Taxi drivers protest against Aarto
Taxi drivers marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria today, in protest against the implementation of the Aarto demerit system.
The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act will see the allocation of demerit points to traffic law infringers. It is set to be introduced on a national basis from 1 April 2011. Pilot projects are currently being run in the municipalities of Tshwane and Johannesburg.
More than 20 000 taxi drivers, including 40 taxi associations, have participated in the march against the new Act, saying government should reconsider its implementation, according to the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS).
The march, organised by the South African Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu), started at 9am at the corner of Struben and Cowie Streets.
Satawu previously warned that Aarto will result in job losses, as drivers will lose their licences once the maximum amount of demerit points are exhausted, and have a negative impact on the economy.
The union wants Aarto to be scrapped and has threatened to strike before the end of the year.
Traffic senior superintendent Alta Fourie said three roads, Vermeulen, Struben and Edmond, would be closed until 2pm.
She said extra traffic officers had been deployed to the Pretoria city centre in anticipation of the march.
Justice Project SA notes that the march will not only be by taxi drivers, but also professional drivers, according to the GCIS, including those driving heavy load transport vehicles that keep the economy moving in the absence of a working rail freight system.
It says the implementation of Aarto as it stands would have disastrous consequences for business.
"This could see vehicles for which there are fully licensed drivers waiting to drive them, being suspended from operation, not necessarily because they are unroadworthy, but because they manage to toll up demerit points that affect operators, thus preventing the drivers, many of whom are paid per load, from earning a living.”
With the Aarto system, drivers lose points when they commit traffic offences and this will be reflected on the National Contravention Register on eNatis.
All drivers have 12 points to start with, and lose a certain amount of them depending on the severity of the offence. This could eventually lead to the suspension of one's licence. However, points can also be earned through good behaviour.
The Department of Transport postponed the implementation of the Act due to problems encountered with the pilot systems.
In response to a Parliamentary question, transport minister Sibusiso Ndebele said the allocation of demerit points to infringers will be introduced on a national basis from 1 April 2011.
Aarto manager, the Road Traffic Management Corporation, previously said it would spend over R300 million on IT and marketing for the new demerit system for motorists.