E-toll system mistakes bike-carrying cars for trucks

In January 2014, a user on TheHubSA forums posted that they had been served a “Class Discrepancy Notification” from the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) after using the e-tolled roads in Gauteng.

The user, who goes by RallyRob, indicated that they have an E-toll account with Sanral and that their car (which Sanral calls a class A2 vehicle) was detected to be class B while transporting bicycles with a roof rack.

According to the E-toll regulations as gazetted in November 2013, class B refers to “Small heavy motor vehicles” with the following characteristics:

  • Length (including any trailer) from 6 metres and under 12.5 metres; or
  • Length of under 6 metres and height of 2.5 metres or more.

The user reported that Sanral said if the notice is not disputed, their vehicle will be permanently reclassified to class B in the E-toll system.

When asked about these Class Discrepancy Notifications, Sanral’s general manager of communications, Vusi Mona said that the automatic class checks are volumetric.

“The vehicle classes are determined upon registration by the road user, as well as the e-toll system, which forms the comparative data when an e-toll transaction occurs,” Mona said.

“This means that when a vehicle travels beneath a toll gantry, the equipment on the gantry measures the vehicle and then compares it with the vehicle registration details,” said Mona.

If the registered class details correspond with the measurements, the transaction gets billed against the vehicle class. However, Mona said that if there is a discrepancy between the read-in-the-lane and the e-toll registration, manual verification takes place.

“For unregistered road users, the vehicle classification gets determined by the e-toll equipment,” Mona said.

It is a volumetric system, which Mona said means the height, width and length of the vehicle is used to determine the vehicle class.

“In the case of a trailer the system has built-in intelligence to detect the tow bar,” said Mona.

Considering that Sanral previously confirmed that it has access to the government eNatis database, one must wonder why Sanral doesn’t use this as an additional method of verification.

When asked whether they have access to the vehicle class information in eNatis, Sanral didn’t answer directly.

Sanral did confirm that it’s up to users to dispute Class Discrepancy Notifications.

“Our request is that the person who has a transaction to dispute, should call into the Call Centre 0800 726 725, or visit any of our Customer Service Centres,” Mona said.

These users would need to provide their vehicle details, at which point Mona said Sanral will assist them.

“It is important to note that our system uses scanning to classify vehicles automatically, but once this is queried, a manual verification and classification takes place,” said Mona.

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E-toll system mistakes bike-carrying cars for trucks