Managing fines related to parking offences can prove to be a legal, financial and HR administration nightmare for fleet decision-makers and company car and van drivers alike.
The complexity and confusion of the system in place and the fact that the issuing of penalty/parking charge notices (PCNs) and any subsequent appeal process involves a myriad of different organisations, adding further to the nightmare for fleet operators.
“The whole system is a mess,” says John Pryor, chairman of ACFO.
“Regulations and the bodies involved are very different, in respect of PCNs issued by local authorities, or as a consequence of a parking offence being committed in a private car park. Legal action always provokes worries. Fines must be taken seriously, but the processes involved are both confusing and complicated, and deadlines apply to the process of identifying drivers in company vehicles and paying or appealing a fine.”
A PCN is issued to a vehicle’s owner, who is legally responsible for paying the fine, although there are special rules for short-term hire vehicles: the hirer will usually be asked to sign a statement of liability for PCNs.
In respect of a company vehicle, the PCN will be issued to the registered keeper of the vehicle after information has been obtained from the DVLA by the local authority or company managing the private car park.
Furthermore, different processes used by leasing and rental companies frequently mean that a fleet or driver may have no time to appeal a parking fine as the vehicle provider may automatically pay the fee and then recharge the cost to the client while also adding on an administration charge.
Gerry Keaney, chief executive of BVRLA, says: “Our members will take a variety of approaches to dealing with parking and road traffic offences depending on the commercial arrangements they have with their customers.”
“In some cases they will transfer liability immediately to the customer, sometimes they will pay the fine and recharge the company or driver, and in other cases they may make a representation on behalf of the customer. We know that the vehicle rental and leasing industry has to deal with fines and charges issued by a huge variety of private, national and regional organisations.
“Nearly all of them take a different approach to the way in which penalties are issued, payments are made or appeals are handled, which puts a major administrative and cost burden on our members and their customers.”
He adds: “The BVRLA continues to call for a more standardised approach to fines and penalties that would see a single, streamlined process for paying fines or appealing against them.
“We also don’t believe it is fair that a person appealing against a fine should automatically forfeit the ability to pay that fine at the discounted rate.”
Correctly-worded contracts of employment are critical, to enable employers to identify company vehicle drivers as responsible for a fine and then take action to recoup the cost and potentially take disciplinary action, says Rebecca Lynch, partner in the employment team at law and professional services firm Gordon Dadds.
“If employers give staff a contract of employment with the right flexibility then they should not have a problem in identifying the driver responsible for the PCN and enforcing their payment of the fine, which would normally be deducted from their pay, either in one lump sum or perhaps over time if the payment is large,” she says.
Around eight million parking-related PCNs are issued annually, split equally between London and the rest of
the country. A Freight Transport Association survey earlier this year found that 72% of parking fine appeals in London are successful.
In relation to parking on private land, 550 to 600 appeals are lodged per week across England and Wales with about half won.
Here we outline the system for parking fines issued by local authorities and companies managing private car parks and the appeal process for each.
Parking tickets on public land where the local authority is responsible
In most parts of the country, including the whole of London, PCNs are issued by civil enforcement officers, also known as traffic wardens.
In areas where a local authority does not have civil parking enforcement powers, parking is enforced by the police or police-employed traffic wardens.
PCNs can be issued for many reasons, including: parking on yellow lines, in a permit-only zone without a clearly displayed valid permit, in a council-owned car park or on a metered space if the correct charge has not been paid or parking ticket not displayed and anywhere else where parking is banned, for example, on white zig-zag lines or on the pavement.
Employers have a choice of paying the parking fine or identifying the driver to the local authority and transferring liability. In the latter case, ACFO recommends giving advice to the driver on paying the penalty or disputing the fine.
A PCN is a civil offence and can be issued by post, by hand or applied to a vehicle windscreen. By law the PCN must be issued within 28 days of when the traffic warden saw the parking rule was broken or it was caught on camera.
Drivers can challenge the fine or have 28 days to pay: a discount of 50% is available for payment within 14 days (21 days if vehicle is caught on camera and the PCN is posted).
If a driver does not believe the PCN should have been issued an appeal can be lodged. The legal reasons for disputing a PCN are many and varied. They start with
an appeal to the council within 28 days of the date of issue. The ‘informal challenge’ should be made in writing and include evidence for the appeal. If that is rejected there is then a ‘formal challenge’, which the local authority has 56 days to consider.
If the appeal is dismissed, a notice of rejection will be received giving details of the next stage of the appeal process. Outside London that is to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal for England and Wales or, in the capital, the London Tribunals with appeals lodged within 28 days.
Appeals to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal for England and Wales can be made in three ways – in writing, online or by telephone – and there are three types of hearing: e-decision (includes postal decision/without a hearing), telephone hearing or face-to-face hearing.
London Tribunals conducts appeals in person or by post. The Tribunal adjudicator will gather evidence from both parties and then issue their decision with the full charge due if the appeal is lost.
After the review decision, either side may apply to the High Court for a judicial review but only if they think the adjudicator has made a mistake of law.
Appeals in Northern Ireland are heard by the Northern Ireland Traffic penalty Tribunal and in Scotland by the Scottish parking appeals service.