Pretoria – A national fleet manager of a retail furniture group has to budget an extra R1.2m just that his company can check truck drivers’ demerit points once every month.
This is only one of the additional expenses that he faces when the controversial Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences) traffic act comes into force next year.
It includes a demerit system, according to which managers, vehicles and operators can receive a maximum of 12 demerits before their licences or operator cards are suspended.
The retail group, whose name is being withheld at its request, has already spent about R2m on systems to be prepared for Aarto, said the fleet manager at the meeting held by the Aarto action group in Johannesburg on Monday.
Business people from the retail, tourism, motor and cargo industries, as well as bus operators attending the meeting, expressed their concern about the potentially destructive effect of the Aarto legislation on businesses and the country’s economy as a whole.
Those attending together represented a fleet of some 1.2m vehicles.
The action group, led by the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce & Industry, has already started drawing up a comprehensive brief for Jeremy Gauntlett SC and advocate Frank Pelser to try and block the Aarto Act in court.
Ian Moss, the transport attorney who is preparing the initial papers, told the meeting that one of the problems with Aarto was that a business had to pay to get basic information that it needed to comply with the act, as well as to exercise its rights.
For instance, if an employer wanted to look up his workers’ demerit points to avoid putting someone whose driver’s licence has been suspended behind the wheel, it would cost him R60 per enquiry. It is to this that the fleet manager referred and why he needed to budget R1.2m for his workforce of 1 600 drivers.
To check the demerits once a month would in any event be insufficient as the employee might, in the two weeks that it would take to get hold of the information, receive more demerits.
Should a business not know who was driving the vehicle at the time of the offence or know who it was but be without a copy of the driver’s identity document, the business could be fined R750 and receive two demerits.
In addition, the specific director could be criminally prosecuted. Should he be found guilty, he could receive a two-year prison sentence and/or a fine of R20 000 for neglecting to exercise proper control over his vehicle and driver.
If a fine is not paid within 32 days, a second notice will be sent to the alleged offender – at a cost of R60.
Someone who is fined can make representation, which will be considered not by a trained prosecutor but by a representation officer.
Should the officer reject it, the alleged offender will have to pay R200.
Moss says with someone’s driver’s licence being at stake, businesses and professional drivers will no longer be able to afford to pay the fine – with a 50% discount – within the 32 days, because it will carry demerits.
Consequently every fine will need to be contested at great expense in court.