LexisNexis legal author and transport expert, Alta Swanepoel, has urged South African companies and individuals to begin preparing for the incoming Aarto Amendment Bill.
Approved by the National Assembly in September 2017 the bill is currently sitting with the National Council of Provinces for approval.
“It is important for companies to familiarise themselves with AARTO now so that they can train their drivers and put systems in place to manage their risk,” she said.
Below are the biggest changes Swanepoel said that all motorists and companies should be aware of.
Block on driving licenses
“The Aarto process starts with an infringement notice advising the road user of the penalty, discounts and payment deadline. This is then followed up with a courtesy letter to pay,” explained Swanepoel.
“Failure to make payment at this point will result in an enforcement order being issued and the imposition of a NaTIS block on obtaining driving and vehicle licences, in addition to an administrative fee.
“AARTO originally included a warrant of execution of property – a process, where offenders’ property could be seized and sold to cover the penalties and fees.
“However, this process has not been used at all and has been removed in the amendment,” she said.
Traffic fines through WhatsApp
Swanepoel noted that the Amendment Bill will introduce a far more effective system for the delivery of documents, but that these new methods may catch motorists unaware.
Where documents previously had to be delivered by registered mail through the post office, in terms of the amendment, authorities will now also be able to serve documents via e-mail and to send reminders via WhatsApp and SMS, she said
“These notices will be considered as having been delivered, eliminating the potential for offenders to avoid receiving notices via registered mail, delivered through the postal system,” she said.
A controversial change to the bill is that the option for offenders to elect to appear in court to challenge the prosecution has been removed, said Swanepoel.
Abuse of this option by infringers in Tshwane and Johannesburg resulted in a backlog in the court system.
Swanepoel said that parliament therefore took the decision to eliminate this option.
“In terms of the proposed amendment, an offender may make representation to the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA). If this is unsuccessful, the next step is to appeal to a Special Appeals Tribunal,” she said.
“The bill proposed that if the appeal failed, the offender could only take the case to the High Court.
“Following concerns raised in well-attended public hearings, in light of the pending introduction of demerit points and the possibility that licences could be suspended and cancelled, the National Council of Provinces is now reviewing this aspect.
“One of the options discussed is that offenders will be able to take their cases to the Magistrates’ Court,” she said.
In terms of Aarto, it is the duty of operators of transport services to know who is driving their vehicles at all times, so that individual offenders can be dealt with, said Swanepoel.
“Drivers will have zero demerit points when the provisions on demerit points are promulgated, even if they have existing cases that have not been finalised,” she said.
“Depending on the severity of the offence, 1-6 points are allocated for offences. If an Infringer has more than 12 points, it will result in the disqualification of the driving licence and three suspensions result in its cancellation.”
She added that operators are responsible for the roadworthiness of their vehicles and will earn demerit points – which could result in their vehicles’ licence discs being suspended.