Enter the AARTO nightmare …

Judging by what prospective clients are saying to us during meetings, the implementation of AARTO is going to be a nightmare for companies.

Take, for example, a common question we are often asked, whether we specifically “train drivers on AARTO” in our defensive driving courses. The answer is “no”, and the reason is simple: there is nothing in AARTO that requires a change in driving style. AARTO is just another word for “a different process to administer traffic law”. AARTO is based on the same laws that have applied to drivers for years, but the laws will be enforced administratively in many cases, instead of judicially. Also, some infringements will carry the possibility of the loss of demerit points which may ultimately cost a repeat offender their licence, but the infringements are still the same as they were before.

This means that there is no need for special AARTO training, because drivers are already familiar with the laws in question. Indeed, when they wrote their learner licences, a fairly in-depth knowledge of traffic law was required. Then, when they went for their driver licences, they had to demonstrate their ability to drive according to those laws.

As long as you drive according to what you learned when you passed your learner and driver licences, you are driving in accordance with traffic law, and thus with AARTO. This is an entry-level standard for defensive driving, and trainers routinely identify and correct any failures to comply with traffic law before moving on to coaching trainees in the defensive skills which are not taught at licence level. Indeed, many of the latter skills are largely ineffective if a driver isn’t respecting the basic rules of the road.

In other words, traffic law compliance and defensive driving are indivisible, and any defensive driving course which doesn’t demand (and coach) compliance with traffic law as a basic requirement is de facto incomplete – you cannot drive defensively unless you are obeying traffic laws. Just because the traffic laws now come in a shiny new wrapper called “AARTO” doesn’t change the underlying picture. Any training provider who claims that “AARTO driver training” and “defensive driver training” are unrelated enough to justify being presented as separate courses is attempting to get you to pay twice for the same result. That means you’ll have less money in the kitty for the people who will really need AARTO training – HR and managerial staff who will face real-world issues such as:

1. How do the company’s contracts of employment address the loss of demerit points by drivers?
2. What processes are in place to establish the demerit points status of new employees for whom driving is a job requirement?
3. What counselling and monitoring systems are in place for drivers who commit AARTO infringements? (This is a biggie – if you dismiss someone for incapacity and you haven’t taken all reasonable measures to prevent the incapacity from arising, the inevitable CCMA hearing could be rather grim for you.)

So, for all those companies asking for “AARTO training” for their drivers: it’s a waste of money. There is little in AARTO (ie traffic law) which isn’t reinforced during a reputable defensive driving course. Rather spend the money on training HR people and implementing systems to ensure that if, despite your best efforts, a driver loses all their demerit points, you will have the legitimate option of dismissing them for incapacity instead of carrying deadwood on the payroll or running afoul of the CCMA.


Rob Handfield-Jones has spent 20 years indulging his three passions: vehicles, road safety and writing. He heads up driving.co.za, a company which offers training in economical and safe driving.

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FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publication in southern Africa.
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