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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Patrollers see green, deliverers red under new law


Staff writer

Patrollers see green, deliverers red under new law

News photo
A private patrolman photographs an illegally parked vehicle in a May 15 training session in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, ahead of Thursday's debut of new parking rules.

The revised Road Traffic Law that takes effect Thursday, putting parking enforcement in the hands of companies authorized by police, may be a business opportunity for some but a curse for people operating vehicles -- especially parcel delivery firms.

Police have contracted with 74 firms to handle parking enforcement, with their employees issuing tickets.

The National Police Agency allocated 8 billion yen in its budget in the current fiscal year to hire uniformed patrollers of the companies, many of which offer security services.

Shintei Co., a security firm based in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, will dispatch 115 authorized patrollers for the service in Tokyo and Chiba, Kanagawa and Ibaraki prefectures.

Katsuki Imamura, a Shintei executive in charge of the patrollers, is concerned the company's employees may invite the wrath of drivers who receive tickets for parking illegally instead of the past warning grace period they could usually expect from police.

"We are instructing our workers to explain the purpose of the law to drivers," Imamura said. "But there is a possibility the patrollers will face petty quarrels that may turn violent."

Such concerns have prompted Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co. to offer new coverage specifically for parking patrollers starting Thursday.

The insurance plan covers cases such as injuries inflicted on the patrollers or drivers and vehicle damage.

The insurer pointed out in a statement there have been cases of assaults, threats and verbal abuse by drivers reported in London, where private companies handle parking enforcement, and similar cases are likely to occur in Japan.

Parking lot firms are also likely to cash in on the new regulation as more drivers seek out their facilities even for a short time to avoid a ticket.

Park 24 Co., a major chain that had 122,000 vehicle spaces at the end of October, a 63 percent increase from the previous year, will boost the number to 167,000 by the end of this October.

Company spokesman Tomoyuki Saito said figures suggest spaces for about 11 million vehicles will be necessary for leisure or business purposes, but parking lots can now only accommodate 5 million vehicles.

The company has not taken any special measures in line with the legislation, but it is doing its utmost to supply more lots, Saito said.

Drivers may find Park 24's service useful because they can access its Web site by cell phone or computer to search for a parking lot, he said.

To publicize its service, Nippon Parking Development Co., another parking lot chain, will launch a campaign for three days from Thursday in which users will be able to park in the firm's 89 lots, which can accommodate 6,500 vehicles nationwide, for free for the first 30 minutes.

The new law, however, is posing a big headache for businesses that deliver food, drinks and other products to restaurants, convenience stores and grocers.

Many delivery companies take various measures to avoid parking tickets.

Yamato Transport Co. said it has secured small sales bases in urban areas so drivers can park and unload parcels onto a cart.

Some transport firms meanwhile already allow deliverers to work in pairs, which is more costly.

The Japan Truck Association has urged the government not to apply the revision to trucks.

In response, the NPA had by the end of March eased or lifted parking restrictions on some 16,000 km of no-parking or no-stop zones nationwide.

But the association says this is not enough.

"We fear there will be trouble (between drivers and customers) under the new law," said Shoji Murata, a spokesman for JTA.

Murata said the group handed out about 1 million leaflets to 94 business groups, asking them to secure parking space for delivery vehicles and provide a place where deliveries can be collected and unloaded all at once.



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