Driving licence in South Africa
In South Africa, the driving licence is the official document which authorises the holder to drive a motor vehicle on a public road. Driving licences are issued by authorised driving licence testing centres, which are run by the municipalities under the supervision of the provincial and national Departments of Transport. Since 1998, the driving licence has been issued in a "credit card format"; before then it was included in the holder's national identity document. The minimum age to hold a licence is 18, with the exception of Code A1 for which the minimum age is 16.
Driving licences are issued with various codes that indicate the types of vehicle that may be driven with that licence; the codes are shown in the following table.
|A1||Motorcycles with an engine capacity of 125 cubic centimetres or less|
|A||Motorcycles with an engine capacity greater than 125 cc||Code A1|
|Light motor vehicles|
|B||Vehicles (except motorcycles) with tare weight of 3 500 kilograms or less; and minibuses, buses and goods vehicles with gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 3 500 kg or less. A trailer with GVM of 750 kg or less may be attached.|
|EB||Articulated vehicles with gross combination mass (GCM) of 3 500 kg or less; and vehicles allowed by Code B but with a trailer with GVM greater than 750 kg.||Code B|
|Heavy motor vehicles|
|C1||Vehicles with tare weight between 3 500 kg and 18 000 kg; minibuses, buses and goods vehicles with GVM between 3 500 kg and 18 000 kg. A trailer with GVM of 750 kg or less may be attached.||Code B|
|C||Buses and goods vehicles with GVM greater than 18 000 kg. A trailer with GVM of 750 kg or less may be attached.||Codes B and C1|
|EC1||Articulated vehicles with GCM between 3 500 kg and 18 000 kg; and vehicles allowed by Code C1 but with a trailer with GVM greater than 750 kg.||Codes B, EB and C1|
|EC||Articulated vehicles with GCM greater than 18 000 kg; and vehicles allowed by Code C but with a trailer with GVM greater than 750 kg.||Codes B, EB, C1, C and EC1|
Obtaining a licence
Before applying for a driving licence, a prospective driver must first obtain a learner's licence. The learner's test is a multiple-choice test that examines knowledge of vehicle controls, rules of the road, and traffic signs. Three types of learner's licence are issued:
- Code 1: motorcycles.
- Code 2: vehicles (except motorcycles) with tare weight of 3 500 kilograms or less; minibuses, buses and goods vehicles with GVM of 3 500 kg or less; and articulated vehicles with GCM of 3 500 kg or less.
- Code 3: all vehicles (except motorcycles).
The minimum age for a Code 1 or 2 licence is 17, and for a Code 3 licence it is 18. At the age of 16 a Code 1 licence limited to motorcycles with engine capacity under 125 cc may be obtained. Learner's licences are valid for 24 months, and, except for Code 1 licences, require that the learner be accompanied by a fully licensed driver. A car driven by a learner must have a sticker with a large red "L" on the rear window.
With the learner's licence, the prospective driver can take a driving test to obtain their driving licence. The driving test has two components: the first is the yard test, in which the applicant demonstrates various parking and turning manoeuvres in a specially constructed parking lot. If the yard test is successful, it is followed by the road test, in which the applicant demonstrates their driving ability on the public roads, following the instructions of the examiner.
Some errors on the test, such as a collision, speeding, or rolling backwards when moving off, will cause an instant failure of the test. Other errors cause the driver to lose points; if too many points are lost, this will also cause failure. If the applicant is successful, they will be issued with a paper Temporary Driving Licence, which is valid for 6 months from the date of issue. A permanent card licence will be available for collection at the testing station the applicant went to for the driving test within 4 - 6 weeks.
Difficulties in Scheduling a Test
As a result of the large level of applications along with the length of time for each test, learners licence tests still being a sit down test with only a few sessions per day and limited seats available, and the required number of personnel, drivers tests requiring one-to-one sessions with an authorised traffic official, waiting times for learners and drivers tests can extend for more than 4 months, depending on the popularity and surrounding population of the selected traffic department.
The waiting times vary massively between testing centres though. Some testing centres in small towns have waiting periods of a few days or less, while those in large cities can have waiting periods of up to a few months.
- National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996, chp. IV
- National Road Traffic Regulations, Government Notice R.225 of 17 March 2000, chp. V