A host of new online driving licence and vehicle-related services have been launched by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula with the aim of slashing the queues at driving licence test centres (DLTCs) and other transport entities.
The Automobile Association (AA) and Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) both welcomed the launch of the new services but expressed concern about the high cost to motorists who use these new online services.
Mbalula said on Thursday that the experience of the citizen from the time they book for a learner’s licence to the time they receive their driving licence card is changing.
He said the online services being launched from Thursday are a critical building block in changing that experience, eliminating perverse incentives for corruption and taking advantage of the technology revolution.
The same can be said about vehicle licensing, he said.
Mbalula said the bouquet of online services they were officially launching were previously only accessible by visiting a registering authority (RA) or a DLTC.
He said the following services have now been made available on the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) online platform effectively immediately:
The online application, issuing and delivery of a motor vehicle licence and disc to the owner of the motor vehicle.
The online application, issuing and delivery of a registration certificate of a motor vehicle to the title holder of the motor vehicle for financial institutions, large fleet operators and motor dealers.
The online application and payment for a booking for renewal, in person, of a driving licence card at a driving licence testing centre;
The online application and payment for the delivery of driving licence cards to the holder concerned.
The provision of an electronic copy of an accident report.
Mbalula said the online notification of the change of ownership of a motor vehicle by the current title holder or owner will be implemented at a later date.
The online system has also been enhanced to allow financial institutions, insurance companies and vehicle dealerships to register vehicles directly on the NaTIS system, he said.
“This will improve convenience and help to combat rampant crime associated with the change of ownership of vehicles,” said Mbalula.
“The benefit of these services is that motorists and private companies will be transacting directly on the NaTIS, eliminating middlemen who fuelled corruption,” he said.
Mbalula stressed that these new services will create the enabling environment that will enable the private sector to create jobs as mentioned by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation Address last week.
He said additional enhancements on the system will allow vehicle owners to be alerted quickly if their vehicles have been cloned and users of the system will be able to pay their traffic fines on the platform without a need to drive anywhere.
Mbalula said his department is also working to finalise the introduction of the online submission of eye test results by private optometrists registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa.
“These services we are rolling out today will undoubtedly improve efficiencies and minimise the time the end-user spends in a queue.
“The ultimate end goal is to eliminate these queues, once the full bouquet of online services has been implemented, buttressed by other improvements at DLTC level …
“We have taken the bold step to modernise our systems and ride the digital wave to improve service delivery.
“The era of long queues and service centres that close at 3.30pm, forcing workers to take time off work to access traffic services, will soon become a thing of the past.
“Motorists will be able to access most of the services they had to travel and queue at a Driving Licence Testing Centre in the past for, from the comfort of their homes and offices,” he said.
Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage said “well done … it’s good that they doing this” but expressed concern about the costs to motorists and that Department of Transport entities, such as the RTMC and Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA), are becoming profit centres with no oversight by National Treasury.
Duvenage said consumers have to pay an administration fee, including licencing, of R3 000 when they buy a new car but this will now increase to R3 550 because vehicle dealerships will pass on the online registration cost to society.
“It costs you nothing to do this [in person] in the registry office so why should it cost you R550 extra to do it online when the online process is supposed to be cheaper than the in-office process?”
He added: “The banks don’t charge you more for doing your transaction online. That is not how the world works.
“We are moving to electronic but shouldn’t have to pay more fees. This is our concern,” he said.
Duvenage added that entities such as the RTMC, RTIA and Driving Licence Card Account (DLCA), which produces the driving licence cards, are becoming “revenue earning empires” and removing the need to have funds allocated to them by Treasury.
He stressed the fees paid to these entities are “very costly additional taxes” and are making these entities extremely wealthy.
These entities then find reasons to spend the money they have accumulated, such as “by giving themselves fat increases, big bonuses and renting mobile driving licence buses that have no oversight”.
“They are removing Treasury from the oversight, which is our biggest concern, because they don’t want Treasury’s money.
“We are saying that all those fees must be taken away.
“The online process should be free and RTMC should not be making the money it is making now because they squander and abuse it,” he said.
The AA’s response
AA spokesperson Layton Beard said the Department of Transport must be applauded for taking this step, which is long overdue.
“We have been in an environment where technology underpins so much of what we do that this is something that should have been rolled out a long time ago,” said Beard.
“But be that as it may, the fact that we are at this point today is obviously a good sign,” he said.
But Beard questioned the cost to consumers and whether they will be able to afford some of these services, if they involve extra costs, and the reliability of the IT infrastructure that backs them up.
“It’s great and it sounds fantastic but the proof is in the [eating of the] pudding so we will need to see how this unfolds in the next couple of weeks and months.
“It’s brand new and we need to give the public time to try the system and see if it works for them,” he said.