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10 things you should know about number plates in SA

2016-08-11 12:59

FAKE PLATES? The Department of Transport has claimed pictures of new number plates for SA are fabricated such as the one pictured above. Image: Supplied

UPDATE: 'JPSA is very concerned that it is quite clear that the head does not appear to know what the tail is doing at the SA Department of Transport,' says JPSA spokesperson Howard Dembovsky regarding SA's number plate confusion. Click here for the full story!

Johannesburg - The Department of Transport has denied that it intends to replace vehicle number plates, claiming that the proposal is a fabrication. Wheels24 reported that South African vehicles could sport new number plates as per a Government Gazette published earlier in August. 

Curiously, the proposed plates first surfaced six years ago, much like the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offenders (AARTO) system it is moving at a snail's pace towards implementation.

Wheels24 contacted the Department of Transport for comment, but at the time of publication has received no response. 

JPSA responds:

Justice Project South Africa's national chairman, Howard Dembovsky, said: "People should avoid getting their nickers in a knot over proposed/draft amendments. It’s not a done deal until the [fat] lady promulgates it."

READ: Where is Aarto? Justice Project SA, AA responds

"I can only speculate on the intent of the legislator, however I do need to point out that this draft amendment HAS NOT been promulgated yet. It was contained in advocate Alta Swanepoel’s presentation of proposed amendments to legislation she presented at TruckEx.

The proposed National Number Plate: the industry’s Stance

What about the company(ies) who might produce the plates if they're implemented? Wheels24 spoke to the South African Number Plate Association (SANA) to find out more about licence-plate production. 

Zurika Louw, CEO of the SANA, shares her views:

1. What is SANA's stance regarding national plates?

SANA: The industry is in favour of a national secure number plate system, it must however:

  • be in line with current industry operations;
  • be a cost effective system for the Embossers, who are small business operations, to avoid job losses
  • be user friendly for law enforcement officials (e.g. smartphones should be used instead of expensive scanners) and 
  • affordable for the Public Consumer.

PICS: SA drivers to sport new licence plates

2. Has SANA received any communication from the DoT?

SANA: Government Gazette no: 38430 was indeed officially published on January 28 2015 for comment and industry submitted required comments on said gazette, as per the required process. There was however no feedback from National Department of Transport, since the publication of said Gazette.

It is of the utmost importance that National Department of Transport engage with industry before implementing a new number plate system. I can confirm that to date no meetings took place between industry and government on the national number plate.

3. If given the greenlight, what needs to done to implement the system effectively?

SANA: The industry needs ample time to prepare for a new number plate system for:
  • new equipment might be needed at blank manufacturer (Blanker) and Embosser level , 
  • training should be provided on the new system for Industry, government and metro police; 
  • the SANS 1116 specifications for number plates need to be revised and updated; and
  • stock, especially the retro-reflective sheeting, are ordered approximately six months in advance

4. What are some of the issues facing the plate industry?

A national number plate must be designed to correct the current issues that exist within this industry, such as:
  • number plates are easily cloned due to the current specifications; 
  • there is a lack of control over who can emboss a number plate; 
  • ensuring that the public can play an active role in crime reduction; and
  • ensuring that number plates supplied into the market are of the highest quality 

READ: 'It’s not a done deal' - JPSA responds to new SA number plates

5. How does one propose such a radical change?

• implement technology that ensure the entire supply chain process is transparent;  
• implement technology to track the number plate through the entire supply chain;
• implement controls at each role player;  
• utilize technology to give power to the public to assist in crime reduction; and
• ensure securing of the blank number plates by utilizing some of the following basic readily available technology:

• holographic stamping of the blank similar to bank cards;
• digital signatures that marry the vehicle and the number plate details on a simple QR code that can be read with • any smart phone and no need of expensive hand held scanners;
• reflective sheeting marking and watermarks; and
• sequential numbering of all blanks.

Information for motorists

6. The public must understand that a number plate is the identity number of a vehicle and should be compared to our green barcoded ID documents and therefore require security features for regulation purposes. The entire process for obtaining a number plate should thus be controlled as the system for ID’s and passports.

7. The number plate Industry is not currently regulated and the door is wide open for corruption, as was pointed out during the implementation of E-toll.

8. There are currently over 400 variations of number plates between the nine provinces, which make regulation via the metro police almost impossible. A national number plate will reduce said variations to approximately 37 variations.

9. Retro-reflective sheeting: The surface of the number plate is covered with retro-reflective sheeting to make the number plate visible at night or during poor weather conditions (similar to road traffic signs). The sheeting must bear legible and permanent validation marks of the supplier, which also contains the batch number and year of manufacture.  Watermarks, in the form of two multi-directional lines across the width of the entire number plate, can be added for additional security. 

Retro-reflective sheeting for number plates is only guaranteed for five years and the number plate should thus be replaced to ensure that effective reflectivity is maintained. A number plate is also subject to harsh conditions and can be damaged in such a way that legibility is compromised.

10. The cost of the new plate is insignificant in comparison to the annual motor vehicle license renewal, as this is only required once every 5 years and is a value added risk protection mechanism to ensure that a road user is always protected; e.g. cloned number plates would be uncovered during the renewal process, thus ensuring that members of the public are not held liable for crimes they didn't commit.

South Africa has a free market system and price establishment (fixing) is not allowed.

For more information, email SANA


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