Unpacked: motor vehicle chevrons

Unpacked: motor vehicle chevrons

Regulation 191 of the National Road Traffic Act, Act 93 of 1996, stipulates that warning signs – better known as chevrons – must be fitted to the rear of certain motor vehicles. What is their purpose and how should they be fitted? The Road Freight Association (RFA) explains…

The warning sign or chevron fitted at the rear of a heavy goods vehicle warns other motorists that they are approaching a heavy vehicle from the rear, and that this vehicle is likely travelling at a speed significantly lower than the motorist’s vehicle. The retro-reflective nature of the red and yellow stripes increases the visibility of the heavy vehicle, particularly in the case of defective tail lamps.

The fitment pattern of the chevron indicates the motor vehicle’s centre and that motorists should pass the vehicle on the right or left side with due regard to other applicable rules of the road. When the vehicle undergoes its annual roadworthy test, the chevron is inspected for cleanliness, good condition, and lack of obstructions. The warning sign should, as far as is reasonable, always be maintained in this condition so that it is effective.

Other considerations include the requirement that the licence plate is fitted in an upright position (or within 15 degrees of upright). The lower edge of the chevron should be no higher than 1.1m above ground level, and where this is not possible due to the design of the motor vehicle it should be fitted as close as possible to the maximum height above ground level.

The chevron should extend across the rear of the motor vehicle, so that it is no more than 400mm from the widest part of the vehicle. This provides approaching motorists with an indication of the vehicle’s overall width.

Every examiner of vehicles is trained in the correct fitment of the chevron, which is perhaps surprising given the increasing number of vehicles one observes with the chevron fitted upside down… 

The following is an extract of Regulation 191 of the National Road Traffic Act, Act 93 of 1996:

Reg 191. Warning sign on rear of certain motor vehicles (chevrons)

(1) “For the purposes of this regulation the expression “motor vehicle” shall not include a motor vehicle propelled by electrical power derived from overhead wires, motor car, motor cycle, motor tricycle, motor quadricycle, tractor, or any other motor vehicle the gross vehicle mass of which does not exceed 3,500kg and which is not a trailer.

(2) Subject to subregulation (3), no person shall operate on a public road a motor vehicle unless there is fitted at the rear of such vehicle a warning sign which—

(a) is a chevron sign which complies with the requirements referred to in standard specification SABS 1329 “Retro‑reflective and Fluorescent Warning Signs for Road Vehicles”, Part 4 “Retro-reflective chevron-signs” and Part 5 “Retro-reflective chevron decals”;

(b) bears a certification mark;

(c) notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (a), from 1 January 2001 incorporates both retro-reflective red and retro-reflective yellow chevron strips. 

(3) (a) If the design or construction of any motor vehicle does not allow a chevron to be fitted thereto such chevron may be cut into sections to avoid the interference of protrusions, or its edges may be trimmed to permit fitment to the contour of the vehicle or its equipment, but the chevron pattern shall be substantially maintained.

(b) If the design or construction of any motor vehicle does not allow a modified chevron to be fitted thereto as contemplated in paragraph (a), at least 11 retro-reflectors shall be fitted to such motor vehicle… and in the case of a trailer the gross vehicle mass of which does not exceed 3,500kg, at least seven retroreflectors shall be fitted to such trailer… 

Provided that a trailer the gross vehicle mass of which does not exceed 3,500kg may, in lieu of the said seven retro-reflectors, be fitted with at least one triangular retro-reflector at each side no further than 400mm from the outer edge of the widest part of such trailer, that comply with the requirements of standard specification SABS ECE R3 “The uniform provisions concerning the approval of retro-reflecting devices for power-driven vehicles and their trailers”.

(4) Every warning sign required in terms of this regulation, to be displayed on a motor vehicle or on a trailer referred to in subregulation (2), shall—

(a) be in an upright position or within 15 degrees of such position and face squarely to the rear;

(b) be so placed that the lower edge thereof is not more than one comma one metres above ground level: Provided that if, owing to the structure of the vehicle, it is impossible to fit the warning sign at the prescribed height, it shall be fitted as near as possible to such height;

(c) extend horizontally for such distance as is necessary to indicate the overall width of the vehicle to which it is fitted to within 400mm of either side: Provided that these provisions shall not be applied to any chevron fitted in addition to the requirements of this regulation; and

(d) be clean and in good condition and not be obscured to the extent that it will be rendered ineffective.”


“Motor vehicle” means any self-propelled vehicle and this includes:

  • a trailer; and
  • a vehicle having pedals and an engine or an electric motor as an integral part thereof or attached thereto and which is designed or adapted to be propelled by means of such pedals, engine or motor, or both such pedals and engine or motor, but does not include-
  • any vehicle propelled by electrical power derived from storage batteries and which is controlled by a pedestrian; or

any vehicle with a mass not exceeding 230kg and special designed and constructed, and not merely adapted, for the use of any person suffering from some physical defect or disability

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