E-tolls: Sanral ‘making it up as it goes along’

The fact that e-tolling, as a concept under the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, is new to the country, it affords Sanral a license to make up its own rules.

This is the opinion of Howard Dembovsky, national chairman of the Justice Project South Africa (JPSA), who argues that it is difficult to say what “normal procedure” is for the South African National Roads Agency Limited, given that that e-tolling is also specific only to Johannesburg/Tshwane/Ekurhuleni – not the whole of Gauteng as is being presented by Sanral.

“Effectively, they seem to be making it up as they go along – refusing to acknowledge that the entire system and idea is dismally flawed,” Dembovsky said.

Dembovsky was commenting on revelations that Sanral’s e-toll collection process includes making an average of around 100,000 outbound calls per month to selected road users.

Dembovsky pointed out that Sanral’s contractors, TMT Services, who operate the Violations Processing Centre (VPC) have been calling people since 13th December 2013.

The JPSA also reported earlier this week that it received reports that Sanral-contracted officers had set up roadblocks to check whether drivers had e-tags.

However, the department of community safety said that roadblocks in different parts of Gauteng were not linked to e-tolling,

Dembovsky said that, while toll roads are not new, this concept of “Open Road Tolling” is foreign to most South Africans and a large proportion of people who have called the JSPA seem to be under the impression that, because they have not signed up with Sanral and assented to their terms and conditions, they neither have an agreement with Sanral nor are compelled to pay e-tolls.

“Interestingly, this argument holds some water because Sanral’s terms and conditions specifically get you to agree to pay e-tolls, but registering with Sanral is entirely optional,” Dembovsky said.

However, he added that the problem comes in where the Sanral Act actually compels people to pay tolls – whether they are physically collected or electronically incurred.

“So unfortunately it is unreasonable for people to expect to not be contacted with respect to their alleged outstanding tolls,” the chair said.

Dembovsky said he finds it particularly interesting – and somewhat disturbing – that Sanral does not in any way make anyone who is not a ‘registered user’ aware of the fact that their vehicle has incurred e-tolls inside the so-called ‘7 day grace period for payment’ at the standard tariff.

“To me, this is not only disingenuous of them, given the fact that they will only contact such a person once the tariff has been tripled, but it also smacks of profiteering and dare I say – corrupt activities.”

“Surely, if they really wanted people to pay within the first 7 days, they would be courteous enough to send them an SMS each time their vehicle went under a gantry – and a ‘rollup’ of the previous day’s e-tolls incurred – first thing the next day,” Dembovsky said.

More on Sanral and e-tolls

Sanral called, it wants your e-toll money

Motorists report e-toll roadblocks

Sanral denies e-tag spot checks

Sanral: getting exact e-tag figures is hard

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E-tolls: Sanral ‘making it up as it goes along’