Safer roads and weigh bridges: Briefings from Department of Transport & Road Traffic Management Corporation

NCOP Public Services

04 February 2014
Chairperson: Mr M Sibande(ANC: Mpumalanga)
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Meeting Summary

The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), with input also on the questions from the Department of Transport, briefed the Committee on the interventions to try to ensure safer roads, the profile of provinces’ weigh-bridges, and gave an overview of the main challenges faced in the interventions, as well as statistics on the behavioral patterns of drivers in accidents, crash statistics, fatality figures and the efforts to take road safety education to the masses. RTMC aimed to halt and reverse the predicted increase in road traffic fatalities within the country by putting up Decades of Actions (DOA) on road safety for 2011-2020.Road safety statistics for the last five years, from 2008 to 2012, had shown an increase in fatalities of 1.45% between 2009 and 2010 and a decrease in fatalities of 0.1% between 2010 and 2011.

Overall, the Department of Transport had come up with a number of road safety interventions such as National Rolling Enforcement Plan, which aimed to coordinate road enforcement across the three tiers of government with a view to effective and efficient traffic, whilst Operations Tswhara Setagwa aimed at combating alcohol abuse with the target that at least one drunken driver must be arrested by each officer each month. School programmes included scholar patrols, road safety education, competitions, and debate. Professional Driver Permit programmes unfortunately at the moment failed to address the  needs of the freight industry. Most of these programmes were hampered by lack of manpower and support, which in turn affected the ability to detect drivers driving badly, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and it was suggested that legislation needed to be amended to enforce the shift working-hour challenges, to address traffic officers’ visibility and consistency throughout the year. The five pillars of road safety were road safety management, safer roads and mobility, safer vehicles, safer road users, and better post-crash responses. Where national traffic police were deployed, accident rates had fallen, and there were plans to increase their presence and visibility across more hazardous areas. Driver Wellness pilot projects had been successful, reducing driver risks and testing for HIV, vision, blood pressure and other aspects. It would be rolled out nationally in October. A national traffic training academy and enforcement code were in the pipeline.

Members of Committee all expressed concerns that traffic officers were simply not present and visible to improve driver behaviour and questioned whether enough was being done to test for alcohol in the cases of accidents. They recommended an increase in the workforce, introduce shift work hours and train local commuters as traffic warders. The proposed National Traffic Training Academy project was lauded and modalities for implementation were welcomed. They wanted to see stronger penalties for poor and drunken driving, including removal of licences, and consideration of provisional licences, and for corruption on the part of traffic officers. Particular concerns were noted about the Moloto road condition, pedestrian vulnerability on rural area roads, poor road maintenance, and the responsibility of RTMC and the Department of Transport for improving that situation, and camera and traffic light conditions.

Meeting report

Safer roads and weigh bridges reports
Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) briefing

Adv Makhosini Msibi, Chief Executive Officer, Road Traffic Management Corporation, highlighted that his report would address issues around safer roads, profile of provinces on weigh-bridges, and overview on road safety interventions. He presented, at the outset, the road safety statistics for the last five years and the number of fatalities per year (see attached presentation for full details).

Adv Msibi informed Members that RTMC was committed to change driver behavioral patterns by educating them, and by inculcating responsible driving behaviors in order to have accident free roads. RTMC aimed to halt and reverse the predicted increase in road traffic fatalities within the country by putting up Decades of Actions (DOA) on road safety for 2011-2020.Road safety statistics for the last five years from 2008 to 2012 had shown an increase in fatalities of 1.45% between 2009 and 2010 and a decrease in fatalities of 0.1% between 2010 and 2011.

He then highlighted the following road safety interventions and challenges:
- The National Rolling Enforcement Plan aimed to coordinated road enforcement across the three tiers of government, with a view to effective and efficient traffic. Its main concern was the shortage of manpower and inadequate training.
- Operation Tshwara Setagwa, aimed at combating alcohol abuse on our roads-the principle of a minimum of “one drunkard” per officer per month. It faced the challenge of lack of commitment by some authorities, lack of uniformity and standardisation, ineffectual implementation and insufficient public awareness in road safety.
- A review of weigh-bridges was under way.
- The National Traffic Anti-Corruption Unit (NTACU) whose  main concern was shortage of man power and investigating officers.
- Participatory Education Techniques aimed at changing learners attitude towards road safety through participatory education such as open competitions.  Here, participation was limited to schools that could afford to purchase material for the building of models and there was insufficient involvement of those responsible for road infrastructure and design to assist the learners with their projects.
- Scholar Patrol, aimed at creating a safe environment for learners to cross the road and to inculcate leadership skills amongst learners but the records had shown that there were still incidences of learner fatalities/injuries as a result of reckless drivers, unreliability of a scholar patrol database and improper coordination of the programme.
- The National Schools Debate Competition was held, encouraging learners to be aware and take responsibility on road safety issues within their environment, but this competition favoured learners who were better versed in communicating in English. The debate topics were sometimes inappropriate for some age groups, and the winning teams were not involved in road safety initiative programmes.
- Junior Training Traffic Centres were in place, but the  concerns lay around the improper maintenance of infrastructure, and the benefit was limited to learners of schools close to where the centres were located.
- The Professional Driving Programme, whilst a good concept, unfortunately failed to effectively address the needs of the freight industry. There was poor communication about competition.

Adv Msibi added that the five pillars of road safety were road safety management, safer roads and mobility, safer vehicles, safer road users, and better post-crash responses.

Adv Msibi noted that the provincial deployment of National Traffic Police (NTP) has been a major success as no major accidents were reported in the areas where the NTP were deployed. There were now plans to roll-out more NTPs to all hazardous areas, on a monthly basis, to increase visibility and consistency throughout the year.

Adv Msibi added that the Driver Wellness Campaign pilot conducted at Mantsole Weighbridge was a success, as it reduced driver risks such as HIV/AIDs, undertook vision and blood pressure tests to isolate any problems and attended to similar concerns. The national roll-out plan was scheduled for October. In addition, National Road Traffic law Enforcement Code (NRTLEC) and Proposed National Traffic Training Academy were mentioned as measures to ensure road safety.

Mr H Groenewald (DA: North West) asked how the people could be convinced to work along with the National Rolling Enforcement Plan (NREP). He noted that many of the weigh-bridges listed in slide 66 were not put to use, which was tantamount to wastage of tax payers’ money, as it had been costly to put up these bridges. He highlighted some roads on slide 54 that were wrongly numbered and added that some lights along N12 at Kraaifontein were not functioning.

Mr P Jacob (ANC: Free State) thanked the RTMC for a comprehensive presentation. He suggested that a probation license should be issued to drivers involved in accidents, or that their full driver’s licenses were to be confiscated. He pointed out that poor road maintenance could cause accidents, as in the case of Moloto road which had become a concern. He asked about the role of RTMC in the event of accidents, and what measures were put in place to prevent accidents. Issues raised about traffic officers included the fact that they were, most times, not clearly seen to be out on the roads during working hours, and said the fact that they also failed to maintain a visible road presence in the late hours encouraged reckless driving. He pointed to corruption by some traffic officers, saying that many unqualified drivers were nonetheless given driver’s licenses. He suggested that weigh-bridges could be automated rather than operated manually. He thought traffic training centers should be spread across s the country in order to assist road users.

Ms P Themba (ANC: Mpumalanga) commended the detailed presentation. She also referred to some wrongly named roads in the manual and asked if they had been renamed. She highlighted some roads with frequent accidents and asked about plans made to ensure safety on such routes. Reference was made to the statement in the manual, “Fatal crash statistics are handled by SAPS (South African Police Service)”, and she asked if RTMC had concerns with such fatal crash statistics being handled by SAPS and whether it should perhaps be handled by another department. Reference was made to the number of Professional Driving Permits issued per province and clarification was required on the number of permits issued to men and to women. She asked if awareness programmes were done in rural areas, pointing out that such programmes were important and necessary. Clarification was required on the National Debate Competition, the venues where it was held, and the impact of this competition on the lives of participants,  especially in rural areas. She also wanted to know about the traffic academy and the proposed base of the academy.

The Chairperson commended the presentation and added that practical implementation was more important. He asked if the Committee’s Report on Cuba and Japan tours had been considered. The actions of those vandalizing the South African Road Agency Building was condemned and he suggested that culprits be brought to book. Elaboration was required on percentage fatalities of age groups between 0-14yrs, as they were considered as minors who did not drive. Reference was made to the “Name and Shame” campaign, and he noted that some drivers were driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. He asked if RTMC had the capacity to deal with intoxication, and he asked how many drunk drivers had been brought to book per province, and how the Department interacted with SAPS on such cases. He requested that plans be presented to improve on the conditions of rural roads, asked what measures were in place to tackle conflicts of interest between insurance firms and RTMC in response to accidents, pointing out that insurance interventions to accidents were often delayed. He spoke about the increasing population in the country and asked if some roads in Western Cape could be improved to reduce traffic congestion. Pedestrian vulnerability in rural areas and numbers of uncompleted bridges were mentioned as a concern. He also made reference to the Chart on Fatalities per month, and called for clarification on the July fatalities, pointing out that in some provinces there was no rain during the winter season. He asked about plans to ensure the visibility of traffic officers at night, and whether cameras on fast lanes were working.

Adv Msibi replied that weighbridges were controlled by the provincial governments and that some bridges in the North West were manned by traffic officers. However, shortage of manpower shortage was an issue as there were only 17,000 traffic officers in the country at present, of whom 50% were assigned to do driver and license testing, 25% were on leave at any one given time, while the other 25% were assigned to man the roads. He added that the conditions of service were not encouraging, as traffic jobs were not declared as an Essential Service and traffic officers were forced to work overtime although the Public Service Act prohibited an employee from working more than a certain number of hours in this way. Quite apart from the human resources problems, inadequate training of traffic officers was another concern that should be addressed.

Adv Msibi replied that SAPS was responsible for gathering information on fatal crashes, in order to charge people with offences and to deal with the requirements for insurance claims. Validity of statistics gathered was a fact to be considered. The Department of Home Affairs had been contacted for details of deaths resulting from road accidents. He also added that the numbers of PDP permits, broken down by  gender, would be provided. He apologised for the errors that had crept into the manual in regard to the naming of roads and weigh-bridges.

Adv Msibi clarified that the mandate of RTMC was to regulate and coordinate traffic. He said that if breathalysers were provided to traffic officers, they could easily trace the presence of alcohol, but in practice, when an accident occurred, a lot of other procedures and teams were invariably involved, so that immediate confirmation of presence of alcohol may not be done in the case of a victim.

Adv Msibi said that rural development integration plans involved the empowerment of local commuters as traffic warders in order to stimulate youths in communities.

Mr Gilberto Martins, Acting Deputy Director General, RTMC also commented that rural programmes were coordinated by road safety enforcement officers.

Mr Mawethu Vilawa, Acting Director General, Department of Transport, clarified that the Department of Transport (DOT) was not responsible for pot-holes in provincial and municipal roads, which meant that they were outside the domain also of RTMC. He suggested the need for some platform to be created for  integration of punitive measures, such as lack of insurance cover or not allowing full insurance payouts, as a consequence in order to keep road users on their toes.

Ms Themba asked if the Department of Transport had sufficient budget for the proposed Academy Project and when it was scheduled to start.

Mr Jacob requested the modalities of the proposed National Traffic Training Academy project.

The Chairperson also wanted more details on the National Traffic Training Academy project, the starting time, and budget.

Adv Msibi replied that the National Traffic Training Academy project was well budgeted for as there were currently thirteen training colleges within the country where the project would be implemented.

The Chairperson was not satisfied with the response on alcohol levels in drivers or victims, and lack of discipline in dealing properly and effectively with drunken drivers, and asked if the Department was in fact capable of dealing with intoxicated drivers and corrupt traffic officers.

Mr Msibi suggested that it would help if there were to be legislative enforcement around shift working –hours, to enable efficient performance of traffic officers at all times.

The meeting was adjourned.


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