Incurring penalty charge notices (PCNs) can be expensive and time consuming, but the information they produce is a vital weapon in tackling the problem.
Analysis of penalty charge data allowed food service delivery company Bidvest Logistics to reduce its annual PCN costs by between £150,000 and £200,000 a year (see case study below).
“It’s all about the data,” says Natalie Chapman, head of policy at the Freight Transport Association (FTA). “You can get a lot of information from a parking ticket: you get the reason it was issued, the vehicle registration, the time and the location, and you can put all of that information into a spreadsheet.
“If you analyse this you can find out whether it’s a driver issue, whether it’s a scheduling issue – for example, if a van driver is making a delivery in a prohibited time – or something else.”
However, making use of information from parking fines is often overlooked by fleets.
“We’ve found that when we’ve worked with companies in the past, more often than not their data is a bit of a mess,” says Chapman. “The company may be using spreadsheets to help process parking fines to find out which ones they’ve paid and appealed, but it is not actually pulling off any kind of management information from it.
“This means they are fighting the fire but are not actually addressing the root cause, because they don’t understand why they got the PCNs in the first place.”
Using this management information is also key to how Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions aims to reduce the number of PCNs incurred by its customers. Data is reported in monthly management packs and is used to identify trends which can help prevent PCNs in the future.
“In some cases, PCNs can be the result of a simple misunderstanding. But, if you are going to avoid them, they must be addressed and not ignored,” says Ann Morrison, fleet compliance manager at Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions.
“It’s key to understanding why this is happening: is it because of a lack of driver understanding and regard (which can be addressed with training), or is it due to business pressure? Continuing blindly isn’t the answer to avoiding fines, nor will it result in a safer fleet.”
Fleet management company CLM, which has seen a 58% increase in the number of PCNs processed over the past five years, including penalties for parking, speeding and tolls, such as the Dartford Crossing, says the best way to reduce PCNs is through improved driver communication and regular client review meetings.
During these meetings, fleet managers are made aware of the level of PCNs that their drivers are incurring, as well as identifying those drivers most at risk. CLM also sends out regular client and driver newsletters on a regular basis to keep its customers abreast of any changes in driving legislation or regulations.
Morrison emphasises that driver education and awareness are key to avoiding PCNs, as many fines are not incurred deliberately, but either through a misunderstanding or lack of knowledge.
“However, in the eyes of the law, ignorance is not a valid excuse,” she adds.
“Any fines issued due to this are as valid as those issued to drivers who knowingly flout the law.”
The FTA also advises that education and training for drivers is the best way to avoid parking fines. “For example, the rules for loading and unloading are not the same as parking: you can stop and make deliveries in places that you can’t park, but equally there are places where you can’t,” says Chapman. It’s in the Highway Code but a lot of drivers don’t understand where you can and can’t stop.”
Some fleets, such as Gamestec, plan deliveries to ensure they fall within the hours when loading and unloading is permitted. Fleet manager Peter Kowalczyk has updated the company’s driver handbook on what not to do, the issues drivers need to be aware of and what the parking fine process is.
Technology such as telematics can help fleets understand why they are receiving PCNs for speeding, and identify any training needs.
“Telematics systems are now advanced enough to provide detailed, personalised data that allows managers to identify persistent offenders so that effective intervention can take place,” says Nick Walker, managing director of RAC Telematics.
“In my experience it is much more effective to have a conversation before the fine notices begin arriving.”
Paul Hollick, chairman of the Institute of Car Fleet Management, adds: “Telematics devices are very popular with commercial fleets and increasingly in company car fleets. They don’t stop speeding themselves, but the behavioural data obtained really helps with compliance.”
Passing parking fines to drivers can be ‘sobering’ experience
Many fleets find an effective way to reduce costs of penalty charge notices is to pass fines directly to the drivers responsible.
However, fleets are urged to show discretion if adopting this policy.
“Our members tend to charge the drivers the cost of fines, which can be sobering to the employee,” says Paul Hollick, of the Institute of Car Fleet Management (ICFM).
“They also rank the employees as, if an employee has lots of parking fines, there are usually accompanying poor driving behaviours across the board – so these are the drivers to watch.”
Natalie Chapman, of the FTA, says making drivers pay the fines can act as a deterrent, but care should be taken when considering making this a blanket policy.
“Quite clearly, some PCNs are just unfortunate or the driver is just trying to do their job,” she says.
“There should be room for discretion as there may be a very good reason for why a driver has stopped where he has; for example, the vehicle might have broken down.
“Companies need to treat drivers fairly and equally, but also show discretion where that discretion is warranted as well.”
She adds: “If companies pay all their PCNs and drivers know that, some drivers might not have same incentive to not pick up the PCN in the first place.”
Case study: Bidvest Logistics
Analysis of penalty charge notice (PCN) information has helped food service company 3663 First for Foodservice save between £150,000 and £200,000 a year.
The business, which has a fleet of more than 1,000 trucks and 750 cars, delivers ingredients, finished products and equipment to the catering industry, and deals with around 1,000 PCNs a month. It uses Chevin’s Fleetwave fleet management software with a specific module to manage PCNs.
“By using the Fleetwave software package, we have reduced our parking fines by 15-20%,” says Susan Morrison, fleet support manager.
“This has been achieved by collating all the data, identifying hotspots and then dealing with the issues, for example finding parking alternatives at delivery points.”
Lynsey Roberts, fleet support at Bidvest, adds: “Previously the PCNs were managed locally at depot level, but there is now a central structure in place for all depots to follow.
“The process is more manageable, information is easily obtained and it is all stored on one centralised database.”