The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Act was signed into law recently. The aim of these regulations is to make South Africa’s roads safer by influencing the behaviour of road users. It will, however, also affect commercial transport, logistics companies and ordinary business.
In this blog, we answer a few frequently asked questions to help you navigate the new law.
Let’s start with some background information.
Some 14 000 road users are killed annually, and it costs the economy around R142 billion, according to the Road Traffic Infringement Agency. The main causes are drunk driving, speeding, reckless overtaking in dangerous spots and distracted driving which includes the use of cell phones (texting and driving).
The potential ramifications for businesses are the inconvenient cancellation of driver licences, professional driving permits (PrDPs), vehicle licence discs and operator cards.
In other words, if you have salespeople or employees who can no longer drive to work, it will have serious financial implications and a detrimental impact on productivity.
Now let’s look at a few scenarios.
- What happens if one of your drivers get suspended?
- As the employer, you are left in a predicament to source and train new drivers. To upskill and educate your drivers is in your best interest. The consequences of bad driving behaviours are substantially more severe if it can result in the suspension of a driving license, and consequently, your ability to earn an income. Drivers also need to know what process will follow an infringement. Points cannot be removed from driver records after an infringement.
- If a driver accumulates points in their private capacity, it will affect your business too, as you can be held accountable.
- Businesses are ultimately accountable. What can your company do to manage this risk exposure?
- The owner of the vehicle is accountable unless the RTIA has been given notice in writing that someone else was driving the vehicle. It is a significant administrative burden which requires changes to your existing employment contracts.
- It is of utmost importance that you update all your current and future employment contracts to stipulate clearly that any person who drives a vehicle in your business grants you permission to receive information on their infringements. Also, verify the demerit points of applicants and any person who must drive a company vehicle.
- Update your internal disciplinary code and implement and enforce strict policies and procedures around drivers declaring their demerit statuses.
- What can employers do to prepare?
- Understand what AARTO means for your business before the AARTO Act comes into effect.
- In any given moment know who is driving your vehicles, keep track of fines and allocate fines to the correct drivers. Implement proper record-keeping such as logbooks and the written particulars of drivers.
- Start communicating with drivers about the demands of the AARTO Act, such as the regular verification of demerit points recorded against the name of a driver (employee).
- Train your drivers and start putting systems in place to manage the risk.
- Establish the traffic demerit points of certain categories of staff from NATIS in preparation for the incoming demerit system and verify qualifications with SAQA.
- How will I know if I have demerit points?
Verify driver’s licences regularly to ensure that drivers have not exceeded the allocated demerit points in their private capacity. Failing to verify the status of the recorded demerit points against the name of a driver(employee) could result in a driver illegally driving a vehicle, which has severe implications for third-party liability and the insurance of the vehicle.
- What if my drivers have existing unfinalised infringements?
When the provisions on demerit points get promulgated all drivers will have zero demerit points.
- How to keep track of fines?
- Implement accurate systems to receive and track fines correctly. Accurately record the dates that notifications are received and the statuses of infringements
- The new Act places the onus of proof on the accused. Also, fines can only be re-directed once. Make sure you record the driver details, dates and times for each vehicle in your fleet.
- A Proxy (a person in the company responsible for the coordination and administration relating to AARTO) needs to be appointed, to track drivers and subsequent fines upon official implementation.
- What will be the responsibilities of a Proxy?
While a Proxy cannot be held personally responsible for the fines, it is an infringement not to keep track of drivers and reassign the fines to the correct driver.
According to www.labourguide.co.za the Proxy will have to keep a record of:
- the dates on which documents were sent and received
- the outcome of representations to the RTIA
- the status of infringement
- court dates (if elected)
- demerit points allocated to the company, in the case of an operator
- verification of demerit points assigned to a particular driver
- How will fines be delivered?
Authorities will be allowed to serve documents via e-mail and to send reminders via WhatsApp and SMS. These notices will be considered delivered, eliminating the potential for offenders to avoid receiving notifications via registered mail, delivered through the postal system.
- regularly collect or your read your mail to nominate the driver of the vehicle
- pay within 32 days after receiving an infringement notice to receive a 50% discount
- How will fines and suspended drivers affect business?
No business can risk having their vehicles or drivers incapacitated for extended periods of time. Before appointing a Proxy, both yourself and the Proxy need to fully understand and comprehend how much responsibility and accountability is assumed for infringements.
- What are the consequences if you fail to comply?
- Failure to respond 32 days after an infringement is served will result in additional costs for courtesy letters and enforcement orders.
- Failure to keep record of the driver of a vehicle and not being able to nominate the driver will result in the employer having to pay the fine at three times the value applicable to ordinary license holders (not operators).
- Failure to keep a record of the details of drivers authorised to use the vehicles could result in the employer receiving a hefty fine or imprisonment for a year.
- Failure by the employer to adhere to the requirements of an enforcement order will lead to a warrant of execution where the movable property of the owner of the vehicle will be sold at an auction.
Further to this, the vehicle in question will be immobilised and no further licenses or operator cards will be issued until the fine is paid (including legal fees).
- Offences under section 49 of the National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 (applicable to operators) will result in demerit points recorded against the operator. If a specific number of demerit points are exhausted the operator will not be allowed to operate any vehicles on the roads.
- Infringements may lead to the drivers’ licenses of employees being suspended or cancelled.
- Failure to verify the status of the demerit points recorded against the name of a driver (employee) could result in a driver illegally driving a vehicle, which could have far-reaching implications in terms of third-party liability and the insurance of the vehicle.
- How will AARTO impact the relationship with my drivers?
A contentious issue now is that foreign drivers contravening road traffic/transport legislation are dealt with differently under both the CPA and AARTO.
Get as much information as possible and attend seminars and workshops on how to effectively manage your human resources.
As you will observe, the suspension of licenses and financial challenges can hamper the ability of many organisations and their employees to earn an income.
AARTO is expected to be in full force and effect June 2020.