New dead­line for com­ment

Pro­vin­cial driv­ers will also be af­fected by pro­posed changes to in­clude e- tolls into Aarto Act

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

THE Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion ( AA) said it is sure that the South African Na­tional Roads Agency ( SANRAL) un­der­stands that it can­not threaten le­gal ac­tion against mo­torists un­less it in­tends fol­low­ing through with court ac­tion.

The AA’s com­ments fol­low the is­su­ing of a text mes­sage by SANRAL on Tues­day last week.

The mes­sage, sent to an undis­closed num­ber of Gaut­eng road users, reads: “We have noted your re­fusal to pay your out­stand­ing e- toll bal­ance. Your ve­hi­cle de­tails are be­ing sub­mit­ted for list­ing, and le­gal ac­tion will com­mence with costs in­curred. Call 087 353 1490 Ref…:”

“While it is a le­gal re­quire­ment to pay your e- toll ac­count, it re­mains each driver’s choice to do so or not.

“Should SANRAL fol­low through on th­ese threats, it will be left to the driver to de­fend them­selves in court,” the AA warned.

It ap­pears that SANRAL has ap­pointed a debt- col­lec­tion agency to man­age this process for them, adding yet an­other layer to the costs of col­lec­tion, which are al­ready un­nec­es­sar­ily high.

“It is ex­tremely dis­ap­point­ing that SANRAL has gone this route with­out first re­solv­ing their billing prob­lems.

“A num­ber of Gaut­eng driv­ers have been ques­tion­ing their bills but have not re­ceived sat­is­fac­tory replies, if they’ve re­ceived any replies at all.

“Many peo­ple are also still not re­ceiv­ing in­voices or state­ments but may have re­ceived th­ese text mes­sages which is un­rea­sona- ble,” the AA noted.

In ad­di­tion, the AA said, th­ese mes­sages come on the back of re­cent re­ports in the press that some peo­ple have no­ticed ze­r­obal­ances on their e- toll ac­counts, but have not re­ceived any ex­pla­na­tions from SANRAL.

“Our un­der­stand­ing from ETC, the com­pany re­spon­si­ble for col­lec­tions, is that th­ese billing in­con­sis­ten­cies ap­par­ently re­late to the split­ting of cus­tomer ac­counts to re­flect pre- and post Septem­ber 2015 ac­counts.

“We have pre­vi­ously said that we sup­port ini­tia­tives to im­prove roads in all provinces, but fund­ing th­ese im­prove­ments through e- tolls is not the an­swer.

“The un­nec­es­sary ad­min­is­tra­tive costs, which are es­ca­lat­ing with this type of ap­proach, place an ex­tra bur­den on al­ready overex­tended mo­torists,” said the AA.

“The is­su­ing of the text mes­sages comes a day be­fore the Depart­ment of Trans­port is­sued a much- de­manded 30- day ex­ten­sion for pub­lic com­ment on the amend­ment of the AARTO Act.

This amend­ment to the Ad­min­is­tra­tive Ad­ju­di­ca­tion of Road Traf­fic Of­fences Act ( AARTO Act) in­tends to in­clude e- toll in­fringe­ments as part of road traf­fic of­fences.

Es­sen­tially this means that any per­son who has an out­stand­ing e- toll ac­count will be fined for non- pay­ment of their ac­count. If they fail to pay th­ese fines, once the AARTO in­fringe­ment no­tice has been es­ca­lated to an en­force­ment or­der, they will be un­able to re­new a ve­hi­cle or driver’s li­cense, once it ex­pires.

The AA be­lieves this process will be too cum­ber­some to man­age for the Road Traf­fic In­fringe­ment Agency ( RTIA) – which man­ages the AARTO sys­tem. In ad­di­tion it will trans­fer SANRAL’s col­lec­tions func­tion to an­other gov­ern­men­tal agency, which we don’t be­lieve has the ca­pac­ity to deal with it.

The pub­lic now has un­til 11 March to make sub­mis­sions to the pro­posed change to the AARTO Act.

“Given SANRAL’s ex­tremely neg­a­tive pub­lic im­age, and the poor up­take of the Gaut­eng e- tolls sys­tem, we find SANRAL’s ap­proach counter- pro­duc­tive. We would have pre­ferred a less ag­gres­sive, more in­clu­sive ap­proach to re­solv­ing the cur­rent non- pay­ment im­passe,” the AA said.

The pub­lic now has un­til 11 March to make sub­mis­sions to the pro­posed change to the AARTO Act

PHOTO: ENCA. COM

If Sanral suc­ceeds in mak­ing e- toll in­fringe­ments part of road traf­fic of­fences, ve­hi­cle own­ers will have to pay all fines — even those un­der dis­pute be­cause of false plates — be­fore be­ing able to re­new a ve­hi­cle or driver’s li­cense,

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