The paradox of weak road traffic legislation and enforcement in SA
On the 31st October 2014, [Government Gazette No. 38142, Notice R.846.] acting in terms of section 75 (6) of the National Road Traffic Act, 1996 (Act No. 93 of 1996) the Minister of Transport, Dipuo Peters (MP), signed into legislation far reaching additions and amendments that virtually discredit previous attempts by the DoT to effectively enforce road traffic offences in terms of heavy vehicle overloading. RTQS, AARTO and hundreds of amendments to this Act since its inception, have proved ineffective in controlling freight hauliers’ and their customers’ disregard for road safety and/or rapid deterioration of SA’s road network.
The dismal failure by the Courts to successfully prosecute offenders, within existing Road Traffic legislation [section 49 Duties of an operator] is evidence the authorities simply don’t understand that licensing the operation of a motor vehicle with Gross Vehicle mass exceeding 3 500 kg (see Chapter I, Interpretation of the Act, section 1, definitions) requires mandatory competencies and conformity with the Act and regulations for transportation of Goods on a public road. Registration of an operator for certain classes of vehicles requires the Operator Card (authority) to be displayed on the vehicle. This Card is actually a permit to transport goods on the vehicle and has little to do with the normal licencing of the vehicle to be on a public road.
Accountability for contravention of such obligatory terms cannot be disregarded without severe consequence. Furthermore Law enforcement cannot escape compliance with its responsibilities, and no amount ‘legislation’ can bring offenders to justice without competent enactment, uncompromising management standards, strict discipline and effective application of the Act, in its entirety.
With over 14 000 road fatalities annually, not to mention the huge cost of settling RAF claims, South Africa suffers more road casualties and deaths per capita than any other country on the Continent.
“Sorry, Honourable Minister Peters, but signing more legislation into effect is not going to make the cut without the budget, competency and discipline to enforce it, especially in terms of deterrent court judgements. Our MECs Roads and Transport claim they don’t have the budget to effectively patrol the roads in order to police moving violations, and this is where it all falls down.”
Our daily ‘dose’ of news media revealing rampant bribery and corruption (for which SA has become renown) safeguards those ‘with an uncle in the legal business’ and/or ‘Leopards’ that work wonders at roadside negotiation to conveniently lose/or submit incomplete evidence. As a consequence, offenders’ defence Attorneys have little or no difficulty in challenging the accuracy and/or authenticity of documented evidence brought before the Courts to bring their clients to justice.
One small example supporting these conclusions can be found in effective prosecution in terms of the Act (Chapter VI Operator Fitness, sections 45 to 51). This will be the subject of more discussion but for now let’s look at the definition: ‘operator’ means the person responsible for the use of a motor vehicle of any class contemplated in the Act, Chapter VI, and who has been registered as the operator of such vehicle.
Having explained the definition of ‘operator’, section 45, Registration of operator, says that “the owner of a motor vehicle of a prescribed class (referred to in regulations 265 to 272)is the operator thereof, and shall, upon licencing thereof, be registered as such in the prescribed manner and on the prescribed conditions.” Now what defeats the whole purpose of this legislation is that it says (under section 45 Registration of operator paragraph (4)(a) (b)) “The chief executive officer shall, if satisfied that the operator card should be issued to notify the registering authority concerned accordingly. The registering authority referred to in paragraph (4)(a) shall in the prescribed manner issue the operator with an operator card.” Now where is there evidence that the chief executive officer is satisfied that the conditions under which such person has been authorised to act as the operator, include at least some knowledge of the National Road Traffic Act 1996 (Act No. 93 of 1996)? There is ample evidence that a large percentage of registered operators have never seen, or even heard of, legislation relating to Chapter VI Operator Fitness sections 45 to 51.
The making of another traffic disaster
This is happening around midday on the N3 South, approaching the Geldenhuis Bridge. The traffic is accelerating up to maximum speed of 120 km/h and it is estimated the vehicles are approaching 100 km/h. The small passenger vehicle overtaking the coach is using the extreme left side of lane three, which is very close to the front right side of the coach. Note how the coach driver takes evasive action, almost colliding with the ultra-heavy vehicle in the extreme left lane, while only about 20m separates the coach and 56 ton Interlink from a Dangerous Goods bulk fuel tanker, the driver of which is also swerving to the extreme left barrier line to avoid the light van right under his rear view mirror that is using the extreme left side of lane two!
It’s time to take urgent action by removing dangerous divers from our roads through effective ‘moving violation’ enforcement.
By: Hugh Sutherland and Andy Savage 7thJune 2015