A Gauteng cyclist has reported on a local forum that his bicycle-carrying vehicle has been reclassified as a truck by SANRAL’s e-Toll system.

In a post on TheHubSA – a forum for cyclists – user RallyRob posted that he received a “Class Discrepancy Notification”, which is sent out when SANRAL’s records show a discrepancy between a vehicle’s actual class and its registered class on the e-Toll website.

SANRAL’s e-Toll system has various vehicle classes. Motorcycles  are classified as A1, and passenger cars, including pick-ups/bakkies, are classified as A2. Small trucks are class B, and large trucks with trailers are class C. Each class attracts a higher cost, usually based on the number of axles the vehicle has.

In the notice received by RallyRob he was warned that his vehicle would be classified as a Class B vehicle – a small truck, for which the toll fees are a lot higher. The notice also included a statement that says if the road user doesn’t reach out to SANRAL to have the matter resolved then their vehicle will be permanently reclassified on the system.

The e-Toll gantries have complex camera systems in them that not only take multiple photos of each car that passes underneath, but there are also infrared sensors that are used to measure the physical dimensions of the vehicles. These sensors are the ones being used to determine the height and length of vehicles.

However, there are various ways that vehicle can legally have their height and length altered. As in this case, a bicycle rack attached to a towbar makes a vehicle longer. Some cyclists also prefer roof-mounted cycle racks. Holidaymakers sometimes also use roof racks and stowage boxes, or trailers, to accommodate extra luggage.

There’s another concern, too. When SANRAL sends invoices to road users who owe toll fees, it obtains their mail addresses from eNATIS – a national database that holds information on every single road-registered vehicle in the country.

Graeme Scala of the Automobile Association of South Africa says, “The eNatis database also makes provision for the classification of all vehicle classes based on VIN and engine numbers, licence number (licence plate) and vehicle register number, and vehicle category which is based on gross vehicle mass (GVM).”

It’s unclear why SANRAL would need its own systems to classify vehicles when the very database it says it uses for traffic information already has the details.

We’ve reached out to SANRAL for comment, but it had not replied at the time of going to press. In the past it’s responded that it cannot comment on individual cases.

The agency  isn’t having a stellar 2014. After flipping the switch to turn on the maligned e-Toll system last year, despite heavy opposition from the public and certain political bodies, it’s been on the receiving end of a lot of unwanted attention. There have been reports of scam messages, which SANRAL spokesperson Vusi Mona thinks we need higher IQs to identify as such, and the ASA has ruled that its radio advertisements are misleading.

 

Eleven years ago Christo started writing about technology for one of South Africa's (then) leading computer magazines. His first review? A Samsung LCD monitor. Hey, it was hot news, back then. Nowadays he gets more excited about photography, cars, game consoles, and faster internet connections. He's sort of an Apple fan, but will take any opportunity to remind you about his Windows-powered home theatre PC and desire to own a vanilla Android tablet.   Currently uses: Apple 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display, Apple iPhone 5, Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000, Audiofly AF78 Earphones, Xbox 360, Nikon D50.