KZN puts squeeze on car li­cences

Taxi own­ers want ser­vice to match the high fees, truck oper­a­tors take their busi­ness away

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - AL­WYN VILJJOEN • al­wyn.viljoen@wit­

KZN’s li­cenc­ing fees went up on April Fools day, and while this means own­ers of an av­er­age twoto three- ton car will pay be­tween R40 and R60 more, truck and taxi oper­a­tors are re­ally feel­ing the squeeze.

On top of the R120 mo­torve­hi­cle reg­is­tra­tion fee, the li­cence fee for a typ­i­cal fam­ily sedan of about two tons now costs R972, while a smaller hatch will cost just over R800. While steep enough com­pared to R828 and R492 for sim­i­lar cars in Gaut­eng, these fig­ures are petty cash for truck oper­a­tors.

An eight- ton truck, such as most bak­eries use to de­liver bread, now costs R12 588, an in­crease of over R570 on last year and over R3 000 more ex­pen­sive than li­cence fees for sim­i­lar trucks in Gaut­eng, Mpumalanga and the Free State.

This is why na­tional fleet oper­a­tors whose main de­pots are in Dur­ban sim­ply use the util­ity bills from de­pots in other prov­inces to regis­ter their fleets there, typ­i­cally sav­ing them­selves millions in the process.

These millions are for­ever lost to KZN’s cof­fers, which is why the trans­port port­fo­lio com­mit­tee in the pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­ture last Septem­ber con­sid­ered ways to at­tract fleet own­ers back to their home base.

Wheels re­ported in Oc­to­ber last year that the head of the KZN trans­port depart­ment, Sibu­siso Gumbi, ad­mit­ted KZN’s ve­hi­cle li­cenc­ing fees are among the highest in South Africa in five out of eight cat­e­gories, and that the trans­port port­fo­lio com­mit­tee hoped to de­crease fees this year.

In­stead, in a Gazette Ex­tra­or­di­nary pub­lished on Jan­uary 29, the prov­ince raised the fees.

The re­sult is that only in the East­ern Cape is it more ex­pen­sive to be a car owner or fleet op­er­a­tor.

It now costs over R24 000 to li­cence a 12- ton truck in KZN, plus R2 127 for each half a ton weight over this. In Gaut­eng, the same truck will cost the op­er­a­tor over R3 000 less, and the half ton fee is also al­most R400 less.

KZN’s fleet oper­a­tors who ex­pected if not a de­crease, at least a freeze on in­creases, are un­der­stand­ably up­set.

Ebrahim Joosab, di­rec­tor at Colt Trans­port, a fam­ily- owned trans­port busi­ness based in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg since 1983, says KZN is los­ing out and he called for a uni­form li­cence fee sys­tem for all prov­inces to pre­vent this.

“In the cur­rent eco­nomic cli­mate, the fo­cus on manag­ing costs has be­come in­creas­ingly im­por­tant and as a re­sult of the con­tin­ued in­crease in li­cence fees in KZN — and with KZN al­ready be­ing one of the most ex­pen­sive prov­inces in the coun­try — we have been forced to regis­ter some of our ve­hi­cles in other parts of the coun­try to keep costs in check and re­main com­pet­i­tive in the in­dus­try.

“KZN is los­ing out on a rev­enue stream to other prov­inces from most trans­port oper­a­tors. We have a uni­form road act, and should also have a uni­form li­cence fee sys­tem across the coun­try,” said Joosab.

An­ton Ja­cobs, lo­gis­tics man- ager at Wil­low­ton Lo­gis­tics, which trans­ports prod­ucts from Wil­low­ton Oils across South Africa, said the li­cence fee in­creases could not have come at a worst time.

“Trans­porters have no choice but to pass these costs on to the client, who pass it on to the con­sumers. It is a vi­cious cir­cle that leads to con­stant in­creases in the cost of all foods,” said Ja­cobs.

Taxi oper­a­tors are also feel­ing the squeeze. Taxi li­cences cost be­tween R2 000 and R5 000, de­pend­ing on the size of the minibus.

Si­fiso Shangase, pro­vin­cial man­ager for the KZN branch of the SA Na­tional Taxi Coun­cil, ( San­taco), said profit mar­gins in the taxi in­dus­try are al­ready pa­per thin and the new in­crease of over R200 in most taxi li­cence fees will just make busi­ness harder. To add in­sult to in­jury, taxi oper­a­tors say they are get­ting slow to no ser­vice from the KZN trans­port depart­ment, de­spite the prov­ince charg­ing a premium price.

“Our big­gest is­sue is with the de­lay in get­ting oper­a­tors li­cences. There are hun­dreds of ap­pli­ca­tions pend­ing, none of which are mov­ing. The taxis of these oper­a­tors get im­pounded, and apart from the cost of R200 per day in the pound, the op­er­a­tor then has to pay a few thou­sand rands in le­gal fines and fees. We re­spect­fully ask the trans­port of­fi­cials to be ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive in pro­cess­ing our ap­pli­ca­tions,” said Shangase.

The depart­ment of trans­port did not re­spond the queries at the time of go­ing to print.

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