Under the new system, which covers both on-street and off-street parking, non-endorsable offences such as parking on a double-yellow line become civil rather than criminal offences.
Welsh transport minister Peter Hain said: 'I wish Neath Port Talbot every success in its new role. The new arrangements have worked well in London and other areas in England and Scotland.
'Authorities have been able to set their own enforcement levels and priorities. Traffic management and traffic flow have improved as a result of more targeted and effective enforcement. And the police have been freed for other uses. I am sure we shall see similar results in Neath Port Talbot.'
Drivers who receive a penalty charge notice from a parking attendant will be able to challenge it by making representations to the council. If they are unhappy with the decision, they may appeal to an independent adjudicator. The adjudication service for Neath Port Talbot will be provided by the National Parking Adjudication Service.
Denys Morgan, director of transportation, highways and engineering, said the decriminalisation of parking was all about local accountability. 'In the past we were responsible for implementing transport restrictions which we could not enforce ourselves. This will all change now.
'We expect to make people use car parks more often instead of illegally parking in the street now that there is a much greater chance of getting caught.'