Will the new AARTO Bill affect the car-hire industry?

While many South Africans are currently focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is expecting a number of changes throughout the year.

One of these changes is the new Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Amendment Bill, which will focus on a traffic demerit system.

The demerit system will see each driver starting on zero points, earning demerit points for each violation of a traffic law. Once they reach 12 points, licences will be suspended.

While the bill is meant aimed at ensuring motorists take responsibility for their actions, a vehicle leasing association is calling for a re-evaluation of the bill, as it may have a negative impact on the travel and tourism sector.

General Manager of the Southern African Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (Savrala), Sandile Ntseoane, believes the Bill will create a large administrative burden for the car-hire industry; while adding another significant layer of administrative costs related to the multiple new charges structured into the system.

He explains the AARTO Bill will see various industries facing huge increases in operating costs. He elaborates that these increases will come from developing systems and structures, which includes payment for the view of demerit points relating to drivers and the levies and penalties required by the Road Traffic Infringement Agency.

While the exact impact isn’t clear at this stage, Ntseoane says car-hire pricing will go up significantly.

Furthermore, as the tourism industry is price elastic, demand for rental cars will decrease and the car-hire industry will most likely shrink.

Due to the possible threat the bill has on the car-hire industry, Savrala is taking the necessary steps to ensure government fully understands the impact as it calls for a review of the Bill.

One if the steps taken is through the Savrala AARTO sub-committee, which was established to monitor and review the impact of the Bill. Ntseoane explains the sub-committee and Savrala are working with, amongst others, Business Unity South Africa and the National Economic Development and Labour Council.

Talking to Tourism Update, Ntseoane says as there are problems in the proposed implementation. Problems which they will be tabling this formally to the Portfolio Committee on Tourism Strategic Planning Session via Tourism Business Council South Africa. They will then highlight the impact of the implementation of AARTO on the tourism sector.

However, Alta Swanepoel, legal expert and author of the Road Traffic & Road Transport Legislation Service and Manuals, published by LexisNexis, believes the Bill should be promoted and supported.

She explains AARTO merely makes companies accountable for their vehicles. She adds as the lack of road safety in South Africa often scares tourists, one would think the industry will rather support the government’s initiative to promote road safety.

As the car-hire industry is preparing for certain challenges, what are some of the demerits and penalties motorists can expect?

  • For driving without a driving licence, a motorist can expect a R1 250 fine and two demerits.
  • Driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance will see six demerits and a fine determined by court.
  • Motorists driving a light vehicle and are caught skipping a stop sign, will receive R500 fine and receive one demerit.
  • Taxis, buses and trucks skipping a stop sign will receive R750 fine and have two demerits against them.
  • Fines and demerits for speeding will fluctuate according to the speed limit.

With AARTO expected to be in full effect as of June, do you feel the demerit system will work? Or do you feel there should be a stricter policy put into place? Do you feel it is necessary for motorists to take responsibility for their actions?

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