E-tolling: The RFA perspective

The Road Freight Association (RFA) has confirmed its support for e-tolling on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP),

Spokesperson and technical and operations manager at the Road Freight Association, Gavin Kelly
Gavin Kelly

The Road Freight Association (RFA) has confirmed its support for e-tolling on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), re-iterating that this is based purely on the current cost and the introduction of an independent regulator.

The association may choose not to support any future e-toll expansion. This is according to Gavin Kelly, spokesperson for the RFA.

“We still maintain that the administration cost in respect of collection and our internal administration could have been avoided if fuel levies were utilised and earmarked to fund the upgrades of freeways,” says Kelly.

“However with escalating fuel prices, the current discounted e-toll tariff structure will have a lesser cost impact on operators and ultimately the least cost impact on CPI and the man in the street.”

Kelly adds that the RFA is strongly opposed to the Cross-Border Road Transport Agency (C-BRTA) being given the function of collecting e-tolls, following the qualified audit the agency recently received due to it not being able to assess the completeness of penalties and other revenue.

In addition a number of investigations into allegations of fraud and other irregularities at the C-BRTA are underway.

“The RFA is also concerned that the proposal to allow SANRAL to operate outside of the National Credit Act may create further complications when measures are instituted to recoup or collect owed tolls - or any outstanding financial obligations,” says Kelly.

“We have also clearly stated that our support of the GFIP does not equate to a blanket approval of any other toll project,” continues Kelly.

“Any new project would require open and honest access to any other proposed toll project so that the impact on operators and the economy alike can be fully ascertained well in advance.”

From the outset of GFIP, the RFA has stated that the road freight industry is willing to pay for good road infrastructure, maintenance, route improvement and development.

However, following the first publication of the proposed tariffs and operational details in November 2010, the RFA began to voice strong opposition to the proposed tariffs of the GFIP, as these were seen to be exorbitantly high when compared to other toll routes in the country.

The Association’s opposition took the form of a public media campaign and government lobbying programme – supported by an economic impact assessment study on the then proposed tariffs.

Kelly highlighted some of the effects of the Association’s e-toll lobbying efforts, including:

 • Tariffs for Class B and C vehicles were reduced by 51% of original tariff excluding discounts – Class B: R1.56 down to R0.75 and Class C: R3.98 down to R1.51 (including VAT);

• Time of day discount was extended (freight was initially given a 20% discount within the peak traffic periods from 08h30 to 10h00 and 14H00 to 16:00 due to the delivery demands of goods);

• Time of day discount was increased (freight given a 30% discount from 23h00 to 05h00);

•  A 31% e-tag discount (increased from 25%) off the base tariff;

• Capped amounts, which will allow operators to budget accordingly

• Ring-fenced funds (tolls are in effect a ring-fencing mechanism) that will be dedicated to the building and maintenance of roads, as opposed to the fuel levy which has to be apportioned and allocated to roads on a matter of government priority; there is also no guarantee that fuel levies collected will find its way into road infrastructure projects as monies go into the general fiscus and will not be earmarked.

• The RFA has been acknowledged as a key stakeholder and will be closely consulted in all future road infrastructure programmes;

• An Independent Regulator, which is now in the process of being set up;  a transport economic regulator was previously proposed that would have fallen under the auspices of the Department of Transport and would have prejudiced operators.

• A minimum period for comment on published Government Gazettes set at 30 days.

Kelly further indicated that the RFA would continue to lobby for increased discounts and reduced tariffs for road freight operators.

“The e-tolls are still a significant cost to operators, who will have no other option but to use the toll network as there are no alternate routes available,” concluded Kelly.

“The industry is continually faced with escalating costs and is striving to recover the losses of the recent strike.”

 

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