Draft Amendments to the National Road Traffic Regulations: Will they steady or derail the transport industry?

It is no secret that the transport industry has been plagued with numerous issues. One of the core concerns addressed almost annually is that of driver safety and the violent attacks on foreign truck drivers. On 23 April 2021, the Minister of Transport published for comment the Draft Amendments to The National Road Traffic Regulations 2000 (Draft Amendments). The Draft Amendments are government’s proposed solution to the ongoing violence and unrest between South African and foreign truck drivers.

24 May 2021 2 min read Employment Law Alert Article

At a glance

  • The Draft Amendments to the National Road Traffic Regulations propose banning foreign drivers with a Public Drivers Permit (PDP) from operating vehicles registered in South Africa, aiming to address violence and unrest between South African and foreign truck drivers.
  • The proposal has sparked debate, with proponents supporting the ban as a solution, while opponents argue it penalizes the victims of violence and may have negative consequences for trade agreements and relationships with other African countries.
  • Employers in the transport industry should consider the potential impact on their operations if they employ foreign truck drivers and engage in regional import and export via road.

The Draft Amendments propose the insertion of regulation 116A:

116A. Authority of a Professional Driving Permit issued in a foreign Country
(1) the Authority provided by a professional driving permit issued in a foreign country shall apply in respect of a vehicle registered in the country that issued any such permit.
(2) A permit referred to in sub-regulation(1), shall not apply to a vehicle registered in the republic.

The Draft Amendments will therefore effectively ban drivers who hold a Public Drivers Permit (PDP) issued by a foreign country from operating vehicles registered in South Africa.

The proposed Draft Amendments have sparked much debate in the industry with some proponents coming out strongly in support of the proposal and with opponents stating that this will make foreign drivers unemployable and in fact penalises the victims of the violence and unrest in the country.

It should further be kept in mind, that such a move could not only jeopardise the Africa Free Trade Agreement and sour relationships with other African countries who might, in turn implement similar regulations, but will also present a challenge to employers currently employing and utilising the services of foreign drivers. 

A further consideration that should not be overlooked is that the vast majority of South Africa’s regional exports are transported by road and many of the transport companies employ foreign drivers due to their familiarity with the foreign country as well as the language, people, customs and regulations associated with such countries.

It remains to be seen who will have the final comment on this matter, but what can be said for now, is that the industry seems stalled at a critical point. Whilst everyone agrees that decisive action is definitely and urgently needed, one cannot forget that we operate in an increasingly globalised economy and the Free Trade Agreement and African Union relations might be an unintended casualty of this decision. 

From an employment law perspective, employers within the industry will need to start thinking about how to handle their internal operations if they are one of the employers who employ foreign truck drivers and engage in regional import and export via road.

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