The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act of 2019 hereafter, referred to as (“AARTO”) regulates the administrative process for motorised traffic violations with the allocation of demerit points and penalty fines. The system introduces a 15-point system for motorists whereby, a penalty can be imposed on a motorist, operator or owner of a vehicle licence who repeatedly commits road traffic offences. This new point system can even result in a repeated offender possibly having his or her licence suspended or even cancelled. AARTO’s intended purpose and objective is to address motorists’ non-compliant behaviour towards road traffic laws.  The goal is to encourage motorists to adopt new habits as well as voluntary compliance with the rules of the road.

If an employee works for a company as a driver, will the demerit system directly apply to the company itself and not the employee in his or her personal capacity?  No, the demerit system applies and may be incurred against the driver or licence disc holder of the vehicle.  As a result, the driver can be held personally liable for road traffic offences, even though he might be driving a company vehicle, during working hours and in the execution of his duties.

AARTO does not distinguish between demerit points incurred in private time and those incurred while driving for company business during working hours. Therefore, companies whose employees drive for business purposes are exposed and more at risk of having demerit points for driving poorly, even if infringements occur in employee’s private time. Thus, violations during the employee’s private time can directly influence their work if their licence is taken away due to the accumulation of demerit points.

In terms of an AARTO violation, a personal driver’s licence card must be handed in for disqualification and upon the third disqualification, the licence will be cancelled.

If a person or vehicle records no further demerit points in three months after receiving the previous demerit point, a reduction of one point on the total number of demerit points will be recorded on the system, thus slowly reducing demerit points.

The possible impact on employers?
It will be the responsibility of the employer to ensure that all employees are well informed about the provisions of AARTO. Should a position at the company require an employee to have a clean record in terms of AARTO, it should be stipulated as a requirement of the job in terms or the advertisement or the position and interview process.

It will be recommended for employers to appoint a person as an AARTO compliance officer. This will ensure that all the company vehicles and the drivers always comply with the provisions and requirements of AARTO and further ensure that the demerit system is monitored closely.  This will require regular updates and knowledge of AARTO legislation and procedures for failure to comply. Training, procedures, and support need to be relooked at as employment contracts must be revised to included provisions and guidelines in terms of AARTO. Additionally, labour disputes may also arise because of these legislative changes.

Regular reports should be obtained by employers and AARTO compliance officers must regularly monitor the status of a vehicle or driver in this regard. If an employee can no longer perform their duties and responsibilities as per their contract of employment, an employer will be entitled to commence with an incapacity process, which can result in a dismissal.

In Swissport SA (PTY) v Seanego & Others (JR644/15) [2017] ZALR the employer provided a service for SAA on the premises of ACSA. The employer concluded a service level agreement with ACSA, which indicated that ACSA is allowed to refuse entry to their premises on certain conditions. On 6 October 2014, ACSA revoked two employee’s access permits due to the suspicion that they were intoxicated while on duty which was a breach of their policy. Thereafter, it was the responsibility of the employees to get their permits back. The employees did not obtain their permits as required and as a result, were unable to perform their duties. The employees were required to attend an incapacity hearing and their services were terminated based on the supervening impossibility of performance.

In conclusion, the implementation of policies in relation to AARTO in the workplace are important. Employers must ensure that everyone understands what is required by the Act as well as the severe consequences of the non-compliance therein. The personal life of the employee will also influence his or her employment, as it could lead to the termination of their services, should driving be a requirement of their job and should their licence be cancelled.

Article by: Christie de Villiers
Dispute Resolution Official – Polokwane