The Reality of the new Operating Licence Process

With all the attention the new Operating Licence process received in the media recently, it is imperative to look at the reality of the NPTR process.

Currently the NPTR focuses only on tourism and charter applications. This is a positive departure from the old system as it separates tourism from public transport.

SATSA is tracking member applications (for those that submitted the relevant application information to SATSA) and to date there is only one Limpopo operator who has exceeded the 60 days. The hold-up in this instance is the physical inspection. The applicant received communication from NPTR apologising for the delay and advising the member that the NPTR Committee would meet on 28 October 2016 to finalise the approach on the inspection of facilities for operators who do not have in-house maintenance facilities, do not have vehicles or have few vehicles. We are awaiting feedback on the outcomes of this meeting.

It is important for applicants to realise that the 60 days start only when the full application has been received. As mentioned in the Tourism Update article of 29 September 2016 – Slow start to new permit application process – one of the major hiccups at present is the poor quality of documentation received from applicants. To assist the industry, SATSA collated all the documents needed for accreditation and renewals. These can be downloaded here.

SATSA also has two members who applied for replacement licences and both reported a smooth process with the replacement taking less than a week from full application submission.

Renewals are taking longer due to having to follow the old process – in this case, the need to appear in front of the NPTR Board. In these instances the law states that wheels operators are legally allowed to use the vehicle with the expired operating licence until such time as they have been issued with a new one or the application has been declined. It seems there are some isolated cases of traffic officials fining operators even though they have the required receipt from the NPTR.

A note of caution – this is only applicable to operators who made the full application before the current licence expired. It is not applicable to those operating with expired licences where no new application has been made or operating outside of their current licence area. As mentioned in previous media statements, another one of the great positives of the NPTR is that accredited tourism transport operators will be allowed to operate anywhere in South Africa and not be bound by the specific routes as was the case previously.

There also seems to be incidents in the Harrismith area where traffic officials are fining operators with national licences stating that they are not valid for the Free State. We agree that these are serious issues for our industry and needs to be resolved as soon as possible as the impact of these negative incidents on our reputation as a tourism destination is grave.

Following a call from SATSA to all members to provide incident specifics, only one incident has been reported. We urge the industry to keep us updates and any information received will be followed-up with NPTR for resolution. Clear communication is required to traffic departments nationwide to educate traffic officers on the validity of the various forms of Operating Licences.

In the case of the NPTR and Department of Transport we actually have a government department that communicates and is willing to listen to the industry. This is a refreshing change from some of our other experiences and they should be given appropriate recognition for this. Although they might not jump to fulfil our every need they are committed to making the process as fair and smooth as possible. It is important for the industry to not bring the negative experiences of the past Provincial Regulatory Entities into the new process.

To summarise the positives:

    • To date the application process has gone reasonably smoothly.
    • There is excellent direct communication from the NPTR to applicants – this in comparison to the past process in some provinces where it was often the luck of the draw whether there was any communication and whether the application would be approved.
    • Tourism is separated from public transport.
    • The issuing of national licences to accredited tourism transport operators.
    • Current review of the relevance of inspections.
    • A department that is willing to work with industry.

The request from SATSA is that we as the industry give the NPTR a proper chance. We are committed to working with them to iron out the initial hiccups whilst keeping our members’ interest top of mind.

For more information, contact Hannelie du Toit at hannelie@satsa.co.za

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