It’s the law…

It’s the law…

VIC OLIVER highlights some proposed amendments to the National Road Traffic Act, which could well come into effect during 2017

Presently there are a number of road traffic amendments that are in draft form and under discussion. Many of these proposed amendments are designed to curb the unacceptable number of road deaths that we experience daily on South African roads.

I fully support the majority of the proposed draft amendments and my only negative comment would be that it is taking too long for many of these good proposals to come into force.

Fortunately, one amendment that, in my opinion, will help to reduce the accident rate involving medium and heavy vehicles in the long term, is the stipulation that all commercial vehicles with a gross vehicle mass (GVM) rating exceeding 3 501 kg, registered after December 1, 2016, must be fitted with a speed governor.  

Many people are of the opinion that speed does not cause accidents, but, having driven many fully loaded medium, heavy and extra-heavy vehicles over the past fifty years, my experience has proved that it is a highly dangerous practice to drive these vehicles at high speeds.

Many of the modern commercial vehicles in the medium commercial-vehicle category are capable of travelling at speeds exceeding 100 km/h and present a danger to other road users, especially in urban areas and on busy and congested freeways.                        

Hopefully, the draft amendment to restrict the speed of commercial vehicles, with a GVM rating from 3 501 to 9 000 kg, to a maximum speed of 100 km/h, will soon be put into force.

I fully support the amendment pertaining to driving hours and rest periods, as it has been my opinion for many years that driving a commercial vehicle, or a bus, beyond the driver’s physical and mental capacity leads to many serious truck and bus accidents and fatalities.

The proposed amendment that stipulates that all vehicles, including passenger vehicles older than ten years, must obtain a yearly roadworthy certificate will help to ensure that all older vehicles using our roads will be in a safer mechanical condition.

An added benefit would be the reduction of vehicle roadside breakdowns that often cause massive traffic congestion and increase the risk of accidents at the scene of the breakdown.

Another positive proposed amendment is the one stipulating that motor homes (a caravan built onto a truck chassis) with a tare mass up to 3 500 kg can be driven by a driver who has a code B licence.

Presently, the road traffic regulation regarding driving licence categories requires a driver, who drives a motor home with a gross vehicle rating exceeding of 3 501 kg, to have a C1 driving licence and a Professional Driving Permit.                                  

Many of the motor homes have been built on truck chassis that have a GVM rating exceeding 3 501 kg and this has been a problem for potential buyers who do not possess the correct driving licence and Professional Driving Permit.

The proposed introduction of a provisional driving licence is another good proposal aimed at reducing accidents caused by inexperienced drivers. In terms of this proposal, new drivers will have their licences suspended for 24 months if the holder is found guilty of committing any six road traffic offences in the first 12 months after obtaining the licence.

One of the draft amendments that I do not support, however, is the banning of commercial vehicles in busy areas during peak times. As the majority of freight is delivered by road, restricting trucks from entering busy areas during peak hours would cause a major problem.

The Draft Amendments to the National Road Traffic Act Regulations cover many more proposed amendments. Hopefully we will soon see some of these changes come into effect, but the old question still remains: have we got the manpower and the political will to enforce the current and potential amended Road Traffic Act regulations?

Immediate amendments to the Road Traffic Act

Following receipt of this report, the Minister of Transport promulgated amendments to the National Road Traffic Regulations that are particularly pertinent to those who operate goods vehicles.

First, Government Gazette 40420 of November 11, 2016, amended Regulation 250, which previously forbade the conveyance of persons for reward in the goods compartment of bakkies, in its entirety, now reads as follows:

(1) No person shall on a public road convey school children in the goods compartment of a motor vehicle for reward.

(2) No person shall convey any other person in the goods compartment of a motor vehicle for reward: Provided that the provisions of this sub-regulation shall not apply in respect of a vehicle which complies with the provisions of the National Land Transport Act (NLTA).

“Simply put, this amendment means that transport operators, who successfully acquire a public transportation permit in terms of the NLTA, 2009 (Act 5 of 2009), may convey persons in the goods compartment of bakkies for reward, but under no circumstances is the conveyance of school children in the goods compartment of bakkies for reward allowed,” comments Howard Dembovsky, national chairman, Justice Project South Africa.

This will come into effect from May 12, 2017.

The second Regulation to be inserted was sub-regulation (iv) of Regulation 293, which has, with immediate effect, imposed a vehicle class-specific speed limit of 100 km/h on goods vehicles with a gross vehicle mass (GVM) or gross combination mass (GCM) greater than 3 500 kg, as follows:

(aa) a goods vehicle the gross vehicle mass of which exceeds
3 500 kg, but does not exceed 9 000 kg; or

(bb) a combination of motor vehicles consisting of a goods vehicle, being the drawing vehicle, and one or two trailers of which the sum of the GVM of the goods vehicle and of the trailer or trailers exceeds 3 500 kg, but does not exceed 9 000 kg.

The vehicle class-specific speed limit of 80 km/h – applicable to goods vehicles with a GVM or GCM of more than 9 000 kg, and a breakdown truck which is towing another vehicle – remain in force.

The vehicle class-specific speed limit of 100 km/h – for a bus, a minibus or a midibus, operating in terms of an operating licence, as well as a rapid transport bus and a rapid transport bus-train – also remains in force.

“Fleet owners who operate goods vehicles, which fall under the criteria above, are advised to inform their drivers that this amendment has taken place and that no ‘grace period’ exists, since these provisions became effective on November 11,” Dembovsky concludes.

One of this country’s most respected commercial vehicle industry authorities, VIC OLIVER has been in this industry for over 50 years. Before joining the FOCUS team, he spent 15 years with Nissan Diesel (now UD Trucks), 11 years with Busaf and seven years with International.

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Focus on Transport

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