Wheels operators in South Africa are having their vehicles impounded and being slapped with fines because of an apparent disconnect between National Public Transport Regulator (NPTR) and traffic officials.

Traffic officers have issued fines for expired permits even when operators provide receipts showing new applications have been made. Coaches have also been impounded in George after being issued with the wrong permit.

At the same time, some operators without valid permits who are waiting to be vetted by a representative from the Department of Transport are not allowed to operate.

Sally Gordon, Resources Director at Fairfield Tours, said they had had a driver guide on a tour who was pulled off the road with an expired permit. “He had the receipt with him, which is the requirement, and the proof from the transport authority that says the permit is valid for 30 days if you have the valid receipt with you,” said Gordon. Traffic officials issued the driver with a R1500 fine.

Following this, Gordon said they had spoken to a representative from NPTR who told her that all the officials are aware of the required documents when travelling with an expired document and they should not be fined.

Cecil Groenewald, of Crux Coaches, said he had been allocated the wrong permit. “I need to have a tourist permit to pick up and drop off at all major tourist attractions in South Africa, and they gave me a charter permit for only a 50 kilometre radius,” said Groenewald. He added that traffic officers in the George area did not realise that operators could pick up passengers in Port Elizabeth with a charter permit, provided that the trip had been pre-booked and paid for. “They impound buses and say you are not allowed to move out of your 50 kilometre area.” The transport board in George told Groenewald that the traffic officers were probably unaware of what operators could do with a charter permit.

Wheels operators were not seen as a value-added service in the tourism industry, said George Kellerman, Director at Neils Transfers. He said while the industry was waiting for the Department of Transport to send a representative to Cape Town to vet wheels operators, those who are waiting to be vetted and without valid permits are not allowed to operate. “That’s why planning is so important for these million-rand businesses where you put in money to go overseas and market,” said Kellerman, emphasising the cost of not being able to operate.

The Department of Transport had not responded to questions at the time of publication.