What the law says about tuk-tuks on South African roads

As more companies adopt tuk-tuks in populated areas around Guateng, questions have emerged around the legality of driving the three-wheeled vehicles on South Africa’s roads.

Whether they are being used for delivery purposes in the case of Pick n Pay, or as a means to advertise whilst ferrying people around a busy business district, as is the case with Standard Bank in Sandton and Rosebank, the number of tuk-tuks has grown exponentially over the past few years.

While there seems to be little issue with the larger, more powerful vehicle which are able to keep up with the flow of traffic, the laws may be less clear cut on the use of less powerful vehicles used by bars, restaurants and other private companies for transporting goods, or even people.

BusinessTech reached out to Justice Project South Africa’s Howard Dembovsky to clarify the legality of Tuk Tuks on South Africa’s roads.

The law 

According to Dembovsky, the use of Tuk-tuks for public transport is regulated in terms of Section 70 of the National Land Transport Act.

“Section 70(1) of the NLTA prescribes that “Tuk-tuks may be used for public transport services where relevant transport plans allow for this”,” said Dembovsky.

Section 70(2) of the NLTA then goes on to prescribe that “Where a tuk-tuk is so used the operating licence must stipulate the urban route, road network or area on or within which it must operate, as shown in the relevant integrated transport plan, and a maximum speed of operation.””

Delivery vs passenger transportation

Dembovsky also noted that there was a clear legal difference between tuk-tuks being used for delivery versus transportation purposes.

If a tuk-tuk is not used for public transport purposes, it does not need an operating licence and the normal provisions applicable to a motor tricycle in terms of the National Road Traffic Act apply. To be absolutely clear, an operating licence is only required if a tuk-tuk is being operated for public transport purposes.

Are they safe?

“In my view, the “inherent dangers” of the use of tuk-tuks are mainly related to their stability, since they are tricycles and the handling of them is significantly different to that of a motor car and even a motorcycle,” said Dembovsky.

He also noted that they constitute what would fall within the category of vulnerable road users since their passenger compartments would typically not incorporate the same safety features which would be present in motor cars and other four-wheel motor vehicles.

“Tuk-tuks are not specifically contemplated in the National Road Traffic Act by that name (tuk-tuk), but they are contemplated as constituting motor tricycles. Therefore, any person who wishes to drive one must possess a code A driving licence,” he said.

“The second that a tuk-tuk is used for public transport purposes, the driver thereof must also  possess a valid professional driving permit (PrDP) for conveying persons. If such a person is not driving it for public transport purposes, they do not need a PrDP.”

“As alluded to above, the vehicle class speed limit applicable to tuk-tuks only comes into play if that vehicle is being operated in terms of an operating permit issued in terms of the NLTA.”

“In all other circumstances, a vehicle class speed limit is not applicable to tuk-tuks and therefore, essentially, they need only comply with the general speed limit or the speed limit displayed on a road traffic sign and may be operated anywhere and on any public road (including a freeway), provided that its engine capacity exceeds 50cc.”


Read: Government looking at scrapping K53 driver’s test: report

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