• Gauteng motorists have been battling to book online licence appointments.
• The RTMC's Natis system has not been providing enough slots for bookings.
• Motorists are frustrated and exhausted of trying to get appointments.
• For more motoring stories, go to www.Wheels24.co.za
The vehicle licence grace period has come and gone, but drivers and learners' licences which expired between 26 March and 31 August are still valid until 31 January 2020.
However, if your driver's licence has expired after 31 August, you will need to renew it as soon as possible.
Thousands of frustrated motorists have been writing in seeking advice, or just some help with booking an online licence appointment on the Natis system. The task has been an incredibly frustrated mission for many, and for several months at that.
One reader has explained how she has been trying for three months to get an appointment to no avail, while many other readers say that drivers licence testing centres in their areas have been closed and they have no means to travel outside of their vicinity.
Earlier this year, the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) revealed which days would be open for specific areas, but this too has not been of much help as appointments are booked out as soon as they are available when the systems go online. Clearly this has not been working for many motorists in Gauteng.
How to book an appointment
One of our readers also received the following communication from the RTMC and it explains what you should do when trying to book an online driver's licence appointment:
"Due to the lockdown, all licensing centres are experiencing a high demand for all licensing services. The current restrictions for Covid-19 compliance greatly impact the delivery of services to members of the public due to the limited number of personnel that can report for duty, thus restricting the number of slots that can be released as well as services to be provided. This includes unexpected closure of licensing centres due to reports of positive Covid-19 cases.
"The system releases slots randomly in batches throughout the day from 08:00 to 20:00 and it is advisable to keep checking randomly during the day.
"Please note that the municipalities release slots on different days as indicated on a TIP notification on the Province and Driver's Licence Testing Centre webpage.
"Some of the slots to be released may be for Saturdays and Sundays, all in the attempt to provide services to as many members of the public as possible.
"NB: Refresh the preferred Province and Driver's Licence Testing Centre webpage by clicking BACK to the Applicant Details page then NEXT as the slots are not automatically updated if released when you remain on that page.
"Please, also be informed that as per the recent Government Gazette, all driving licences that expired between 26 March 2020 up to an including 31 August 2020 are deemed to be valid until 31 January 2021. Therefore, do avoid to book at a centre too far for travel."
So what's gone wrong?
I've reached out to the RTMC's Kevin Kara-Vala to try and get some clarification, or at least answers to assist motorists who have been battling.
Kara-Vala explains how the system is supposed to work, and why motorists have been battling since lockdown restrictions have lifted: "The online licence booking system was implemented to provide transparency for the public on the availability of bookings for licence tests, driving licence card renewals, and professional driving permit renewals.
"The RTMC provides the platform for the public to book, the driving licence testing centres (both provincial and municipal) make the bookings available according to the capacity of examiners and live enrolment units (LEUs) and live capture units (LCUs) that they have on site. The online booking system will only show the slots that have been opened by the entity managing the capacity at the centre.
"Post the move to Level 3- lockdown, DLTCs were not opening enough renewal slots due to operational restrictions and frequent closures. As the country opened up the situation was expected to improve.
"It became apparent that DLTCs were:
1) Not opening driving licence or PrDP renewal slots but they were processing applications.
2) Both renewal and test slots were opened outside of the period as communicated.
3) People with valid bookings were shown away at the gate by touts and security guards.
4) DLTCs were opening less slots than the number of cards being processed on a daily basis.
"However when people travel directly to the centres they were informed that only online bookings were accepted but the analysis showed many more people without bookings are assisted.
"The province then took the bold step to force all DLTCs to stop operating on the dual system (walk-in and online) and only allow online bookings.
"This was to curb the issue of the public being forced to pay a premium by individuals who promise a quick service.
"In addition to the above it became apparent that those charged with releasing slots were doing so according to a schedule which they disclosed to individuals were able to snap up the released bookings within seconds of the centre making them available.
"For example: Ekurhukeni is scheduled to open slots on Wednesdays. An analysis indicated that slots were opened on Wednesdays, however on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday slots were also made available. This total slots opened on Wednesdays were considerably less than the ones opened on the other days.
"In response to this the province also requested the random release of the slots to prevent the manipulation of the release to suit a limited number of people. The slots are opened by the DLTC but placed into a pending state. The system will then release the slots randomly during the day. The exact time of release is not known to the officials of the RTMC, Province, DLTC or those who previously could book as soon as it was released."
There's also been numerous readers who have written in saying they have been offered a fee to get licence appointments. Kara-Vala says: "It is no secret that the demand for driving licences and appointments created a market - even RTMC officials visiting DLTCs were offered 'premium' services.
"The impact of full online and random release of slots will have impacted the business of the suppliers financially as they no longer control the availability of the slots."
"In addition to the initiatives already implemented, the Corporation is aware that the provincial management is engaging with its agents to address the operational challenges to ensure the maximum availability of slots.
"In support of the province the Corporation is looking at specific initiatives to address the public whose licences are about to expire or may have expired already. As soon the final implementation is ready the province will engage with the media and public."
This might not sound effective, but at least the RTMC is aware of the issues, and are trying to find a solution. Please follow the advice above, and don't give up trying.
Janine Van der Post is the editor at Wheels24. If you have any queries you can email her here.
(Image: Calvin Fisher)