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Road Transportation

When an aeroplane taxies to the runway in order to take off, it goes slowly. Like a taxi-driver slowly cruising around looking for customers – and that is why the plane is said to be ‘taxiing’. A taxi, meanwhile, is called that because it charges a fare – taxa, in Latin – to transport you from A to B. The other people-mover, a bus, also gets its name from Latin – in fact, it is an abbreviation of the word ‘omnibus’, which means ‘for all’.

Regrettably, sometimes, their existence on our roads gives cause for concern, but the South African taxi, bus and cargo transportation industries contribute massively to the economy, and to our way of life.

The Road Transportation Act 19771 is designed to provide for the control of these forms of ‘road transportation’, which means:

  • the conveyance of (i.e. carrying) persons or goods on a public road by means of a motor vehicle for reward;
  • the conveyance of persons or goods on a public road by means of a motor vehicle in the course of any industry or trade or business;
  • the conveyance of persons on a public road by means of a hired bus; and
  • the conveyance of goods on a public road by means of a hired motor vehicle.2

However, the Act lists exclusions to these definitions. In fact, there are no less than five pages of dozens of exclusions.3 Working out whether any of the mostly convoluted and/or unhelpful provisions4 is to apply is a pretty difficult task; but, as to be expected, there are a lot of criminal provisions.

A. Permits

  1. Any person who undertakes road transportation, except under the authority of a permit authorising such road transportation, commits an offence.5
  2. It is an offence to undertake road transportation otherwise than in accordance with the provisions of such permit.6

  3. Any person who contravenes or fails to comply with any condition or requirement of a permit commits an offence.7

  4. It is also a criminal offence if the holder of a permit fails:
    • to carry the written permission for a temporary replacement vehicle8 if any, and the permit on the motor vehicle to which they relate,9 and produce them on demand to any authorised officer;10
    • to keep the permit in such a condition that all letters and figures on it are clearly legible and, if the permit is damaged or ceases to be clearly legible, apply for a duplicate in the manner prescribed by regulation;11
    • to exhibit such other particulars as may be prescribed.12
  5. It is an offence if you fail:
    • to cause the name, address and nature of the business of the permit holder (and, in the case of a public permit issued for the conveyance of only one class of persons, a notice specifying such class of persons) to be borne on the motor vehicle in a conspicuous place, in such manner as may be prescribed by regulation or in such other manner as approved in writing;13
    • to affix and keep affixed in the prescribed manner a distinguishing mark on any motor vehicle used in road transportation in terms of such permit.14
  6. If you are the holder of a public permit authorising the conveyance of persons or goods for reward, it is an offence if you refuse (without sufficient reason) to convey any person or goods which such permit authorizes.15

  7. If you, as the holder of a public permit authorising the conveyance of persons or goods for reward make any charge for such conveyance which is not in accordance with any tariff set forth in such permit16 or which you may have been required to publish in terms of such permit.17

  8. It is a crime to claim or accept for such conveyance any remuneration, other than money, if you are the holder of a public permit authorising the conveyance of persons or goods for reward.18

  9. The holder of a permit authorising the conveyance of goods commits an offence if he contravenes any prohibition contained in a notice published in the Gazette under section 2(f), (g) or (gA) of the Act.19

  10. The Minister can issue prohibitions on transportation of persons or goods even if the definition of ‘road transportation’ does not include them. It is an offence to contravene any such proclamation.20

  11. It is an offence to make a permit available to any other person to undertake road transportation not authorised under the Act.21

  12. It is a criminal office to make known (in any manner) that you are willing to undertake road transportation, unless you are the holder of a permit which authorises such conveyance.22 An exception to this is if you have authority in writing granted by the National Transport Commission or the Road Transportation Board.

  13. Any person who (without authority in writing granted by the NTC or Road Transportation board) makes known in any manner that any other person is willing to undertake road transportation commits an offence unless:
    • such other person is the holder of a permit which authorises such conveyance; and
    • he has been authorised (by such other person) to advertise his willingness; and
    • the advertisement discloses the name of such other person.23
  14. When a permit has lapsed, it (together with any distinguishing mark required in respect of the motor vehicle) must be returned within seven days. Any company which contravenes this provision commits an offence.24

B. Unauthorised passengers

  1. Any person (except an authorised or legally permitted person) who enters a motor vehicle to which a public permit relates, and refuses or fails to leave it on being requested to do so by the conductor or person in charge, commits an offence.25

  2. Any person (except someone who is a member of a class of persons for whom the portion of the vehicle has been set aside in the permit issued in respect of that vehicle) who enters a particular portion of a vehicle and refuses or fails to leave it on being requested to do so commits an offence.26 27

C. Fraudulent conduct

  1. Any person who forges a permit or other document issued under the Act, or deceptively alters or defaces or mutilates or adds anything to a permit or other document issued under the Act commits a crime.28

  2. If you know that a permit or document has not been issued under the Act, or that it has been deceptively altered, defaced, mutilated or added to, it is a crime if you tender it or use it for the purposes of the Act.29

  3. If, without official written consent, you transfer any permit (or distinguishing mark) to any motor vehicle or person other than one referred to or named in such permit of distinguishing mark, you commit an offence.30

  4. If by words, conduct or demeanour you falsely pretend to be an inspector, you commit an offence.31

  5. It is a criminal offence knowingly to make any false statement (whether orally or in writing) in connection with any application, appeal, inquiry or investigation under the Act.32

  6. If you prepare any document for use in connection with road transportation containing an incorrect description of the goods concerned, you commit a crime if you know that description to be incorrect.33

  7. It is a crime to obtain a public permit or a private permit knowing that a permit has already been issued to some other person in respect of the vehicle concerned.34

D. Inspectors and boards of inquiry

  1. If you obstruct, hinder or interfere with an inspector in the exercise of his powers or the performance of his duties, it is a crime.35

  2. If you fail or refuse to appear before the Commission (or a board or a member thereof) after having been required to do so, it is an offence.36

  3. It is also an offence if you fail or refuse to answer, to the best of your knowledge, any question lawfully put to you; or to produce any book, plan or other document or article which you have been required to produce.37

E. Manager, agent and employee liability

  1. Whenever any manager, agent or employee of the holder of a permit does (or omits to do) any act which would be an offence if done by such holder, then the holder also commits the offence unless he proves that:
    • he did not conspire in or permit such act or omission;38 and
    • he took all reasonable measures to prevent it;39 or
    • the act or omission did not fall within the scope of the authority, or the course of the employment of such manager, agent or employee.40
  2. Whenever any manager, agent or employee of a permit holder does or omits to do any act, he shall also be liable to be convicted if it was an offence for which the holder could be convicted.41
  1. As amended; the latest amendments effected by Act 39 of 1998. 

  2. According to the definition in section 1. 

  3. See section 1(2). 

  4. Don’t believe me? Try this – one of the shorter sub-sections, section 1(2)(w):“The conveyance in the manner and on the conditions prescribed by regulation of goods solely within the boundaries of an exempted area by means of a motor vehicle which is registered within such exempted area under the law governing the registration of motor vehicles in force in that area, provided such motor vehicle is identified in the manner prescribed by regulation.” 

  5. Section 31(1)(a). 

  6. Section 31(1)(b). 

  7. Section 31(1)(b). 

  8. See Section 23A. 

  9. Except if the National Transport Commission has directed otherwise. 

  10. Section 24(1)(a) read with section 31(1)(b). 

  11. Section 24(1)(b) read with section 31(1)(b). 

  12. Section 24(1)d) rear with section 31(1)(b). 

  13. Section 24(1)(c) read with section 31(1)(b). 

  14. Section 24(1)(e) read with section 31(1)(b). 

  15. Section 31(1)(c)(i). 

  16. Subject to an increase (to a maximum of 10%) to allow for full-price increases. See section 12A. 

  17. Section 31(1)(c)(ii). 

  18. Section 31(1)(c)(iii). 

  19. Section 31(1)(d). 

  20. Section 31(1)(e) read with section 43(1)(d) and (e). 

  21. Section 31(1)(f). 

  22. Section 31(4)(a). 

  23. Section 31(3)(b). 

  24. Section 29(3)(d) read with section 29(3)(b). 

  25. Section 32(1). 

  26. This does not apply if you are going through it to another portion of the vehicle which has been set aside for you, or if you are alighting from the vehicle. 

  27. Section 32(2). 

  28. Section 33(a). 

  29. Section 33(b). 

  30. Section 33(c). 

  31. Section 33(d). 

  32. Section 33(g). 

  33. Section 33(h). 

  34. Section 33(i). 

  35. Section 33(e). 

  36. Section 33(f). 

  37. Section 33(f). 

  38. Section 34(1)(a). 

  39. Section 34(1)(b). 

  40. Section 34(1)(c). 

  41. Section 34(2).