A 10-year driver’s licence solution makes sense

OUTA meets Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula to put case for a 10-year driver’s licence card and more efficiency

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11/03/2022 07:45:22

A 10-year driver’s licence solution makes sense

OUTA has informed Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula that extending all current driving licence cards for five years and issuing all new cards for 10 years will bring essential efficiency to the chaotic renewal system.

On 10 March, OUTA met with Minister Mbalula to discuss OUTA’s research and recommendations that aim to overcome a number of the difficulties facing motorists. OUTA welcomes the engagement with the Minister.

During the meeting, OUTA provided the Minister with a position paper motivating for solutions including 10-year licence cards.

“Extending the period of validity of driver’s licence cards from five to 10 years will immediately bring an end to the backlog chaos that is not going to be resolved for a long time, if the status quo remains,” says Advocate Stefanie Fick, OUTA Executive Director. This will also provide ample time for the Department of Transport to get on top of the systemic challenges that have led to the driver’s licence card renewal crisis and hopefully develop more robust and corruption-free solutions going forward.

The driving licence card renewal system has been chaotic. Administrative equipment is dysfunctional, the National Traffic Information System (NaTIS) is frequently down or slow, motorists can’t get bookings for slots in the queue, those who are able to book slots still have to endure endless queues, and the system is rotten with corruption.

In 2020, there was a backlog of about 320 000 driving licence card renewals due, with demand growing by 90 000 a month. The backlog has grown over the last two years, partly due to Covid-19 shutdowns, and hundreds of thousands of motorists face a deadline of 31 March; others caught in the backlog were not granted an extension. OUTA believes that approximately 2.8 million driver’s licence card renewal applications have been affected by the backlog, with possibly half of those motorists now with expired cards. Minister Mbalula recently announced there would be no extension.

“The state should be obliged to move toward the more efficient options,” said OUTA in our presentation to the Minister.

Of 35 countries OUTA looked at in six regions across the world, the average period of licence validity was 8.5 years, ranging from three to 20 years. Africa and the Americas had the lowest periods at 5.6 and six years respectively, while the Middle East/Asia, Australasia and Europe had the highest at 8.6 years, 10 years and 11.5 years respectively.

OUTA believes there are no negative road safety implications from extending the validity period from five to 10 years, while the upsides are substantial social and administrative gains for motorists and the state.

OUTA established that in 2013, the then Minister gazetted an extension changing the renewal period from five years to 10 years, but less than a year later this was reversed. “We can find no record of the decision to reverse the original decision taken to introduce the 10-year licence renewal period,” OUTA told the Minister.

“We hope the Department of Transport will take our input seriously and do more to work with civil society in finding solutions to many other challenges that need addressing in South Africa,” says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA CEO.

In June 2021, OUTA carried out a survey through social media, with 3 685 respondents, about frustrations with the renewal system. A total of 65% reported frustration with the ineffectiveness of the online booking system. More than 10% said they had witnessed bribery, about 45% referred to “poor staff attitude” and 60% complained about long queues. 

OUTA’s call for reform presented to the Minister includes:

Extend the expiry date of all driver’s licence cards in current circulation by five years, with no need for replacing expired cards.

Issue all new driving licence cards with a 10-year validity period.

Keep the five-year validity period for motorists over the age of 70 years, due to eyesight requirements. 

More information

A soundclip with comment from OUTA's Wayne Duvenage is here.

OUTA’s position paper motivating for the extension of the validity of driver’s licence cards from five years to 10 years is here.

Picture: OUTA