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AARTO a no go?

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AARTO a no go?The South African transport industry has a recurring bugbear: the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act. Although not in force yet, the Act continues to draw much negativity from the industry

After a few quiet years, I seem to be writing much about Aarto these days. In May, following the earlier South African Bus Operators Association (Saboa) conference, I reported that Japh Chuwe, registrar and CEO of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA), announced to delegates that the Act would roll out nationally during government’s 2016/17 financial year, which began on April 1.

Of course, it hasn’t “hit the streets” yet. However, the RTIA and Department of Transport (DoT) are both firm in their commitment to finally implement the system this year.

At the 2016 Road Freight Association (RFA) Convention – find all the details on page 12 – National Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters conveyed her belief that: “Aarto will allow for the identification and punishment of habitual offenders.”

It would seem, though, that the transport industry disagrees. Representing the industry at the Convention’s Aarto panel discussion were Gavin Kelly, RFA technical and operations manager; Alan Dunn, consultant: Unitrans Supply Chain Solutions; Patrick O’Leary, publisher and managing editor of Fleetwatch; and Hugo Pienaar, RFA board member and director of employment practice: Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, who chaired proceedings.

The men were highly critical of the Act.

“We want to take bad drivers off the road, so, in principle, the points system is good,” began Kelly. “But Aarto was designed to remove the criminal prosecution procedure and make it administrative – it forces you to give up your common-law rights. You can elect to go to a designated traffic court, but none exist at the moment.

“The minister sees Aarto as one of three silver bullets that are going to solve the lack of road safety. We won’t be able to take all the problems off the road with Aarto. We need to focus on proper traffic policing!” said Kelly.

O’Leary was equally dismissive. “The system works in countries that are ethical. It’s not going to work in South Africa; we can’t get existing legislation right. We’re operating in a culture riddled with corruption ... Aarto is going to create a new breed of bribers who won’t want to lose their licence when they know how many points they’ll lose.

“Our small to medium operators are not first-world operators. They don’t care about managing and maintaining their fleets properly.”

That begs the question: how will professional transport companies be affected if the system is implemented?

Dunn said: “We will need an industry-wide set of standards. Companies, their customers and suppliers need to change their mindset and be aware of the consequences of infringements. Human-resource contracts will need to be reviewed and disciplinary process decided upon. If drivers lose their jobs, families will be affected. Supervisors, as well as workshop, finance and administrative staff will all need awareness training.”

It was interesting that, while the industry vociferously expressed its disapproval of the system (although one delegate did ask if just the idea of the system might not drive positive behaviour change), the one-liner by Minister Peters was all she had to say on the subject ...

Was she cautiously broaching the topic ahead of the panel discussion? Is she uncertain that the system will, in fact, be implemented this year? We’ll have to wait to find out. After all, we’ve been waiting for Aarto since 1998.

 

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