A demerit points system will be implemented under the controversial Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Bill (AARTO) which could cause both drivers and owners of vehicles to be prohibited from driving altogether for traffic violations. AARTO has been sent to the President to be signed into law and will officially take effect on a date yet to be decided by the President.
AARTO is geared toward changing driving behaviour and increasing safety on the roads, but it may have significant implications on South Africa’s transport industry, employers and employees at every level.
How it will work
- The demerit system will be based on an allocation of points to drivers, on a scale between one and six, for offences contained in the National Road Traffic Act 1996. These points will depend on the severity of the offence committed. Every driver will begin with zero points and accrue points according to behaviour.
- If an infringer’s points exceed 12 their driving licence will be suspended.
- If a licence is suspended three times it will be revoked and the driver will need to reapply for a learner’s licence and redo their driving test following the revocation.
- Points will be reduced by one point every three months.
- A failure to pay traffic fines can also result in a driver being barred from obtaining driving and vehicle licences as well as being subjected to a number of other penalties
How employers may be affected
- Where employees are driving company vehicles, AARTO holds vehicle owners, not drivers, responsible for the demerits and associated fines.
- Employers will need to demonstrate that someone other than the owner or designated driver of the vehicle was driving the vehicle at the time of the offence. This must be done within 32 days of the infringement being served.
- Where an employee’s duties include driving, the suspension or cancellation of that employee’s licence will clearly have an effect on the employer’s business. Employers will have to review their existing contracts of employment, collective agreements and policies and procedures to ensure that the necessary incapacity and even disciplinary procedures are in place to deal with employees who are accumulating points or no longer capable of performing their duties as a result of the demerit system.
- Similarly, if an employee accrues points in their personal capacity outside of working hours resulting in the suspension or revocation of their license, this may potentially impact on the employee’s attendance at the office or the employee’s ability to perform some of their duties (especially if the employee is required to travel during working hours). Employers will need to have the necessary policies and procedures in place to deal with this eventuality.
What employers must do
- Although it is not clear when AARTO will come into effect, employers will have to review their terms and conditions of employment and existing policies/procedure documents to ensure that:
- A valid driver’s licence is a term and condition of employment; and
- The employer can take quick and decisive action should an employee fail to be in possession of a valid driver’s licence when this is an inherent requirement of the job.
This article was written by Claire Friedman, Candidate Attorney, Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa Inc