With a history spanning over 2,000 years, it’s little wonder why London’s streets can be some of the hardest to navigate for drivers. On top of the winding roads, there’s often high congestion too.
To keep the roads safe and limit congestion, there are numerous road rules in place, some of them unique to London. Breaking these can result in what’s called a Penalty Charge Notice. A PCN is a ticket issued by the local boroughs or private parking authorities for illegal parking and other traffic offences.
As a PCO driver you spend considerable time on the roads, so it’s important to avoid PCNs as they can affect both your income and the status of your driver’s licence. To help you steer clear of these avoidable costs, we’ve studied our PCO car hire fleet and determined what the top 6 most common PCNs were and how you can avoid them.
Using data from Splend’s PCO car fleet, we found that 49% of PCNs were traffic-related, 30% parking-related, 8% related to the Dartford crossing charge, 3% were issued for speeding and the remaining 9% were a mix of less common offences including those related to the Congestion Charge.
London is famous for its iconic red buses, and to ensure the efficiency of public transport, these have lots of nominated lanes throughout the city. With so many of them to get around, it’s easy to see why bus lane PCNs are some of the most common. Here’s what you should know about how to avoid bus lane PCNs in London:
Bus lanes are marked by either a solid white line or a dashed white line. Solid white lines shouldn’t be crossed at all during the bus lane operating times, while a dashed white line should only be crossed when turning left.
Here’s what a bus lane looks like:
Bus lanes are in operation either 24 hours a day or have split times. Every bus lane has a blue sign that indicates the time in which they operate.
Bus lane signs are square or rectangular, and have a blue background with white writing. Here’s an example:
No, Uber drivers can only use the bus lanes outside their operating hours, the same as anyone else.
No, Uber drivers can’t use bus stops to drop off riders at any time of the day.
Bus stops are marked by yellow dashed lines and feature the words “BUS STOP,” also in yellow. They also have red route lines to indicate that no other vehicle can stop or unload in this area.
Yes, PCO drivers can cross the solid white line to avoid a collision or to give way to an ambulance or other emergency services vehicle.
Licenced London taxis (Hackney Carriage), motorbikes, scooters, and bicycles can use the bus lanes at any time of the day.
Bus lanes are monitored by CCTV cameras and traffic police.
Bus lane PCN costs start from £80 depending on where the infringement occurred and how quickly you pay the fine. See the full breakdown:
Bus lane PCN costs
|[…]||Within 14 days||After 14 days|
|Inside Greater London||£65||£130|
|Outside Greater London||£30 to £55||£60 to £110|
Tip: If you’re not sure if a bus lane is in operation, it’s best not to use it at all and avoid picking up unnecessary PCN fines.
With so many busy roads, it’s important to maintain the flow of the London traffic. To minimise the chance of a traffic jam, there are sections of road where you can’t stop to park, load, and unload – they call these red routes.
A red route is an area of road where you can’t park, and it’s marked by either a double red line or a classic ‘no stopping’ sign (blue circle with red cross).
Red routes have solid, single or double red lines marked on the edge of a road. Here’s what they look like:
A red route with a single red line indicates that you can only stop there at certain times. Here’s an example of a sign indicating when you can stop on a single red line.
A red route with a double red line indicates you’re not allowed to stop there at any time of the day.
Red routes make up 5% of the city’s roads, carrying up to 30% of all traffic. Check out TfLs official red route maps
A red line PCN costs £130, which can be reduced by 50% to £65 if you pay it within 14 days.
Red route PCN costs
|Within 14 days||After 14 days|
Tip: If your rider sets their pick-up or drop-off point at a red route, suggest stopping at the nearest bystreet to avoid a PCN fine.
It’s never a good feeling to be stuck in the middle of an intersection, blocking traffic from going past. In London, you could be fined for obstructing traffic if the intersection is marked with yellow lines. It’s another common PCN notice for PCO drivers.
Yellow box junctions are square areas in intersections marked by yellow lines in a criss-cross pattern.
Here’s a picture of a typical yellow box junction:
A yellow box PCN costs £130, which can be reduced by 50% to £65 if you pay it within 14 days.
Yellow box PCN costs
|Within 14 days||After 14 days|
Tip: Don’t let other drivers pressure you into entering into an intersection too early. Drive on your own terms, and when in doubt, don’t take the risk of being stuck in an intersection – regardless if it’s a yellow box or a regular one.
Also known as banned turns, prohibited turns are in place to minimise the chance of an accident where there’s heavy or one-way traffic.
A prohibited turn is an illegal turn. Prohibited turns stop you from turning into oncoming traffic.
Banned turn signs are circular in shape, with a bent arrow indicating the prohibited turn direction, crossed with a red line. Below are two examples of prohibited turn signs:
A prohibited turn PCN costs £130, which can be reduced by 50% to £65 if you pay it within 14 days.
Prohibited turn PCN costs
|Within 14 days||After 14 days|
Tip: Don’t ignore prohibited turns since they’re in place to protect you on the road. There are no advantages to taking a prohibited turn, no matter the time of day or the amount of traffic.
Speeding is a common trap for PCO drivers looking to maximise their efficiency during the day, hence why it’s one of the top 6 PCN notices within our fleet.
Approximately 60% of London’s roads have a speed limit of 20 mph, with a further 30% of London’s roads having a 30 mph speed limit.
Maximum speed limits for the main areas and road types in London
|School areas||Built-up areas||Single carriageways||Dual carriageways||Motorways|
|20 mph||30 mph||60 mph||70 mph||70 mph|
Please note: most London councils have a 20mph speed limit in place.
Also see TfL’s digital speed limit map
A London speed limit sign is a circular sign with a large number in the middle, surrounded by a red circle:
Speeding PCNs cost £100 and 3 penalty points added to your licence. If you choose to challenge the PCN in court and lose, you may have to pay up to £1,000 (£2,500 if on a motorway) for large infringements.
Despite the perceived need for speed, the fines and accident risks linked to speeding far outweigh the potential time savings.
Tip: It’s easy to miss street signs when driving, but the Waze app helps you remember the speed limit in your area. You can also set it to warn you if you go over the speed limit.
It’s human nature to run the risk of leaving your car parked for a period longer than permitted. What are the chances a park inspector will show up? Judging by the number of PCNs that PCO drivers receive, the chances of the parking inspector showing up are higher than you think!
A parking PCN is a fine for parking in an area longer than permitted by the parking signage or the parking ticket you purchased.
Parking signs are white square or rectangle signs with the key information displayed in the middle of the sign. Parking signs do vary in London, so take the time to find the correct sign and study the information accordingly.
Here’s an example of a London parking sign:
A single yellow line means you can park there, but only at set times of the day or the week. Make sure you refer to the parking signage nearby or to the council’s website for more information.
You can stop on a double yellow line for a period of time if you don’t leave the car. In other words, you’re allowed to pick up or drop off a passenger, but you can’t park the car on a double yellow line.
The cost of a parking PCN ranges from £80 to £130 depending on the location and type of infringement. A 50% discount applies if you pay the PCN within 21 days.
Parking PCN costs
|Within 21 days||After 21 days|
Tip: There are two ideal parking apps for PCO drivers that you might want to check out. RingGo and ParkRight are available for both Android and iOS.
When you get fined for parking, it’s quite obvious: you’ll see one of these notorious yellow tickets or envelopes attached to your windscreen:
However, for most other offences you probably won’t even realize you’ve been fined until you get a letter to your address. This acts as notice the same way as a conventional ticket does, the difference is that you’ll have 21 days as opposed to the normal 14 to get the 50% discount for quick payment.
Avoiding PCNs altogether is the easiest way to keep your costs down and make sure your driver’s licence isn’t revoked. If you do get a PCN we advise you to be decisive: either challenge the PCN immediately and gather the evidence required or pay the fine early to access the 50% discount. The last thing you want to do is forget about the PCN and be issued with a court appearance.
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