10 LOADING AND UNLOADING
219. Loading is a common cause of dispute in parking enforcement: 7 per cent of the challenges reaching the National Parking Adjudication Service for England and Wales in 2004 concerned parking or loading or unloading in streets where restrictions are in force on theses activities. A further 1 per cent of challenges were for parking in a loading bay during restricted hours (without undertaking loading or unloading duties). 5.6 per cent of the appeals received by the London Parking and Traffic Appeal Service between 2004-2005 concerned alleged loading contraventions.
220. It appears that, following the introduction of civil parking enforcement, the number of parking tickets issued to freight and haulage vehicles has increased. For example, the Association of International Courier and Express Services reported that the level of Penalty Charge Notices received by its members had more than doubled between 2002 and 2004. The Association believes that this is not due to any significant change in the parking habits of its members. It may reflect a higher level of enforcement activity on the part of local authority parking attendants.
The economic impact of enforcing parking regulations
221. The Freight Transport Association told us that the economic implications of the high number of parking Penalty Charge Notices received can be significant for some companies:
223. The Freight Transport Association acknowledged the dilemma facing the haulage industry in relation to parking policy and enforcement. Good parking enforcement supports smooth flowing traffic on the network. This benefits business. Indeed, enforcement only disadvantages business financially when commercial drivers receive Penalty Charge Notices. The Freight Transport Association stated:
224. Several witnesses commented on the problems created in parking enforcement by the lack of an exact and universally agreed definition about what constitutes ’loading’ and ’unloading’. For the past fifty years the courts have been involved in determining what exemptions apply and the precise nature of the activity covered by the term ’loading’. Wilkinson’s Road Traffic Offences lists at length the variety of court cases which have examined the detail of the term. The Freight Transport Association has called for a clear statutory definition:
226. Consultation is important on this issue because the delivery industry appears to feel victimised and has raised criticisms of loading difficulties in city centres. Consultation with residents, employers and local authorities should help the Department to work towards developing a workable and acceptable definition of these terms on the basis of consensus. Once statutory guidance on loading and unloading policies is agreed, this should be communicated effectively to road users. Drivers of delivery vehicles may need to adapt their behaviour in light of strengthened enforcement if they are to avoid significant penalty charges.
227. In addition, a universally accepted definition of loading should provide the basis for greater consistency in how parking restrictions are enforced. For example, industry groups criticised the variation in how local authorities implemented the ’observation period rule’. ’Observation’ is intended to reveal whether a vehicle is being attended, and whether loading or unloading activity is actually taking place.
228. Within London, the observation period varies significantly between councils, from zero in Barnet to 20 minutes in Camden, Richmond and Westminster. Standardisation of the ’observation period’ would assist the drive towards transparency in the parking rules generally; and in the attainment of both higher rates of compliance with the regulations and less time-consuming disputes.
229. There is a pressing need to clarify the rules surrounding loading issues in the forthcoming statutory guidance. The Minister told us that the Department for Transport had decided not to undertake a consultation on the definition of loading in developing the new guidance on parking. There are currently no universally accepted definitions of ’loading’ and ’unloading’ however, and such definitions are required. The Department should therefore reverse its position and take the lead on clearing up the confusion through consultation with the haulage industry, police, residents, and local authorities. That definition must elucidate precisely what activities are covered. Once arrived at it should be widely publicised in the Department’s guidance and by local authorities, and applied consistently across the country. Clearer guidance on a standardised ’observation period’ (used by parking attendants to confirm loading and unloading activity) would also be helpful.
Provision of loading capacity
230. Sections of the business community appeared to attempt to justify illegal parking by criticising the availability of loading sites in urban areas. The Association of International Courier and Express Services told us:
Lack of kerbside space for loading activity is not a valid excuse for illegal and dangerous parking.
’Cash and valuables in transit’
233. The ’cash and valuables in transit’ sector of the security industry reported the particular problems it routinely encounters when unloading. These companies make in excess of 100,000 deliveries each day using specially adapted and armoured vehicles.
The main parking issue for these companies is the risk to the health and safety of the general public and to their employees through the risk of robbery. This is increased greatly where armoured vehicles have to park some distance from their delivery destinations.
234. According to the British Security Industry Association there were 760 attacks in the UK last year. In a majority of these cases, the offenders carried weapons, and a firearm was drawn on 240 occasions. When questioned about the safety aspect of bullion deliveries, the then Minister, Karen Buck MP, appeared not to be aware of these special and serious problems.
235. The ’cash and valuables in transit’ sector poses particularly acute safety risks, which can be exacerbated by some parking regulations. The then Minister’s response that she was unaware of these particular problems did not reassure us that the Department for Transport has engaged fully with local authorities and the industry on this issue. The Department’s new guidance must take account of the special problems of the security delivery sector. Local authorities must exercise discretion in considering how parking restrictions should be applied to bullion vehicles.
Partnership working between local government and businesses
236. Progress in balancing road capacity and business needs can be made when councils work with delivery companies to find acceptable solutions. Mike Bracey of the Brewery Logistics Group provided a good example:
238. Vehicle deliveries are essential to the economy. Provision for loading and unloading must be reviewed carefully by councils as part of their preparation for the adoption of civil parking enforcement. Thereafter there should be regular reviews at no more than five yearly intervals to ensure that the restrictions remain up-to-date and relevant. Strong communications and a partnership approach to loading problems between businesses, local authorities, residents and other users, has been shown to be helpful in resolving loading disputes. Not every problem can be resolved neatly; but more can be done to integrate vehicle deliveries better into the street environment. The Department for Transport’s guidance should however encourage consultation and constructive relationships between different road users, residents, and local authorities in arriving at loading policies to suit local needs.