Loading bay sign

Can you park in a loading bay? The law explained

Last updated July 27th, 2023

If you park in a loading bay during its hours of operation and aren’t seen to be loading or unloading goods for the duration of your stop, you could receive a fine.

When it comes to parking or stopping in a loading bay, you should proceed with caution, as further restrictions may apply depending on the signage displayed near the bay. UK parking bay legislation is a confusing topic for many drivers – and misinterpreting the rules can prove to be costly.

In this guide, we will clarify key aspects of the rules, including how long you are permitted to stop in a loading bay, the differences between ‘stopping’ and ‘parking’ according to the legislation – and the circumstances in which you may be fined for breaching loading bay rules.

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How long can you stop at a loading bay?

As a general rule, parking on yellow lines is permitted for up to 40 minutes whilst loading - but you can only stop at a shared loading bay for up to 20 minutes whilst you complete your loading task. (Any longer and you could receive a fine.)

Removal vehicles are usually permitted to stop at loading bays for up to 40 minutes (providing the loading/unloading activity is continuous). If the time limit for a specific loading bay is different for any reason, this should be indicated by a sign in the vicinity.

Can I park in a loading bay overnight?

You should not park in a loading bay overnight unless a sign nearby permits you to do so - even if the loading bay is only generally used during the day.

Loading bays are specifically designed for the transfer of goods to or from a vehicle. If you are caught using one as a parking space, (and there are no signs permitting you to do so) you could receive a fine.

Stopping vs parking

If you have just pulled up momentarily to allow a passenger to get in or out of your vehicle, or if you are continuously loading or unloading goods, this is considered ‘stopping’.

However, if you stop for any longer than it reasonably takes to complete these tasks (or for any other reason) this is classed as ‘parking’ - and could be grounds for a fine.

Loading bays and parking restrictions

You should always check the street signs around a loading bay to confirm which parking restrictions apply.

Generally, vehicles are only permitted to use loading bays for the purposes of loading and unloading goods (and must complete this task within 20 minutes or less).

However, you may sometimes see signage near a loading bay declaring additional restrictions or freedoms.

For example, certain loading bays do allow parking but only within specific hours, whilst others don’t allow certain types of vehicles to use them under any circumstances. Therefore, it pays to be vigilant.

You can often confirm local parking restrictions by using parking mobile apps.

Can I be fined for stopping or parking in a loading bay?

You can be fined for stopping or parking in a loading bay if the signage nearby does not permit you to do so. For example, you could be fined if:

  • You park in a loading bay with signage reading ‘Loading Only’ nearby.
  • You stop in a loading bay without consistently loading or unloading goods during the stop.
  • If you use the loading bay as intended but exceed the maximum stopping time.

The best way to avoid being fined is to check all signs in the area and only use loading bays for their intended purposes.

Frequently Asked Questions

You will be considered ‘parked’ in a loading bay unless you are seen to be consistently loading and/or unloading goods for the duration of your stop. You should leave the loading bay as soon as this task is complete.

You must be continuously moving goods to or from a vehicle whilst stopped in a loading bay.

The time limit for loading and unloading in UK loading bays is usually 20 minutes, although this may vary depending on the road. Therefore, you should carefully check any signs in the area to confirm the time limit that applies.

You could be forgiven for thinking that a courier or food delivery driver is automatically permitted to stop or park in a loading bay whilst delivering to a customer.

However, this is not always the case. For example, certain loading bays only permit goods lorries to use them.

Some scenarios are also a little more complicated. Members of various online legal advice forums have also noted that the legislation around food delivery drivers using parking bays has created something of a legal grey area.

  • Posters have highlighted incidents where delivery drivers have received loading bay fines, despite having brought orders to customers whilst stopped. What legally constitutes ‘loading’ is a contentious subject.
  • On one forum, a self-employed food delivery driver started a thread explaining that they had been fined by a Civil Enforcement Officer (CEO) for stopping for more than five minutes without loading.
  • The poster added that at the time, they had stopped to collect an order and waited for it to be prepared (although this took less than the alleged five minutes) before delivering it to a customer.
  • They later posted that the local authority had refused to waive the fine, on the grounds that the CEO had not observed ‘loading’ taking place.
  • One member suggested that the poster should take the council to adjudication, as there is nothing written in statute law as to what constitutes ‘loading’. Another added that ‘loading’ in the context of business can be ‘broadly interpreted’.

Therefore, if you are a food delivery driver, we would advise that you exercise caution before stopping in a loading bay, as the rules aren’t always clear cut. If in any doubt, it is best to stop off at the next nearest place where you know you can legally stop to deliver.

Blue badge holders can only park in a loading bay if it is not currently in operation. (For example, a loading bay may be designated for ‘loading only’ between 8am and 6pm but permit parking between 6pm and 8am.)

A blue badge holder may stop in an operational loading bay providing their vehicle is permitted to do so by the nearby signage - and they intend to load and/or unload goods during the stop.