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Transport of heavy goods throughout South Africa is a normal part of everyday life. Trucks, tankers, livestock carriers, courier and removal vans, etc. can be seen on our roads at any time of the day or night.
Everything from fruit and vegetables, baked goods, frozen items, eggs, dairy produce and non-perishable goods are transported from one centre to another on a daily basis. Essential fuel stocks are transported by road in huge tankers, building materials are moved to where they are needed, and the wheels of commerce continue to turn thanks to road transport which picks up loads which cannot be moved by other means. Many of us are irritated by the number of trucks and tankers which hold us up in traffic, but without them, our lives would be much more inconvenient and stressful.
Driving heavy vehicles is not a job for the faint-hearted. These vehicles are difficult to manoeuvre, constricted by legal regulations, and are often on very tight schedules which are not negotiable. They require skilled, knowledgeable and legally licensed drivers who have undergone proper training and are fully able to control the weight and safety of their vehicles. These are the people who have the unenviable task of bringing their vehicles safely down steep inclines, through hairpin bends and up mountain passes which daunt even the normal car driver.
It follows, then, that the drivers of these trucks are required to hold driving permits which conform to specific types of vehicle. The driver of a normal light passenger vehicle is neither qualified not legally allowed to drive heavy vehicles with a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of more than 3 500 kg. Our driver licensing codes are very specific on what weight and type of vehicle you may drive. For instance, a light passenger vehicle with a GVM of less than 3 500 kg may be driven by any person holding a driving licence with a ‘B’ code (previously known as a Code 08) or above, but a licence with a higher code is required to drive vehicles with a higher GVM. There are different skill sets involved in driving and handling heavy and cumbersome vehicles and these must be demonstrated before the appropriate licence is given. Under the old system, which has now largely fallen away, a Code 10 driving licence was required to operate any vehicle larger and heavier than a normal passenger car. This code has since been sub-divided (‘C’, ‘D’, etc.) into a number of categories specifically relating to the factors such as size, weight, carrying capacity, load content (whether flammable or dangerous) and articulation of large vehicles. For instance, drivers of passenger vehicles who tow caravans, boats and trailers heavier than 750 kg are required to hold a licence with a higher code ‘C’ due to the additional safety factors and skill levels involved.
Licensing codes are in place for a very good reason, and that reason is to keep us, and our roads, as safe as possible. We all need to do our bit to ensure that we adhere to these regulations and don’t try and outsmart the authorities, even if we think we have the skills required to bypass the law. Let’s rather be wise than sorry!
So much of the traffic on our roads consists of trucks, buses and other heavy vehicles which are an essential part of our transport system. Drivers of many different types of vehicle on our roads are required by law to hold professional driving permits above, or in addition to, the normal light motor vehicle licence. Light motor vehicle licences used to fall under the old Code 08, which has now been re-categorized as a Code B – vehicles with a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of less than 3 500 kg).
Heavier vehicles with a GVM of more than 3 500 kg but less than 16 000 kg include, but are not limited to :
The drivers of the above vehicles are required to hold a specific Heavy Motor Vehicle driver’s licence (previously a Code 10, now categorized as Code C1 and upwards) which, oddly enough, involves less intense and rigorous training and test requirements than a standard Light Motor Vehicle licence. It may be the case that drivers will fast-track obtaining their driving licence by applying for a Code 10 driver’s licence first, and then possibly later undergo further training to obtain an official Code B permit although, by law, they are permitted to drive smaller vehicles whilst holding only a Code 10 driving licence. In recent years, the range of codes governing driving licences has expanded significantly and become more specific to certain types of vehicles, which has greatly contributed to safety factors when it comes to getting the right driver for the vehicle to be used.
It should be noted that vehicles such as tractors, whether pulling a trailer or not, forklifts, earth-moving machines, graders, etc. do not fall under the Heavy Motor Vehicle codes as they fall within the ‘B’ category of licences and are not governed by GVM limitations.
Code ‘C’ licences cover goods vehicles with a GVM of more than 16 000 kg, which may additionally tow a trailer of less than 750 kg. As vehicles become longer, heavier, consist of a combination of two parts (such as a car towing a caravan, boat or trailer) or comprise two articulated parts for easier manoeuvering, the licencing requirements and codes increase accordingly.
Rest assured that when you see a huge truck on the roads or bearing down on you in traffic, the driver is suitably qualified, skilled and licensed in controlling the vehicle.
Walking is undoubtedly the most natural and healthy means of moving ourselves from one place to another. Whilst it may be perfectly adequate for short distances, especially for those of us who are mobile and able to walk without problems, it becomes a problem when travelling to areas which are simply too far for us to walk, or when we are transporting heavy loads.
Since we do not all own our own vehicles, we have to rely on the services of taxis and shuttle service providers on those occasions when walking is simply not an option.
Taxis and shuttle service providers are extremely popular in large towns and cities, as they provide a convenient and quick method of getting around, and have the added advantage of not having to worry about finding parking near to our destination, or worse still, coming back to find you have received a parking ticket in your absence. Shuttle services are often used by hotel chains, offering guests the often complimentary facility of getting from and to the airport, train station or other collection or drop-off point without having to resort to personally organizing a more expensive taxi service. Shuttle services are advantageous in that they generally run on set schedules, allowing you to plan your time accordingly.
Taxi services, on the other hand, are extremely useful as they run on an “on-call” basis, freeing you from set pick-up times which might prove inconvenient and time-wasting. Shuttle services generally use larger vehicles such as mini-vans which carry a higher number of passengers, enabling them to reduce the number of vehicles required and to carry more luggage per person. Taxi companies in the UK and other European countries have a range of vehicles available for different numbers of passengers per trip, plus their luggage and other equipment. Of course, if you wish to hire a large luxury saloon from a taxi company for just one passenger, this is perfectly acceptable, but the cost of the hire will accordingly be more expensive.
Mini-bus taxis are a common site on South Africa’s roads, but private saloon car taxis are still fairly scarce. In May 2019, it was estimated that 69% of South African households make use of mini-bus taxis, and the demand is still growing. Approximately 75% of all transport to and from work, schools and universities is provided by mini-bus taxis, carrying in the region of 15 million passengers every day throughout the country. Mini-bus taxis are more expensive than train tickets on short comparable routes, but strangely enough, marginally cheaper than buses on the shorter routes.
Most traditional taxi fares were calculated per mile (or kilometre), including an initial base charge and a time-dependent component for standing and waiting periods, which is still the method used by many taxi companies in South Africa. With the advent of private taxi hire and the increasingly popular Uber services, it is common for a fare to be quoted beforehand once the exact pick-up and drop-off points have been specified, so there are no unexpected extras to be paid at the end of the journey. Uber has been available in South Africa for some time, and is now facing competition from a new taxi service called Taxify.
These services are presently only available in the major centres of the country, but are expected to grow steadily with increasing consumer demand. These services work with registered and approved private vehicle owners rather than having their own fleet of vehicles. Both these services charge their drivers a commission of between 15% and 25% on fares earned. The vehicles have to comply with standard safety regulations, be licensed to transport passengers, be of good cosmetic appearance and be mechanically sound. Drivers are registered with a base which acts as liaison between the drivers and passengers.
The passenger is provided with the name of the driver, vehicle registration and make and colour of the vehicle before being collected, which provides a measure of security and assurance to the passenger that the driver and vehicle are authenticated. This is particularly important for women travelling alone or passengers requiring transport at night. Reputable private taxi services will offer you the same level of security since you are in touch with them directly, and will also provide you with the make, colour and registration number of the vehicle which will be arriving to collect you. Taxis which offer pre-payment by credit or debit card prior to collection also offer an additional level of safety since you will not have to carry extra cash on you to pay the driver, which is a definite plus factor.
Taxi and shuttle services offer a wide range of services, ranging from once-off collections and drop-offs, collections and returns where the driver will wait for you, a scheduled daily collection of children from school - either by taxi or shuttle bus, depending on the numbers involved – or transportation for groups of people attending parties or celebratory events where alcohol consumption would otherwise be a safety concern for private vehicle drivers. A taxi or shuttle service will take you anywhere you need to go, and may be asked to return at a specified time to collect you, or wait for you. You must be aware, though, that the time factor involved and the fact that the driver will effectively be prevented from picking up other fares whilst waiting for you, will naturally add an additional cost to the normal fare.
It would be fair to say that it is certainly not difficult to find a mini-bus taxi, as they are everywhere on our roads, and there are plenty of taxi ranks. They can be stopped by simply indicating to them - at any point on the road - that you are looking for a lift, and they will almost always immediately pull over or stop where they find you. Not a safe practice, but widely used. If you are looking for a shuttle or private taxi, you will easily find them through the Yellow Pages, newspaper advertisements, flyers, or you may even remember the name displayed on the side of the taxi you have seen on the road. Although they are not particularly well represented at this point on the internet, sites like Uptasker will definitely assist in locating one in your general area. Uptasker provides vital information on its listings such as online ratings and customer reviews, where possible, together with their contact details and quick links to websites where available. If you can, use the services of a recommended taxi or shuttle service provider, especially those who have had good recommendations from colleagues, friends and acquaintances.
Always be careful when arranging for a taxi service, especially one which you are using for the first time. At the very least, you will need them to arrive when requested, particularly if you are on a tight schedule. Never take short-cuts by choosing one in a hurry or from a source which is dubious. There could be more at stake than just possibly being over-charged or delivered late to your destination. For more tips, see our taxi and shuttle service provider articles.