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Notes from Big Ben… Can VPS Deliver the Goods? By Peter Guest


Here in the UK, one of the most intractable problems fac- ing municipal parking managers is how to deal with the


loading and servicing needs in our towns and cities. In many places, the streets are still based on medieval tracks and paths, perhaps overlaid here and there with an occasional Roman street pattern. But when it comes to deliveries, the streets are seldom up to accommodating the needs of modern businesses. For sure, newer shopping developments have off-street loading and service bays, but for most main business streets and town centers, loading will be done off the street in front of the store. Add to this the fact that that street is also the main road in the town and a bus route, and you see the problem. It was bad enough when companies used vans; now the


delivery is likely to be coming out of a regional distribution depot and arriving in a six-axle 38-ton articulated truck that will virtu- ally block the road. In some places in Holland, they simplified the


All too frequently, it seems, the parking enforcement officer will ticket the delivery truck and keep going.


process: The vehicle has to be less than 10 tons and deliveries have to be clear by 10 a.m. That works for them, but here in the UK, with complex multi-drop schedules and timed deliveries, it would never happen. Our laws allow loading bays to minimize blockages, but car


drivers don’t understand them, and a delivery will often turn up to find the loading bay full of cars, leaving the driver with little choice but to block the road. My daughter manages a store in a nearby town, and this is a regular problem. The quandary often facing the enforcement officer is that


although they see the delivery truck, they may not see any action, and all too frequently, it seems, they will write a ticket and keep going.


Loading/deliveries are far from straightforward. A courier


faced with delivering a package into a specific office in a large building may well lock his van and be away for 10 to 15 minutes while they track down the recipient. But to the person watching the van, it’s illegally parked and no loading is taking place. Similarly, the 38-ton truck parked outside a store may well


be seen to be unloading, but the rules may not give enough time to get the stuff off the truck, checked and signed for. The result is that every year thousands of tickets get written for vehicles that are undertaking necessary work to keep the economy turning. A lot of the time the distribution companies see this as a cost of doing business and simply pay the tickets. However, as margins are increasingly squeezed, companies


are challenging the tickets, creating increased work for the city. The truckers may get more tickets canceled, but this is not


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addressing the fundamental problem: how to manage the legiti- mate delivery needs of in-town businesses without the infrastruc- ture to handle these off the main commercial streets. At long last, however, it looks like a solution may have


arrived. ACTIV8 VPS, a virtual parking permit system, has been developed by Neil Herron, who is well-known in the UK as a campaigner against some of the excesses of municipal parking operations. Its concept is basically very simple: Companies that want to


make a delivery in a restricted area at a restricted time send a request to a central bureau. The request sets out the date, time and location where the delivery is required, and identifies the registration of the vehicle that will make the delivery. The request is processed, and assuming that the delivery can be permitted, the bureau sends back a formal approval and creates a “virtual” on-street loading bay. The truck driver gets an approval via an on-board PDA, which shows the exact location of the permitted loading and


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