gets too far away.
As one of the most anticipated parts of spring and summer, many of us wait for the music as soon as the weather gets warm.
However, when should we realistically expect ice cream trucks to show up?
When Do Ice Cream Trucks Come?
Most ice cream trucks get on the road starting on the first day of summer (June 21).
Some ice cream trucks get the luxury of a longer season in hot locations, such as Florida, Texas, and California.
Since the weather gets hotter sooner, ice cream trucks may hit the streets as early as April or even March.
Ultimately, the owner of the ice cream truck determines when they start work.
Most ice cream trucks run independently, meaning the owner gets to set their hours.
A lot depends on their personal preferences as well as what makes the most sense for the business.
They obviously want to start as early in the season as reasonably possible.
However, consumers don’t want ice cream from an ice cream truck until the weather gets hot, meaning starting too early may not be the best business move.
How Late Do Ice Cream Trucks Run?
Ice cream trucks generally get moving as early as 10:00 or 11:00 in the morning.
Ice cream trucks keep running until after dinner at 6:00 or 7:00 in the evening.
They must find the balance between offering dessert for families after dinner while not staying out late enough to bother people who consider the music a nuisance.
Ice cream trucks don’t continue making rounds in residential neighborhoods after dark, but that can be pleasantly late in summer.
After the last route, some ice cream trucks will post near bars or on a main road to allow late-night ice cream lovers an opportunity to get ice cream on their way home.
What Makes Ice Cream Trucks So Appealing?
There’s an elevated amount of excitement that comes with an ice cream truck compared to buying ice cream at a convenience store thanks to the music and the sense of urgency.
Ice cream hits differently after you’ve been playing baseball outside or having a water balloon fight on a hot day.
When the music gets your attention, you scramble to get your money together and catch the ice cream truck.
Once you reach the ice cream truck, you generally get a wider range of options than at your local convenience store.
People expect to find their favorite ice cream on an ice cream truck, so truck owners make a point to stock up with plenty of options.
The situation leading up to the ice cream and the satisfaction of the first bite, especially when you almost missed the truck, make the ice cream taste better.
Ice Cream Truck Song
Most of us can hum the ice cream truck song from memory.
However, you may be surprised to learn that your memory may be different from someone else’s.
The most popular ice cream truck song is known as “Turkey in the Straw.”
However, the song has problematic roots clearly on display in the lyrics that have led most companies to update the song to represent an inclusive environment that encourages social progress.
Sure, trucks don’t use the lyrics, but playing an outdated song as a major representation of your company shows a lack of social awareness.
Good Humor, along with genius musician RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan, created a new jingle that you can listen to here.
Good Humour didn’t create ice cream trucks, but they decided to change the game once they joined in.
Since other brands can’t use the Good Humor song, many of them have switched to an innocuous popular song that aligns with their company values better than “Turkey in the Straw.”
Some common alternatives you may hear include:
- Pop Goes the Wesel
- Camptown Races
- La Cucaracha
- The Entertainer
- Picnic (Hello)
Ways To Learn About Ice Cream Trucks In Your Area
Don’t leave things up to chance.
Research local ice cream trucks using the following resources to learn when they plan to start operations and where they are in their route once the season begins.
1. Ice Cream Truck Tracker App
There is an app you can download on your phone known as the ice cream truck tracker app.
This app tells you the location of any nearby active ice cream trucks, no matter the brand.
Many brands, such as Mister Softee, have their own app that shows inquiring minds where the trucks are on their routes.
However, they won’t show you the locations of competitor ice cream trucks.
2. Community Social Media Pages
On Facebook, join a local page for your community.
The page will keep you informed about all types of things going on in the neighborhood, including animal sightings and ice cream truck sightings.
While social media provides information in real time, you must catch the post in time.
If you aren’t looking at the app at the correct time, the information won’t do you any good.
3. Ask The Ice Cream Driver
When you see an ice cream truck driver, ask them when they expect to reach you.
Now, some days may take longer than others.
However, the ice cream man may be able to give you information, such as if they go down the street every day or twice a day, and an estimate of the time.
Don’t forget to tip the ice cream truck driver, especially if they’re going above and beyond for you.
4. Learn Local Hot Spots
Like any business, your local ice cream truck drivers will attempt to position themselves in the most strategic locations.
They probably want to be around crowds and family-friendly landmarks/activities, so you should check the parks and pools in your community.
The ice cream trucks may go down residential roads once or twice a day but make their way to the park at least once an hour.
If you know the truck visits a particular location regularly, you can set yourself up for success by positioning yourself in that location instead of waiting at home.
Google is the king of search engines for a reason.
It helps you find what you want easily.
Simply type “ice cream truck near me” in Google to find the nearest ice cream truck and its exact location.
How Ice Cream Trucks Keep The Ice Cream Cold
When tracking your local ice cream truck, you will quickly learn that the trucks stay busy.
How do the ice cream trucks keep the ice cream so cold in summer weather when they are constantly on the go?
The answer lies in the chest freezers in the truck.
The chest freezers consist of three main components that work together to produce cold temperatures:
- Compressor: compresses refrigerant gases and transports them.
- Condenser: isolates hot air and removes it from the truck.
- Evaporator: where the cold air is created.
Two alternatives to a chest freezer include a cold plate freezer and dry ice.
Ice cream won’t get freezer burn as long as the ice cream is properly stored and the buyer eats the ice cream as soon as they get it.
The ice cream can remain frozen for up to eight hours when using a cold plate freezer.
However, most truck owners will empty the ice cream from the truck at the end of the night so that they can power down the freezers.
The ice cream will go back to the main storage freezers with the additional inventory.
Popular Ice Cream Truck Options
Some ice cream trucks offer unique menu options you can’t get from other trucks to help them stand out from the crowd.
However, all trucks benefit from offering the crowd favorites.
Some of the most popular menu items for children are the ice cream characters, such as Spongebob or Wonder Woman.
Some of the other popular items you can find at the ice cream truck include:
- Choco Tacos
- Snow Cones
- Push Pops
- Strawberry Crunch Bar
- Chocolate Crunch Bar
- Ice Cream Sandwich
- King Cones
Tips And Tricks For Visiting An Ice Cream Truck
Every experience can be enhanced when you plan ahead and learn the ins and outs of the business.
Use these tips and tricks to ensure you always ensure getting ice cream from an ice cream truck.
1. Have Cash Ready
While many ice cream trucks these days take cards, it’s best to keep cash on hand specifically in case you encounter an ice cream truck throughout your day.
Cash is quicker than a card for the ice cream truck.
If you have cash on you, you also won’t need to search for your wallet and make the ice cream truck driver wait.
2. Stay Clean
Ice cream gets messy.
Don’t get mad.
Prevent huge messes by having wet wipes and sanitizer on hand.
Ice cream trucks can provide you with napkins, but they won’t get rid of the stickiness the same way a wet wipe will.
3. Remain Flexible
We make plans and God laughs at them.
You can track your local ice cream truck and do your best to plan your encounter.
Sometimes, the plans don’t align as expected.
Keep yourself flexible in case you miss a particular route and need to get ice cream later in the day or the next day.
Don’t eat a different dessert until you’ve gone inside and officially given up on the ice cream truck for the day.
4. Ask About Damaged Goods
An ice cream bar may fall and experience minor damage.
While fine to eat, the minor imperfections force the driver to put that ice cream bar to the side.
Ask the driver if they have damaged goods for cheap rates (or free).
5. Don’t Forget The Dog
Most ice cream trucks have treats for your dog as well.
Ask about pup cups filled with whipped cream or dog treats.
Some ice cream trucks give them out for free as a courtesy!
6. Tip The Driver
A good ice cream truck driver is a part of the community.
Show your support and your appreciation with a small tip during every transaction.
Tips may even encourage the driver to drive down your street more often than originally planned.
Cost And Profits Of Ice Cream Trucks
Humor and some other brands have corporate ice cream trucks.
However, most ice cream trucks are independently owned.
Is it actually profitable to run an ice cream truck?
What type of person can benefit from operating an ice cream truck?
While the numbers vary greatly, most ice cream truck drivers gross $5,000 a month but net $2,500 after expenses (working 20 days out of the month).
Drivers who work more hours on more days may make more.
Drivers who market themselves well and place themselves strategically can make more, too.
Expect to work all day on all summer holidays, such as the 4th of July, since those are the days that ice cream trucks make the most money.
Expenses include the cost to operate the freezers and the truck and the inventory.
There will also be monthly expenses, such as commercial business insurance.
Getting started proves to be the most expensive part of the experience.
You will need to purchase the truck (or lease it) as well as the inventory.
Expect to pay tens of thousands of dollars.
You’ll also need to go through the proper legal processes, which isn’t necessarily expensive in and of itself, but you can pay a lot mentally when working with the authorities.
Permits, licenses, and insurance policies you’ll need to start an ice cream truck include:
- Valid driver’s license
- Business license
- Health permit
- Resale permit
- Commercial auto insurance
- Professional liability insurance
- Product liability insurance
Always double-check the requirements in your area.
Improper permits can lead to your ice cream truck getting fined or shut down.
Ice cream trucks only provide a source of income for a part of the year.
You need another source of income in the winter months.
You also need to enjoy your neighborhood and enjoy working with people.
Marketing Your Ice Cream Truck
Many people get into the ice cream truck business mistakenly thinking that ice cream sells itself.
You need to market your ice cream truck business properly.
Get active in local social media communities and create accounts with Google and other valuable online resources.
Post about your plans for the day and interact with customers.
Set yourself apart from the competition by offering items other trucks don’t have, such as healthy options or lunch options.
You can get bold by making yourself the rocker ice cream truck or the princess ice cream truck, wearing costumes, and playing music that matches your brand.
You can also create events either on your own or in conjunction with other businesses.
Host an ice cream movie night outdoors in your backyard or at a local park/library.
You can also make a point to promote discounted ice cream when you finally reach the last day of the year.
Whatever you do, don’t assume that driving in the truck is all of the promotion you need to do.
Make promotion part of your daily routine and stay consistent.
Ice cream trucks start to hit the streets when the weather is appropriate for ice cream.
Generally speaking, most ice cream trucks open at the beginning of summer, but warm states may see ice cream trucks on the streets a little bit earlier in the season.
You can find ice cream trucks through numerous online tools or by getting to know your local ice cream truck driver.
While the job isn’t for everyone, many people are happy to take on the friendly neighborhood role and indulge in ice cream all day (although the song has to get old after a while).