By Barry Johnson from Taranto Systems
(This article first appeared in Parking Review (#363 August 2022)
Most readers will be aware of the uncertainty in the private parking sector following the temporary withdrawal of the new Code of Practice for review of charges and additional fees.
While the outcome of the review remains to be seen, it seems that it may involve changes to parking charge values, which will directly impact private parking revenue streams.
Given the circumstances, parking operators and owners of parking estates are naturally keen to streamline processes in order to reduce costs as much as possible.
As this article outlines, I believe there is an opportunity to achieve this objective by more effectively managing Parking Charge Notices relating to hire and lease vehicles – which for many organisations are highly costly and time consuming.
Hire and lease vehicles present a major headache for private parking operators, fleet owners and motorists themselves because the offender tends not to be the registered keeper of the vehicle. Manual processes to re-route correspondence from the registered keeper – the hire or lease company – to the person liable for the parking charge is costly and time consuming.
And of course, hire and lease vehicles account for a significant and increasing proportion of those on our roads. According to figures from the Finance and Leasing Association (FLA), the UK personal new car leasing sector grew by 28% in the 12 months between November 2020 and November 2021.
This is consistent with what we at Taranto are seeing: looking at current data from across our customers, the proportion of notices that are from hire and lease vehicles ranges from between 8% and 19% of the total.
An article in Business Motoring pinpoints rising costs of car ownership as a factor in this increase, which certainly seems likely, but I believe demographics are also important here; I am sure we have all seen many reports documenting why young people today are less likely to own a vehicle.
The point about demographics is particularly relevant to private parking operators: university campuses naturally have a higher proportion of younger people, which will result in a greater volume of hire and lease vehicles at such locations.
For private parking operators and landowners there is significant manual administration involved in Transfer of Liability (ToL) processes, resulting in operational inefficiency and additional costs relating to scanning, printing and postage.
Added to this burden is the fact that DVLA enquiries to identify the registered keeper can cost more than £2.50 per lookup for private operators. This adds to an already costly process.
While there is little we can do regarding legislative changes, we can have a significant impact on the processes relating to identifying registered keepers, thereby minimising the requirement for DVLA enquiries.
By integrating with major fleet owners’ databases, private parking operators and landowners can interrogate vast databases of VRMs to identify matches: fleet owned vehicles that have contravened parking terms and conditions. Notices for any such vehicles can then be proactively addressed without the need for a costly DVLA enquiry.
If this sounds familiar, it may be because I am not describing a new solution. Taranto completed released this functionality in 2019, and that system – called Taranto Fleet Bureau – won the Parking Technology Award at the 2019 British Parking Awards.
In the three years since, this technology has become even more relevant as we have been able to partner with more hire and lease companies, increasing the size of the fleet database, which currently stands at some 900,000 Vehicle Registration Marks (VRMs).
The size of this database is critical, because the efficiencies in terms of DVLA enquiries and time savings are realised when the vehicle is identified within the system. The more VRMs in the database, the better the chances of a match.
More recently, an additional layer has been added to this technology to make it easier to integrate with third-party solutions, and companies that don’t currently use Taranto’s enforcement system. By integrating with other parking systems, we have opened the door to more operators, enabling them to take advantage of a solution that is proven to increase efficiency, save time and reduce costs.
There are three essential elements to consider here:
Automation of hirer liability processes is hugely powerful – but only if the fleet vehicles can be identified. Therefore, the size of the database which can be accessed is of critical importance. The Taranto team has spent three years continually expanding a database which today contains some 900,000 VRMs from major fleet companies including Enterprise, Volkswagen, Hertz and ALD Automotive.
Integrating the fleet bureau with the parking and enforcement system will minimise delays in the Transfer of Liability process, improving cashflow, and ensuring that PCNs reach the public in good time.
Fleet Bureau was developed alongside industry experts from the private sector, fleet sector organisations, the BVRLA and UK local authorities. It is proven in the field, delivering measurable benefits for both operators, and hire and lease companies.
In truth it wasn’t the vision of myself or the Taranto team that spotted the need for a Fleet Bureau solution. We were fortunate to have been managing enforcement for the Dartford Crossing and London’s Congestion Charging Zone – two of the largest ticket issuing schemes in the UK.
It was inevitable that through being involved in these schemes we would spot an issue which was causing major issues for fleet companies and other organisations inundated with the need to send, receive and process literally hundreds of notices for fleet companies every day.
By working with hire and lease companies, private parking operators and local authorities, we have been able to develop a solution which digitises the Transfer of Liability processes, ensuring that 70% of tickets are issued within two to four days of a contravention.
Such a rapid turnaround has clear cash flow benefits as well, but let’s not forget the motorist here: Nobody likes receiving a notice, but where they are required, it is far better if they reach the recipient promptly. A letter through the door months later, long after the contravention has been forgotten, only deepens an already highly emotive situation.
But for parking operators and landowners the primary motive is clearly cost management. I believe that this kind of technology will become essential as we navigate present uncertainty and upcoming legislative changes.
Barry Johnson is Senior Technical Director at Taranto Systems. Having begun writing software as a teenager, in 2000 he and a group of colleagues formed a business called Traffic Support Limited, which focused on developing parking enforcement software. Today Barry leads a team of more than 25 software developers focused on delivering innovative technology solutions that support the enforcement and management of parking and traffic violations, parking permits, civil enforcement, clamping and removal, and more.