Since the Road traffic Act 1991, which (broadly) decriminalised parking offences, there have been huge changes in the way in which parking enforcement has been managed. Some of these changes include:
- The development of parking enforcement software which has automated many areas of the complex process of parking enforcement and management.
- Cloud-based software has increased the ability of new entrants to access enforcement systems since it reduces the cost of ownership and avoids the need for major capital expenditures. Now all employees from site operatives through to the chief executive can have access to the parking system.
- Increased integration of systems which provide services at each stage of the process. Enforcement companies can now choose the best of breed for the services they require and stitch them together.
- Establishment of an “appropriate fee” for parking contraventions on behalf of private operators which has been backed by a Supreme Court judgement.
- Use of mobile technologies has meant that enforcement officers have more sophisticated mobile enforcement tools to be both more accurate and more efficient.
These changes have been significant but many of these trends will continue to accelerate over the next 10 years.
Technology vs People
Many parking enforcement companies are now using technology-based services. The most popular rapidly increasing in the use of ANPR and CCTV to manage parking enforcement. ANPR cameras register when a vehicle enters or leaves the car park by reading the number plate against a timestamp. It connects the payment to the vehicle read.
More and more car parks are switching from their existing parking enforcement systems. So instead of deciding on a period for parking and purchasing it at the start of their parking session, they pay for it at the end.
Also, technology-based solutions will have an impact on how they use foot patrols by enforcement companies. Although this is a gradual change, we are likely to see fewer parking operatives patrolling car parks in future.
Many more parking enforcement processes are now being automated. With Wi-Fi & 4g technology, contraventions can be uploaded to an enforcement management system in seconds. Once there many of the processes can be automated – from the request for keeper names and addresses to the issuing of PCN letters via hybrid mail service, the payment through online payment services, to appeals where the motorist wishes to dispute the charge notice. Finally, moving the case into litigation and debt collection services where the motorist doesn’t pay.
Increasing use of ANPR
One of the strongest recent enforcement trends has been the increase in the use in ANPR camera technology to make the parking enforcement process more efficient. And these camera reads can be uploaded to the parking management system quickly with a minimum of human intervention. Read our article What is ANPR? and The Rise Of ANPR.
To tie the payment for a parking session with an ANPR camera read, many parking sites are now requiring motorists to enter their VRM when they pay for their parking. However, motorists are prone to making errors when typing in their number plate and this can result in a PCN being issued because the system can’t tie the payment to their vehicle.
The main industry bodies, BPA and IPC do post warnings for motorists to ensure that they are careful to enter their VRM accurately. And the Independent appeals organisations are trying to encourage a sensitive approach to enforcement where the motorist can demonstrate that they have paid for a parking session.
Technology can also help where ANPR read can’t be matched with a payment. When an operative is looking at ANPR read that could result in a contravention, fuzzy whitelisting will present mismatched VRMs from paid parking sessions that might be a close match. Combining this with a DVLA make model and colour lookup, the ANPR read and the payment can be tied together, thus a PCN does not need to be issued at all. Learn more about Zatpark’s ANPR checker.
Code of Practice and Single Appeals Service
The recent Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2019, allows the secretary of state to set up a code of practice. This may see some changes in the law around enforcement. One likely change is the requirement for a single appeals service for the parking industry. The belief is that having a single appeals service will help to ensure that appeals decisions are more consistent and therefore improve trust with motorists.
There is also an expectation that the new appeals service will be looking at applying a “sensitive” approach to enforcement. One example of this is to reduce the number of PCNs issued where the motorist has paid but has not met one of the parking site’s other terms and conditions, such as where the motorist mistypes their number plate.
Smart Cities, Smart Apps and Networked Parking
One of the major trends is in the increased urbanisation of society. More of us are residing in cities and this requires some new thinking to maintain an effective transport network.
Futurologist Alexander Mankowsky observed that “It is already the case that nine out of ten drivers plan extra time on their journey’s for finding a parking space at their destination. It is estimated that currently, 30% of all cars in urban centres are circling the streets looking for parking spaces.”
Car parks sites are increasingly being networked. By connecting them with the increasingly sophisticated set of consumer parking applications, the motorist will have much more visibility on which parking sites are likely to have spaces. Some parking sites will allow you to register your vehicle using an app, takes the payment and then allocates you to a reserved parking space.
Operating these systems, it is estimated that car parks could be more than 20% more efficient and it would significantly reduce the number of vehicles roving the streets searching for spaces. It will also shorten journey times for motorists. If they know they can book a parking space at a particular time they won’t need to allow for extra time.
Parking Apps and networked parking may have some impact on parking enforcement. A completely joined-up system will make allocating spaces and payments easier and more effective, as well as making enforcement fairer and more transparent.