It may seem self evident, but managing a parking garage valet service entails accepting responsibility for a customer’s vehicle while it is in the possession of the garage operator. Since the value of many vehicles can run to tens of thousands of dollars it is important to defend against theft (and claims of negligence) by implementing proper key control procedures. While vehicles can be stolen through other means, such as hotwiring or use of a second set of keys, if a car is stolen, and the parking operator is in possession of the customer’s original key they cannot be deemed negligent.
Using the following basic procedures to safeguard keys can limit your liability. Secure keys in a locking key box that is bolted to the floor or wall (so the box cannot be stolen) or inside a locked room. The box or room must be locked at all times except when an attendant is leaving or removing a key. Only one or two supervisors should have access to the secured key storage area.
Never leave keys in the ignition, under the mat, in the visor, or on a tire, even if the vehicle is blocked in by others.
Train valets to remain vigilant whenever they open a key box. A car thief can distract the valet’s attention while a partner swiftly “lifts” a key. Also, do not allow customers to press valets into taking shortcuts by claiming they are in a rush.
Valets should write the customer’s name on a tag or ticket that stays with the key and politely ask the customer’s name when they return for the vehicle. This precaution will preclude giving a vehicle to a bold thief who claims the Mercedes sedan in space seven is his, or handing over a car to an opportunistic thief who finds or steals the claim ticket.
While all of these guidelines do not eliminate all potential for theft, they do minimize the opportunity and provide safeguards for your establishment.
Wheel Stops – The Pros and Cons
Wheel stops are usually concrete; however in some cases plastic or rubber is used because these tend to be safer and less damaging. Regardless of the type, the following show exposures that the lot operator needs to manage:
1. Concrete wheel stops can chip, shatter and erode leaving behind exposed steel spikes. This can create a dangerous safety hazard to pedestrians, who may cut themselves, and increase the possibility of puncturing a tire.
2. Plastic wheel stops do not break up as easily as concrete because they are molded in one long length; thicker at the base than at the top. In light of this, there may be a tendency for the block to bow upwards, which could increase the chances of a person tripping or a car’s front end or spoiler getting hit or pulled off.
3. Rubber wheel stops won’t break up like concrete, or bow like one-piece plastic, they will soften and move around. This movement plays on the fixing points and because they are made of recycled materials, such as old car tires, etc, they quickly break up or can work lose. A flattened stop would be unable to prevent a rolling vehicle.
Bottom line: wheel stops need to maintained to be safe.

Environmental Conservation and Eco-Friendly Ideas for the Parking Industry
The parking industry, like so many other organizations today, seeks to make a positive impact, both as a business, and as part of the society. This includes caring for the environment. Parking industry leaders are making small and big changes, but all are significant when comes to beneficial effect on the environment. This endeavor presents some challenges that have to be dealt with on a regular basis, and yet, many are finding ways to protect the natural world via eco-friendly means. Below are some examples of actual parking garage and parking lot owners and operators who have implemented conservation practices. Perhaps, these will enhance your own organization…
Solar-Powered Parking Equipment
Non-polluting, solar-powered parking equipment is an ongoing renewable option perfect for sunny arid locations. It may be initially expensive, but the payoff of low maintenance, noiseless and clean, unlimited power source, makes the investment worth it for many garages.
Environmentally Friendly Shuttle Service
Transition from shuttle bus fleets to environmentally friendly models which use eco-friendly propane or clean-burning natural gas will save gasoline and lower emissions; some federal rebates may also apply.
Green Carwash
Converting your carwash operations to use a water-recapture system and biodegradable cleaning products will lower your water bill and conserve our water table.
Renewable Energy Sources
Did you know that some entire parking facilities operate with wind power technology? A search into how to implement may provide amazing rewards. Some parking garages are pioneering a means to use revolutionary solar-powered energy for a covered airport parking facility.
Discounted and Complimentary Parking
Hybrid High-fives – some facilities offer discounted parking rates for patrons who choose to drive economical gasoline/electricity hybrid vehicles and offer free access for people who choose to commute via bicycle.
Recycling Initiatives
One company installed recycling bins at many parking facilities that enabled them to capture enough material to use to create their parking tickets and some of their communication materials. They also use soy-based inks for printing!
Energy Efficiency and Water Conservation
Consider exchanging energy efficient bulbs for facility lighting and add low flow water systems for facility bathrooms and garage cleaning equipment – each will have a positive impact on your pocketbook and your environmental outlook.
Kathy Phillips, CIC, CPP, is First Vice President of Alliant Insurance Services. She can be reached at

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