KZN puts squeeze on car licences

2016-04-14 06:00

KZN’s licencing fees went up on April Fools day, and while this means owners of an average two- to three-ton car will pay between R40 and R60 more, truck and taxi operators are really feeling the squeeze.

On top of the R120 motor-vehicle registration fee, the licence fee for a typical family sedan of about two tons now costs R972, while a smaller hatch will cost just over R800. While steep enough compared to R828 and R492 for similar cars in Gauteng, these figures are petty cash for truck operators.

An eight-ton truck, such as most bakeries use to deliver bread, now costs R12 588, an increase of over R570 on last year and over R3 000 more expensive than licence fees for similar trucks in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and the Free State.

This is why national fleet operators whose main depots are in Durban simply use the utility bills from depots in other provinces to register their fleets there, typically saving themselves millions in the process.

These millions are forever lost to KZN’s coffers, which is why the transport portfolio committee in the provincial legislature last September considered ways to attract fleet owners back to their home base.

Wheels reported in October last year that the head of the KZN transport department, Sibusiso Gumbi, admitted KZN’s vehicle licencing fees are among the highest in South Africa in five out of eight categories, and that the transport portfolio committee hoped to decrease fees this year.

Instead, in a Gazette Extraordinary published on January 29, the province raised the fees. The result is that only in the Eastern Cape is it more expensive to be a car owner or fleet operator.

It now costs over R24 000 to licence a 12-ton truck in KZN, plus R2 127 for each half a ton weight over this. In Gauteng, the same truck will cost the operator over R3 000 less, and the half ton fee is also almost R400 less.

KZN’s fleet operators who expected if not a decrease, at least a freeze on increases, are understandably upset.

Ebrahim Joosab, director at Colt Transport says KZN is losing out and he called for a uniform licence fee system for all provinces to prevent this.

“In the current economic climate, the focus on managing costs has become increasingly important and as a result of the continued increase in licence fees in KZN — and with KZN already being one of the most expensive provinces in the country — we have been forced to register some of our vehicles in other parts of the country to keep costs in check and remain competitive in the industry.

“KZN is losing out on a revenue stream to other provinces from most transport operators. We have a uniform road act, and should also have a uniform licence fee system across the country,” said Joosab.

Anton Jacobs, logistics manager at Willowton Logistics, which transports products from Willowton Oils across South Africa, said the licence fee increases could not have come at a worst time.

“Transporters have no choice but to pass these costs on to the client, who pass it on to the consumers. It is a vicious circle that leads to constant increases in the cost of all foods,” said Jacobs.

Taxi operators are also feeling the squeeze. Taxi licences cost between R2 000 and R5 000, depending on the size of the minibus.

Sifiso Shangase, provincial manager for the KZN branch of the SA National Taxi Council, (Santaco), said profit margins in the taxi industry are already paper thin and the new increase of over R200 in most taxi licence fees will just make business harder. To add insult to injury, taxi operators say they are getting slow to no service from the KZN transport department, despite the province charging a premium price.

“Our biggest issue is with the delay in getting operators licences. There are hundreds of applications pending, none of which are moving. The taxis of these operators get impounded, and apart from the cost of R200 per day in the pound, the operator then has to pay a few thousand rands in legal fines and fees. We respectfully ask the transport officials to be efficient and effective in processing our applications,” said Shangase.

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