File photo by Boxer Ngwenya

Johannesburg - South Africa’s freight industry has welcomed the reduction of e-tolling tariffs and the monthly caps for heavy vehicles, despite renewed calls to fight the controversial system.

On Friday, the government introduced for the first time a proposed monthly cap for heavy vehicles, with class B paying R1 750 and class C R3 500, as published in the Government Gazette.

“We’ve done our industry research on our classes of vehicles on the fuel levy against e-toll tariffs and we have found that the current level is cheaper than the cost of fuel would be using the same routes if the fuel levy was introduced,” said Gavin Kelly, a technical and operations manager at the Road Freight Association (RFA).

“We’ve lobbied Sanral (SA National Roads Agency Limited) and the government, and they brought the tariffs to a level that makes it affordable for freight. Obviously we can still try to get it lower.”

Kelly said the RFA had remained an opponent of high tariffs for the industry, which would be passed on to the consumer.

The public has 30 days to comment on the proposed tariffs published in the gazette. For ordinary motorists, e-toll fees remain unchanged from figures published in April.

Registered e-tag users will still pay 30c/km, which is capped at R550 a month, while those without e-tags will be hit with nearly double this amount.

Wayne Duvenage, of the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa), tweeted in reaction to the latest announcement by the government: “The interministerial committee’s shocking decision to push on with tolls is a gross oversight of a new inefficient, costly and burdensome tax. Time to march with Vavi.”

Last night, Zwelinzima Vavi, the general secretary of Cosatu, vowed that the union would not let e-tolling happen. “There won’t be an easy ride for the government. We’re consulting Nedlac for our notice to still be used for the purpose of protesting,” he said, advising motorists to refuse to buy e-tags.

A judicial review on the e-tolling system is scheduled for November 26 and the final Government Gazette will be published two weeks later. Duvenhage told the Saturday Star that the government’s “e-toll charm offensive” was now well under way.

“One expects that the basis of [the government’s] e-toll recommendation to the cabinet would have been made public.

“Instead, the general public is merely told that they will proceed with e-tolling and that the government will review tariffs at the end of next month… today’s gazetted tariffs are no different to those published, and subsequently withdrawn, earlier this year… The pro e-toll arguments remain weak and the benefits claimed have been discredited.

Gary Ronald, of the AA, said: “We are still advocating not buying e-tags until the judicial review process is completed and we have a definite answer from the high court.”

Saturday Star