As a national body representing almost 450 000 vehicles on South African roads, SAVRALA (The Southern African Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association), as well as the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA), the Coach Owners Association South Africa (COASA) and the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (FEDHASA) who all fall under the umbrella association of the Tourism Business Council South Africa (TBCSA), remain concerned and are unconvinced about the billing procedures of ORT (Open Road Tolling) and its implications despite the recent launch of SANRAL’s etag campaign.
While SAVRALA has as yet been unsuccessful in scheduling follow-up meetings with SANRAL (South African National Road Agency Limited) this month to review their many outstanding issues, SAVRALA are encouraging both individuals and companies to carefully consider the following before registering for an e-tag:
1) The final schedule of toll tariff’s and discounts from both SANRAL and the Department of Transport have yet to be published in the Government Gazette despite various communications on the Cabinet’s tariff decisions.
2) Despite ongoing requests for clarity and more detail, it remains unknown how SANRAL intends to prosecute road users who do not pay toll fees. It seems impractical and would most likely overburden the already strained judicial system if each individual who did not pay their fees, were to be prosecuted.
3) Currently no documented processes or systems are in place to resolve incorrect toll transactions caused by false (cloned) vehicle license plates. This puts the responsibility and the added cost onto Individuals and companies to ensure they have the necessary resources available to reconcile their SANRAL toll bills against their own vehicle/fleet movements.
4) The current e-tag Terms and Conditions available on the SANRAL website could be considered onerous and clearly place the responsibility of ensuring accounts have sufficient funds available on the registered e-tag user, as clause 22 requires a registered e-tag user to pay all fees and charges, irrespective of any dispute they may have over charges. This means the clause must be interpreted in the context of the risk of illegally cloned license plates as GFIP (Gauteng Freeway Improvement Plan) road users (as per clause 5) will be liable for all toll transactions recorded according to the user’s VLN (Motor Vehicle License Plate Number) or its e-tag.
5) No details have been made available yet to explain the criteria for exemption of commuter buses and mini-bus taxis. Depending on the definition of the criteria, many tourism related transport services may also be exempt. To date no explanation exists on how SANRAL will accurately maintain and enforce the validity of the various permits and routes etc.
The decision by SANRAL (who take their instructions from the Department of Transport) to launch their e-tag campaign now, whilst several further consultative processes are underway and which are largely led by the Department, only serves to cause further confusion amongst the general public.
SAVRALA looks forward to actively participating in the (yet to be confirmed) Road Funding Summit and will continue to propose that the burden of funding both the GFIP and other national road infrastructural priorities should come from an additional amount added to the national fuel levy as this is the most cost efficient and effective method to raise the required funds.
The need to build a viable and safe public transport infrastructure, as a real alternative to travelling on the roads, must also be considered. The Road Funding Summit should seriously consider how best to use the infrastructure already purchased, if other funding models like the fuel levy are to be implemented.