More than eight months after being set up, the National Public Transport Regulator (NPTR) is failing to process permits timeously, forcing operators to turn away work while costly vehicles stand unused.

Andrew Sinclair of Pro Shuttle tours and Adventure applied for permits for his new vehicles in February and is still waiting. The NPTR is supposed to process permits within 60 days. Cathy Oosterwyk of Cathy’s Tours has had a similar experience. Both complain that emails and calls go unanswered.

Sinclair says three of his vehicles are unusable because he is waiting for permits to be processed. As a result, he is forced to hire in vehicles when he operates tours, driving up his costs and cutting into his margin. The situation resulted in his turning down a tour that would have brought in R75 000 (€5 175).

He says while little is done to monitor illegal operators, people who abide by the regulations are being penalised by the new system’s inefficiencies. Both he and Oosterwyk complain that the new system leaves them worse off than the previous one, where operators applied for permits provincially.

Tourism Update approached the Department of Transport about these concerns but had not received a response at the time of publication.

Satsa Chief Operating Officer, Hannelie Du Toit, says the organisation is aware of the problems, as is the department and the NPTR. She says the organisation will continue to work with the department to identify possible solutions and to address specific member challenges. Satsa met with the department last week in this regard.

According to Du Toit, one of the steps that has now been taken to speed up the process for smaller wheels operators is that operators with fewer than seven vehicles may apply for a new licence without going through the accreditation process at this stage. It was also clarified that operators with less than seven vehicles would not need to be inspected.

Du Toit says issues causing the delays with the processing of licences include insufficient staff to process the licence applications and operator accreditation, limited telephone lines to field queries, as well as an antiquated IT system. While there is at present insufficient resources to address the former, the department is expected to tender for a new IT system, which will improve its efficiency in the future.