Wednesday, January 19

SA driver’s license renewal process is a debacle

The South African driver’s license renewal process is a debacle.

It certainly wasn’t working efficiently before the Covid-19 pandemic, and has now become an absolute nightmare for any motorist needing to renew their driver’s license or obtain other vehicle-related documentation.


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Various organizations have well ventilated the issues at the Driver’s License Examination Centers (DLTC).

These problems include an online reservation system in Gauteng that just doesn’t work, except for some driving schools; long lines and delays; the shortage of staff at DLTCs, which means that around 30% of processing booths and cash desks remain unstaffed; computers and eye test machines are down; and DLTCs close at unscheduled hours.

Since the credit card for driving license was first introduced many years ago, the process has hardly improved.

Many years ago, I was one of the first drivers required to convert the driver’s license on my ID to the new credit card driver’s license due to the month of my birth.

Then it took five hours to stand in a long line at the Waltloo DLTC in Pretoria to complete the application and another five hours, and similar long lines, to pick it up.

To say it was frustrating is an understatement. It is equally frustrating now.

My driver’s license expired during the strict lockdown in 2020. I tried twice after the relaxation of lockdown regulations to renew my driver’s license at the Centurion DLTC, but both times I was rejected, despite the dispensation granted to people 60+ that allows them to simply enter the DLTCs on a Wednesday without a reservation.

It was the third time he was lucky last Wednesday, but it still took four hours and 45 minutes to complete the process at the Centurion DLTC, which includes waiting an hour and a half in line for the center to open.

The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) has acknowledged that there is a 500,000 license backlog, but the Centurion DLTC still only opened at 8am.

DLTCs in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal have reportedly extended their uptime in an attempt to fix the backlog.

In addition, people are informed through a flimsy notice printed on a sheet of A4 paper taped to a metal beam and to the front door that the Centurion DLTC closes on Wednesday at 12 noon or 1 the afternoon, depending on the notice you read. – for “deep cleaning and sanitation”. Obviously, this is related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A 6.30am arrival at the Centurion DLTC secured me 26th in the driver’s license renewal queue, the length of which had increased to over 100 people when the center opened at 8am.

Centurion DLTC officials are to be commended for walking through the queue once the center opened and checking everyone’s paperwork to make sure anyone who is not 60 or older has a reservation.

This prevented some people from wasting unnecessarily long hours waiting in line when their requests had not been processed.

The Centurion DLTC was able to process only 10 driver license renewals every hour. If all DLTCs in the country operate at the same level, it is hard to imagine backlog being eliminated.

The reason for the slow processing speed became clear once he was finally allowed to enter the center.

Only three of the five driver’s license renewal booths were staffed and processing applications. While waiting to be seen, DLTC officials led at least two people who had not been in the queue to the processing booths.

It is unclear why these people were allowed to jump in the queue.

Even though DLTCs have vision testing equipment, it appears that it is now a requirement that motorists have a vision testing certificate from an optician.

Officials walked through the queue and verified that potential applicants had such a certificate and a paper notice printed outside each booth at the center listing an eye exam certificate as one of the documents required for their applications to be processed.

Individuals must pay for their application to complete the process. Again, not all checkout booths were staffed and operational, resulting in relatively long queues.

From this experience, it is clear that the entire vehicle registration, license and driving test system requires a full total because it is inefficient and there is more than enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that it is possibly corrupt.

The Department of Transportation should make it easier for people to comply with their legal obligations and could possibly learn from the Department of the Interior initiative, through which it established passports and applications for identity documents and renewal services within certain banks.

This initiative has resulted in an extremely efficient process, with a reservation system that works and where people are informed when their passport or identity document is ready to be collected.

This is a long way from how DLTCs work. Another flimsy, printed notice taped to the door of the Centurion DLTC informs motorists that it is not sending an SMS to inform people when their driver’s license is ready to be picked up. It simply advises people to revisit the DLTC in six to eight weeks. If your driver’s license isn’t ready, I guess it’s bad luck.

The Automobile Association (AA) and the Organization Undo Fiscal Abuse (Outa) have warned that the extremely ineffective driver’s license renewal system will force many people to break the law because, through no fault of their own, they have no other choice.

Read: Calls for a longer extension of the validity period of the driving license intensify

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula confirmed in May this year that his department is considering launching and rolling out a new driver’s license card before the end of this year and implementing a series of measures to improve service to the public.

Read: New Driver’s License Card To Be Introduced This Year

Mbalula added that his department wants to “end queues at DLTCs and is also working to undermine the corruption involved in reserving DLTC spaces, especially in Gauteng, to ensure that obtaining a driver’s license does not become a cumbersome journey. and stressful and to make it accessible ”.

These improvements are long overdue and welcome.

However, it does not help any of the thousands of motorists who have not yet managed to renew their driver’s license.

In light of the serious and widespread problems in DLTCs, the transport minister should now seriously consider a further extension of the deadline for people to renew their expired driver’s licenses, and possibly also extend the validity period of five licenses. to ten years.

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