The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) will not be withholding vehicle licenses for unpaid e-toll fees, as reported on the weekend.
“Sanral does not have the legislative mandate to issue or block vehicle license renewals. As previously communicated, the legal processes open to Sanral for outstanding toll fees have been placed on hold until such time as a decision regarding e-tolls has been made by Cabinet,” Vusi Mona, Sanral spokesperson, said.
He pointed out that Sanral has a right to claim the toll amount due from motorists and could follow any of these legal steps:
- The Criminal Procedures Act and the Sanral Act states that criminal charges may be laid against motorists for not paying their tolls. If found guilty, motorists may be fined or imprisoned or both in terms of these Acts and could result in a criminal record.
- Civil procedure where action (through trial) or application (through affidavits) may be taken against motorists through either the Magistrate Court Act or the Supreme Court Act for the outstanding toll and associated costs. This could result in motorists having a bad credit record.
- The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (AARTO) may be used where a penalty and fee may be charged against motorists for failing to obey a toll road sign.
Mona explained that the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA), an agency of the Department of Transport, was responsible for enforcing the AARTO, which is responsible for the administration, collection and adjudication of fines related to road traffic offences.
“AARTO is not a Sanral process. RTIA will issue a courtesy letter to remind motorists of the outstanding infringement. If the courtesy letter is ignored, RTIA will then issue an enforcement order.”
He said an enforcement order meant that the National Traffic Information System (NaTIS) – the official register for all vehicle data – would issue a block to the vehicle and driving license of the owner. NaTIS would not allow documentation to be issued to the owner until the enforcement option is resolved.
“Other than sharing information with a sister agency that administers AARTO, Sanral does not issue enforcement orders or vehicle license discs.”
“Technically, traffic authorities have been able to charge infringers since 2013 when the e-toll system started,” says Alta Swanepoel, road traffic expert at Alta Swanepoel and Associates.
She says no one has ever been prosecuted for the AARTO road traffic sign infringement for failure to pay e-tolls.
“The fact is that they cannot fine you now for infringements of five years ago.”
The infringement and penalty for failing to comply with the road sign and the outstanding toll debt are two completely different issues: the penalty would be for a traffic infringement and the toll debt is a civil debt that accumulates as the person uses the toll road continuously without paying.
Swanepoel says if in the very unlikely event that someone is charged for this, and pays the fine of R500 (discount R250), the person would still owe the e-toll debt, as the traffic infringement would be for the failure to pay e-toll for a road sign at a specific gantry and not for all the outstanding e-tolls a person may owe.
She said she is not aware of any such fines to be issued and are not aware that it will happen in the near future.
Vehicle insurance implications
A spokesperson from Discovery Insure says if you are unable to renew your license due to administrative requirements but the vehicle is in a roadworthy condition, your claim would be covered. As with any decision on a claim, each claim’s circumstances will be reviewed on its merits.
Robyn Farrell, CEO of Telesure Investment Holdings (TIH) Short-Term Insurance, also says this would not in itself be a reason to reject a claim and as such, all valid claims will be paid.
Marius Neethling, manager of personal lines underwriting at Santam, says an updated vehicle license is not a requirement for cover, but the vehicle must be roadworthy and the driver must have a valid driver’s license for Santam to consider claims.
Louis Hay from Standard Bank Insurance says they encourage customers to obey the law.
“A valid license disc for a vehicle is part of the general roadworthiness of a vehicle. We take a customer-centric approach to managing claims and would take the individual circumstances of an accident into account when determining the validity of a claim. Where an expired license disc is not material to the loss, the claim would be entertained.”
Dushen Naidoo, managing executive at Absa Insurance, Retail and Business Bank, says it is premature to provide a view, given the fact that the authorities are still finalising this matter.
“Absa Insurance Company will consider the issue once there is further clarity. Our motor policy contract requires a vehicle to have a valid license.
“However, we are very conscious of serving our customers’ needs and during the Covid-19 pandemic, when policyholders were experiencing delays in obtaining license renewals due to lockdown conditions, we relaxed the requirement as a concession to customers.”