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The importance of self-regulation in heavy vehicle transport

March 2012


Heavy vehicle overloading and road safety, continue to be major problems on South African roads despite efforts at more effective enforcement by the road and traffic authorities. Overloading causes premature road deterioration and, together with inadequate vehicle maintenance, driver fatigue and poor driver health, contributes significantly to South Africa’s poor road safety record.

The Department of Transport’s National Overload Control Strategy (2003) contained two significant recommendations:

  • to implement the previously-conceived consignor/consignee legislation, which, through a “chain of responsibility” approach, will place respon-
    sibility on consignors and/or consignees for certain traffic violations, including overloading; and
  • to support the concept of self-regulation through the development
    of an accreditation scheme and road transport standards, thereby providing a mechanism for both transport operators and consignors/
    consignees to demonstrate due diligence in their transport operations.

The Road Transport Management System (RTMS) was originally developed and implemented in the forestry industry in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. Based on an Australian model, the scheme seeks to promote compliance with standards in the areas of load control and securement, vehicle maintenance and driver wellness.

In line with the Department of Transport’s National Overload Control Strategy, its aim is to encourage heavy vehicle operators, consignees
and consignors to take more responsibility to ensure that their loads
are transported legally. The RTMS can thus be defined as an industryled, voluntary self-regulation scheme that encourages consignees, consignors and road transporters to implement a management system that preserves road infrastructure, improves road safety and increases productivity.

Its key components are load optimisation, driver wellness, vehicle mainte-
nance and productivity. The RTMS-standards consist of the SABS documents ARP-067 Parts 1 to 3.

During the first five years of the RTMS, participation was largely limited to transport operators in the forestry industry, primarily because the scheme was being strongly supported by Mondi and Sappi. As a result of a broader marketing approach, which included RTMS-awareness workshops in all the main centres in South Africa, participation has spread to a wide range of industries in South Africa, most notably mining, partly as a result of support by Eskom in the coal industry.

A number of RTMS-certified operators have observed significant benefits as
a result of implementing the RTMS-standards. These include a reduction in accidents (three companies have recorded a 50% reduction in crashes over
a period of two to three years), an improvement in fuel consumption, reduced tyre wear, reduced driver absenteeism and improved driver motivation and fault reporting.

As of February 2012, there were 45 RTMS-accredited companies/depots, representing approximately 1 600 trucks. Most notably, 25 of these compa-
nies/depots were certified for the first time during 2011.

More on Consignor/Consignee legislation


The Department of Transport developed a National Overload control strategy in 2003. An essential element of this strategy is the control of consignors and consignees of goods.

The legislation enabling the control measures for consignors and consignees was already drafted in 2003 and was eventually promulgated as part of the National Road Traffic Amendment Act, 64 of 2008. The Act was implemented on 20 November 2010, but regulations stipulating the specific provisions that will apply to consignors and consignees, still need to be published to make the legislation effective.

Section 74A and 74B of the Act as well as section 75(zB), (zC) and (zD) allows the Minister of Transport to regulate consignors and consignees.

The legislation stipulates:

Sec 74A. Act or omission of manager, agent or employee of consignor and consignee

  • (1) Whenever any manager, agent or employee of a consignor or consignee, as the case may be, does or fails to do anything which,
    if the consignor or consignee had done or failed to do it, would have constituted an offence in terms of this Act, the consignor or consignee, as the case may be, shall be regarded to have committed the act or omission personally in the absence of evidence indicating
    • that he or she did not connive at or permit such act or omission;
    • that he or she took all reasonable measures to prevent such act or omission; and
    • that such act or omission did not fall within the scope of the authority of or in the course of the employment of such mana-
      ger, agent or employee, and be liable to be convicted and sentenced in respect thereof.
  • (2) In the circumstances contemplated in subsection (1) the conviction of the consignor or consignee shall not absolve the manager, agent or employee in question from liability or criminal prosecution.

Sec 74B. Proof of certain facts

  • (1) In any prosecution under this Act, a goods declaration or any other document relating to the load of a vehicle and confiscated from such vehicle shall be proof of the matters stated in such document unless credible evidence to the contrary is adduced.
  • (2) A copy of or extract from any document referred to in subsection (1), and certified as a true copy or extract by the officer in whose custody the original document is, shall, unless credible evidence to
    the contrary is adduced, be admissible as evidence and be proof of the truth of all matters stated in such document without the requirement of having to produce the original document from or of which such extract or copy was made.

Sec 75. Power of Minister to make regulations

  • (1) The Minister may after a decision has been taken in the Shareholders Committee make regulations not inconsistent with this Act, in respect of any matter contemplated, required or permitted to be prescribed in terms of this Act and generally regarding the operation of any vehicle on a public road, the construction and equipment of such vehicle and the conditions on which it may be operated, and in any other respect for the better carrying out of the provisions or the achievement of the objects of this Act, and in particular, but without derogating from the generality of this subsection, regarding
    • the regulation of any person who offers goods for transporta-
      tion on a public road or accepts goods after transportation, in relation to the mass of such goods, the documentation relating to such goods, the agreements that have to be concluded for such transportation, insurance in respect of the transportation of such goods and any other matter relating to the offering of goods for transportation or the acceptance of transported goods;
    • the criteria in terms of which a person is classified as an habitual overloader, the offences to which such classification applies, the criteria for rehabilitation, if necessary and the sanctions for classification as an habitual overloader;
    • the equipment to be used for law enforcement purposes, the certification of such equipment and requirements in respect of records obtained from the equipment;

Section 74A requires a consignor and consignee to take all reasonable steps to avoid overloading a motor vehicle and in the event of a prosecution the consignor or consignee must be able to show what steps he has taken to avoid the overloading of vehicles.

The effect of the legislation on consignors and consignees are

  • The installation of weighbridges that are capable of measuring axles and axle units.
  • The issuing of documents reflecting the correct masses. This will obviously be controlled at weighbridges and if found to be wrong, consignors could be prosecuted for transgressing the regulations.
  • The control of the mass distribution on a vehicle. Currently most consignors only concern themselves with the total vehicle mass
    and do not really address load distribution. Axle mass overloads
    are treated in the same manner as vehicle overloads.

The regulations required in terms of the relevant sections of the Act have been drafted and circulated to various parties for comment. It has not formally been published for comment in terms on the National Road Traffic Act, 1996, but is due to be published in the next few months.

The gist of the draft regulations is

  • Consignors and consignees that dispatch or receive more than
    100 tons of goods a month, will be subject to the legislation.
  • Consignors will be required to have a method of determining the
    mass of the vehicle as well as the axles and axle groups of a vehicle.
  • A goods declaration reflecting consignor, operator and consignee details need to be prepared for every load.
  • It will be an offence to dispatch or receive an overloaded vehicle.
  • The inspection of weighing facilities. The draft legislation makes provi-
    sion for an inspectorate of weighing facilities whose exact duties are not clear at this stage.
The new legislation should have a very positive effect on the percentage overloaded vehicles on the road, but consignors and consignees will have
to ensure they can comply with the requirements, as there will be costs involved in compliance with the legislation.

Publication: March 2012

Section: Other Articles