Under statutory guidance on Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE), all traffic signs and road markings must be in compliance with legal requirements and must match their respective traffic orders in every detail. Failure to do so can result in a large number of Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) having to be refunded at a cost that, in these times of austerity measures, local authorities can all afford.
There are two areas that local authorities need to be aware of when considering the validity of their signs and lines. One is their condition and compliance with TSRGD. Legislation states that lines ‘shall be of the size, colour, and type shown on [the] diagram [in the TSRGD]’ but it does not mention their condition. If a case reaches adjudication then the final decision is always down to the adjudicator’s discretion as cited in the example below from the Traffic Penalty Tribunal Website:
Inadequate condition of road markings (PL 1477)
The appellant parked on a worn double yellow line, mistaking it for an unrestricted single yellow line, and was issued with a PCN. He had been assisted in his misapprehension by the fact that the time plate referring to the double yellow-line restriction was obscured by foliage so that he did not see it. The Adjudicator found that the road markings were not in adequate condition.
The appeal was allowed.
The other area that local authorities need to be aware of is whether their signs and lines accurately reflect the respective traffic orders. Whereas the condition of a sign or line and their compliance with TSRGD can be spotted easily on-site, it is much more difficult to determine whether signs and lines reflect their traffic orders. It is important that local authorities check for both by conducting regular audits and compliance surveys of all street furniture. These should be conducted at regular intervals, every 12 to 18 months, to ensure that any changes made on-street and the condition of all signs and lines is up to date. To achieve this there are a number of methods to ensure the efficiency of these surveys and ensure that they are cost-effective:
Communication and joint working
Generally, a number of different departments within a local authority are affected by the street furniture. Traffic, Highways and Parking departments are often all involved in the management of parking regulations and good communication between all departments is key. The parking department tends to be the eyes and ears of the local authority on-street and procedures should be put in place so that both Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs) and Notice Processing staff can notify the appropriate member of staff of any irregularities of signs and lines. This could include a CEO making note of a sign being missing or a line being too worn to be seen or a notice processer who has received an appeal letter which highlights a problem with certain signs and lines. Ensuring that the procedures are in place to rectify these issues immediately saves the council from the possibility that other appeals will be lodged.
Traffic orders tend to be long and are often complicated due to the number of amendments that have been added over the years. This is where technology can help. Having your traffic orders mapped onto a GIS system such as MapInfo or Esri can make surveying much easier. MapInfo and Esri provide a visual representation of your traffic orders which means that the surveyor can easily walk the street and eye-match the traffic orders with the signs and lines that are actually there. This saves time and ensures a cost-effective method of surveying. This can be taken further by adopting map-based schedules for your traffic orders. Many local authorities are now using map-based schedules in place of the traditional text schedules. This visual approach is perceived to be easier and quicker to understand both for parking staff using the traffic orders and the general public.
Another option for a quick check on signs and lines is to use Google Street View. This has recently provided unprecedented access to close-up street images, to the point where it can serve as a record of the signing and lining in many cases. It is important to remember when using Google Street View is that it is often outdated and it should never completely replace a full audit of street furniture. It should also be noted that Google’s terms and conditions do not allow the use of their photography for business purposes.
Resources and Staff Knowledge
The management of your traffic orders and ensuring that they match what is on-street does involve a number of resources. It is important that staff are kept aware of any changes in legislation and TSRGD amendments such as the new signing options available under the Department for Transport (DfT) Traffic Signs Review. It is also important that the team members charged with writing and managing the local authority’s traffic orders are experienced and sufficiently trained to effectively keep all orders and mapping systems up to date. Problems often occur when changes have been made on-street and the resources are not in place to ensure that amendments are made to traffic orders and/or mapping systems.
If the council is short on resources both the on-street surveying and traffic order management can be contracted out to an experienced consultant who can provide either surveying services or even a traffic order or mapping bureau service. This involves the consultant writing the council’s traffic orders or updating their mapping system, such as ParkMap, and although this involves a cost to the council, this cost is a lot less than the potential cost of refunding a large number of PCNs if faults are discovered.