Mayor Rahm Emanuel has finally submitted an ordinance for city council review that would allow food trucks in the Windy city to catch up with the remainder of the country and cook on board. One of the biggest issues brought up by food truck owners is that the proposed ordinance is the parking restrictions and the fines to be levied should a food truck owner choose for breaking the 200 ft parking restriction to brick and mortar restaurants.

With cities across the country running into budgetary downfalls, we wondered how the city health and police departments were planning to keep track of the new influx of food trucks to monitor and inspect them. After we read the the ordinance, we found out that it wasn’t going to be by adding health inspectors or police officers, but by requiring every licensed food truck in Chicago to install (at their cost) a GPS tracking system. At first glance, it seemed to make sense, since the GPS technology would allow inspectors to be able to immediately find out where each of these trucks were located (apparently Twitter and Facebook is too difficult to operate) and track them down on the street to preform on-site inspections.

GPS Tracking For Food Truck Parking Violations

This idea is not new, and is also used in Boston to help maintain big brother’s watch over the mobile food industry there. The problem we have with this portion of the ordinance is that health concerns are not the reasons why the GPS tracking was included. We found out that a city official told food truck owners that the primary reason for the tracking systems was for parking oversight. Police and meter maids would be able to ticket food truck owners from the comfort of an office while watching a video monitor.

As it was explained to us, anyone with an issue with the parking location of a food truck can call the police to report an alleged infraction and without sending an officer to investigate, the city would be able to go to their GPS monitoring station to verify the complaint. If a food truck is shown to be in an area that they should not be (pretty much the entire downtown loop until 10PM at night) the city could then issue a ticket (did we mention this could be between $1,000 and $2,000?).

Sounds legit, right? Wrong!

The flaw in the process comes up with the accuracy of the GPS tracking. When was the last time your smart phone tracking system showed you somewhere other than where you were? When was  the last time the GPS system on Foursquare or other geo-location sites showed your location in a place that was not quite as close to where you were checking into?

So now the police will be able to issue a parking ticket, even if the food truck is outside to the regulated 200 ft distance. It will be up to the food truck owner to fight the ticket in court, which means using their time to get to court and argue/prove that they were not where the system was showing them. Every time a truck owner is in court, it means that they are not on the streets, earning their living.

We investigated a number of recent stories relating to the inaccuracies of GPS tracking and found this one rather disturbing.

The mother of a young girl hit with a stray bullet fired by a juvenile offender who was under GPS tracking is seeking millions of dollars from the Maryland state vendor that provides the monitoring, claiming in a lawsuit that the company knew its product was flawed. Entire story <here>

If in a case where a true law was being broken cannot be properly tracked, we wonder how often GPS tracking will lead to false ticketing of food trucks that have been reported by angry restaurant owners (we imagine Glenn Keefer will have the food truck reporting line to be on speed dial)?