Apart from the police vehicles on every stretch of road, courier vehicles have been one of the perpetual presences on South African roads since the lockdown started. Delivery drivers have often been seen working until late to complete their delivery quota.
For the health-wary, delivery is one of the safest ways to purchase a variety of goods while decreasing exposure to the general public. However, with increased demand for delivered goods, a new strain has been placed on courier services, delivery services and local businesses alike.
With this increased strain, there might be a temptation to renege on necessary protocols and road traffic laws in order to get more done and reach more customers. From exceeding the speed limit to skipping routine vehicle inspections, failure to comply with the National Road Traffic Act or the National Road Traffic Regulations could lead to a series of problems that go beyond legal prosecution.
Currently, South Africa finds itself in a tricky situation regarding traffic laws and the prosecution of offences since the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Amendment Bill was approved by President Cyril Ramaphosa in September 2019 but is yet to be implemented. At the end of 2019, Transport minister Fikile Mbalula expressed the intention to implement the Bill by June 2020, although it seems that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the timeline for implementation has been extended.
Once implemented, however, AARTO will introduce a demerit system for drivers, with some drastic consequences for violating traffic laws. Multiple slip-ups can easily tally up and result in a suspension of driver’s licenses, and shedding demerit points is a long process.
It is advisable to educate drivers with regard to how violations of traffic law could be penalised once AARTO comes into full effect in the second half of the year. Until then, some general rules must apply to delivery services during the phased exit from lockdown measures.
More deliveries often means less time to complete deliveries on any single day. For this reason, one might consider increasing speed and neglecting some road laws to get it all done in time. However, it begs no repeating to say that for a delivery vehicle on the road for extended periods of the day, continuous transgressions of the speed limit are a bad idea. Speeding fines range from R250 to R 1500 and may lead to a court summoning, depending on the degree of violation. These kinds of fines will mean that the profitability of your delivery service decreases drastically.
Furthermore, courier and delivery services carry their brand image with them wherever they go. This means that observable traffic law violations can cause harm to an entire brand’s image, even if they are not legally prosecuted or penalised.
Making sure that your vehicles are roadworthy at all times and maintaining your vehicles can also mean saving a lot of trouble down the line. The maintenance costs involved in keeping vehicles in top condition may seem like a compromisable expenditure in the short-term. However, the opportunity costs should a vehicle become unavailable for any amount of time might seriously endanger your company or business.
Any breakdown in the process of delivering goods to customers can also lead to dissatisfaction and harm to a company’s image. Delays and miscommunications regarding delivery times can come across as unprofessional and give customers reason to make use of another business for their delivery needs instead.
Increased police activity on the roads during the COVID-19 lockdown also means that your documents and papers have to be in order and always ready for inspection. Failure to show documents permitting travel, in a worst-case-scenario, might even lead to arrest.
While delivery services and the delivery of goods are resulting in great economic returns during this time, the delivery industry is coming under increased scrutiny by those enforcing traffic and transport laws. Compliance with traffic regulations, as well as transport/travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic is essential in making sure you stay strong as a business during this turbulent economic time.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. (E&OE)