Recent announcements put the implementation of the Gauteng E-Toll in February 2012 - following a period where the system needs to ‘go-live'. For the system to be tested by the go-live period, SANRAL requires that all future users purchase an E-Tag and register onto the system.
To initiate this process, SANRAL will commence with the registration and issuing of E-Tags from 03 November 2011 to ensure that a reasonable number of vehicles are registered for the go-live test phase.
However - the RFA has received no response from SANRAL in terms of its recent request for further discounts on the proposed toll tariffs and the creation of a new category to accommodate medium sized freight vehicles in line with the tolling structure implemented by other toll-concessionaires across the country.
Despite all major fleet operators in the freight, passenger, vehicle hire and tourism industries having voiced their concerns on numerous occasions, there has been no response from SANRAL relating to the following unresolved queries/issues of accountability for Key Account holders, nor individual E-Tag owners:
- Dispute process: there is no process regarding transactions that appear on your account that you can challenge/query as not being legitimate;
- Toll enforcement: no finalisation has been reached in terms of how defaulters will be dealt with (AARTO is not ready and sections of the toll roads lie outside of JHB and Tshwane ‘pilot' zones);
- Violation processing: offenders must be prosecuted per offence and be afforded the opportunity to defend the charges - there isno indication of how this processes will operate;
- Passenger vehicles: not all vehicles are exempted (no clear rules relating to this);
- Standard contract: this contains clauses that allow SANRAL to blacklist account holders and make account holders responsible for tolls irrespective of possibilities of fraud;
- Cloned/false number plates: nothing has been put in place to ensure that cloned plate owners are not unduly prejudiced;
- Access to personal accounts: no guarantees to ensure that registered accounts will not be accessed for fraudulent activities;
- Cloning of E-Tags: no process to ensure these do not enter the market, nor how to deal with them;
- Payment deadline: SANRAL requires full settlement of tolls within 07 (seven) days of the transaction whilst business practice is 30 (thirty) days.
In addition to the above, the following are cause for great concern:
Individuals/companies that propose to utilise a bank to process toll fees (as currently used in other toll-road situations) will only receive their statements 30 (thirty) days after the event and then will query with their banks as to transactions. The Banks will then need to query with SANRAL - there is no process to deal with this (BUT Banks will clear EVERY night at 12:00 with SANRAL so you will have paid and BE LIABLE);
Should you decide not to register for an E-Tag , there is NO ‘manual' processes;
SANRAL will not send you an account in the mail, it will just hand over the offending registration details to a Violation Processing Centre which will then take action to enforce payment of tolls. This is not acceptable as users MUST be given the choice of how they will pay (and not be confined to a single process that is beneficial to SANRAL only).
A number of Associations and organisations are now actively advocating NOT registering for E-Tags UNTIL such time as SANRAL has resolved the operational challenges still facing the system.
The RFA is concerned that the roll-out of the tolling system is taking place irrespective of the concerns raised by many fleet operators regarding operational issues. E-Tags can always be purchased at a later date once the issues have been resolved.
The statement by Minister Pravin Gordhan to ‘use the resources we have far more effectively' supports and reaffirms the view of the RFA, that the best method to recover the costs of development and maintenance for the GFIP is a fuel levy of around 35 cents per litre (countrywide).
The costs of administering and implementing the collection of tolls through the gantry system remains an exorbitant and fruitless expenditure that the country should reject outright.
Spending between R6 and R14 billion (latest figure quoted by the DA recently) to collect R21 billion just does not make financial sense.
The GFIP issue (to toll or not to toll) has NOT been finalised - and the intention to implement tolling in Gauteng should be halted, following the recent instruction by the Minister of Transport to ‘halt all processes related to the tolling of national roads'.
The Ministerial Task Team (Finance and Transport) has yet to finalise its own investigation, whilst the Gauteng Provincial Government has scheduled a session with its citizens (and petition signatories) on 11 November.
Against this background the RFA remains ready at all times to engage with the relevant government institutions to address road infrastructure funding challenges.
Issued by Gavin Kelly - spokesperson for the Road Freight Association.