Gauteng's e-tolls & you
With the inevitable now upon Gauteng road users, what do you need to know about e-tolling?
Whether we like it or not, e-tolling has arrived in Gauteng. Up until now the gantries erected across the province's highways have been a new addition to the urban landscape and the object of much anger, but they have not yet played a role in picking our pockets. But that all changed at midnight on December 2, when the gantries began to start functioning according to their designed purpose. To date the gantries have reportedly only been gathering traffic information and undergoing testing, but no deductions from fitted e-tags have yet been made.
So with the inevitable now upon Gauteng road users, what do you need to know about e-tolling?
THE COMPANIES INVOLVED IN E-TOLLING
The e-toll team is made up of two entities: the first is state-owned enterprise South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), which is the implementing authority, and Electronic Toll Collection (ETC), which is the operating company.
Sanral is responsible for the design, financing, maintenance, operation and rehabilitation of South Africa's national toll and non-toll roads, with CEO Nazir Alli a firm believer in the benefits of open road tolling.
ETC is the company set to manage Transaction Clearing House (TCH) which is tasked with contracting, administering and management of all e-toll customer accounts as well as the management of all e-toll transaction processing and clearing. ETC also looks after the national e-toll Violation Processing Centre (VPC), which must implement the fining and debt collection process in instances of non-payment by e-road users.
REGISTERING FOR E-TOLLS
Sanral has embarked on a massive public awareness campaign, encouraging regular road users to register an e-toll account, at which point they can choose whether to have their vehicles recognised by the licence plate number when passing under a gantry, or by a combination of an e-tag and licence plate number.
Road users can register through a variety of channels:
- At [e-toll customer service centres](http://www.sanral.co.za/e-toll/index.php?gort_xml+template ~~map/map~~ ), located at many malls or along the Gauteng e-road;
- Online on [Sanral's website](http://www.sanral.co.za/e-toll/index.php?gort_xml+template ~~wizard/wizard~~ );
- By phoning the e-toll call centre on 0800 SANRAL (726 725);
- Through [downloading a customer information sheet](http://www.sanral.co.za/e-toll/index.php?gortxml+template ~~menu/main~~ L14723%20) which can be faxed to 0800 SANRAL (726 725);
- By sending your vehicle licence plate number to 44004 and Sanral's call centre will phone back to complete the registration; or
- By [scanning the QR barcode on the Sanral website and completing your pre-registration](http://www.sanral.co.za/e-toll/index.php?gortxml+template ~~menu/main~~ L12077 ~~ENG~~~~~~ ) through the mobi-site.
At the end of the registration process you will need to make the initial payment with your credit card.
The relevant costs that will apply are the initial deposit per vehicle registration of R49.95 (unless you have already paid this amount for your e-tag at Checkers, CNA, Pick 'n Pay, Shoprite and Spar) and R00.05, which is the initial top-up per vehicle registration (or the minimum financial transaction amount as prescribed by your bank).
R50.00 will be credited to your e-toll account per vehicle registration (and will include the initial deposit amount and the initial top-up amount paid).
Sanral reports that it has constructed 43 overhead gantries along the N1, N3, N12 and R21 highways. A gantry is located about every 10km along the route, or between interchanges. Each gantry is fitted with toll collection equipment that recognises a vehicle's e-tag (if one has in fact been fitted) and photographs the front and back vehicle licence plate number as well as the top of the vehicle. The e-tag will reportedly emit a 'beep' when passing under a gantry.
To view a bigger version click on the map.
Sanral's argument is that by fitting an e-tag the user will qualify for discounted tariffs of 48%.
Therefore, according to the fee structures outlined by Sanral, if you have not registered and do not have an e-tag and you travel through, for example, the Gull gantry on the N12 you will be charged R6.38, while a registered e-tag user will only be charged R3.30 ( click here to see the differing tariffs for non-registered non-e-tag owning users and registered e-tag users).
Sanral has an online e-toll calculator for road users to determine the cost of planned trips along Gauteng's toll roads.
WHAT ARE YOUR PAYMENT OPTIONS?
Sanral says that registered e-toll account holders have the benefit of being able to manage their e-toll account online. Payments can be made done in a number of ways, depending on the type of e-toll account you have.
If you have a pre-paid e-toll account, you will need to top-up your e-toll account similar to topping up or loading airtime onto a pre-paid cell phone. You select your low balance threshold at the time of registering your e-toll account. A notification will be sent to you, through your preferred means of contact once you reach your low balance threshold. You can either top up your pre-paid account manually (at participating retailers, on the Sanral website, at an e-toll customer service centre or by electronic funds transfer), or automatically by linking the topping up of your account to your credit card or direct debit), or by credit card settlement.
If you have a credit card settlement account, payment for your e-toll transactions incurred are deducted at the end of every day from your credit card.
Road users who do not use the Gauteng e-roads on a regular basis can either register with an e-tag or purchase a day pass.
ENFORCEMENT DUE TO NON-PAYMENT OF TARIFFS
There are still many questions about whether Sanral will be able to enforce payment of tariffs given the anticipated widespread resistance to the system.
While users are not obliged to register for e-tolls or buy an e-tag, Sanral has reiterated that road users of the Gauteng e-roads are legally obligated to pay tolls, stating 'the non-payment of toll is a criminal offence'.
The agency states that debt collection and on-road enforcement process have been developed in order to collect overdue e-toll fees. The debt collection process will follow traditional debt collection processes, whereby historical information will be used in order to ensure that the correct contact and vehicle owner details are used, for the official legal notices.
In addition, Sanral says non-road enforcement has been established. Vehicles have been equipped with number plate recognition technology and are connected to the central operations centre from where vehicle movement between toll gantries is monitored. These vehicles will be manned with traffic officers, who will be located at strategic locations and roam the Gauteng e-roads, in order to enforce all traffic infringements and warrants. Motorists are required to pay their bill within seven days or a debt collector will be sent.
Critics have, however, questioned the economics of such an enforcement process.
A number of issues related to enforcement are still not clear, including whether an individual who refuses to pay tariffs can be arrested.
Law firm Findlay & Niemeyer has offered to conduct a test case defence for one of the first non-compliant e-toll road users, while the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance has indicated it will continue to support efforts to frustrate e-tolling, including co-ordinating support for the first court case to test the legality of non-payment of toll fees.
In addition to continued calls from trade unions, civil society and even churches to withhold support for e-tolls, restaurant group Nando's has added its always irreverent voice to the e-tolls debate.
Only time will tell how may road users will toe the line when it comes to registration and e-tags, and what will happen to those who choose not to cough up for e-tolls.