Gvt announce new regulations for plastic driver’s licences

The Zimbabwean government has officially gazetted new regulations pertaining to the recently launched plastic driver’s licences.

These licences, which are linked to a comprehensive database, will replace the traditional metal licences. The updated regulations also include a restructuring of licence classes, introducing sub-classes for tri bikes and quad bikes while splitting the bus and heavy truck categories.

The Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Felix Mhona, announced the new regulations under the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations, 2023, as Statutory Instrument 119 of 2023. The revamped licences will meet international standards set by SADC (Southern African Development Community), COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa), and the East African Community. Several countries in the region, including South Africa, already utilize plastic licences, also known as plastic polymer licences.

The updated regulations establish the D driving licence code for larger buses with more than 16 seats, and the DE code for buses pulling a trailer. The D1 and D1E codes are designated for buses carrying more than eight passengers but no more than 16.

For heavy trucks weighing over 7,500kg, the new codes are C and CE, depending on whether they have a trailer or not. Trucks between 2,300kg and 7,500kg fall under the C1 and C1E codes.

Light motor vehicles under 2,300kg are covered by the B and BE codes, with the B1 code specifically designed for quad bikes and tri bikes. The A codes are assigned to motorbikes.

As part of the new regulations, tractor drivers must possess a car licence. Additionally, bus drivers are now required to have held a vehicle licence for a minimum of five years and a truck licence for another five years before they can apply for a bus driver’s test.

Previously, individuals who passed their driving tests at the Vehicle Inspection Department (VID) depots throughout Zimbabwe were issued temporary paper licences before receiving the metal licences several months later.

One of the key advantages of the new plastic licences is their instant printing capability, along with enhanced security features that make them difficult to forge. These licences can be scanned, allowing immediate verification of authenticity and identification of any legal issues.

The introduction of the new standard plastic driver’s licences aims to address a backlog of approximately 600,000 applicants who have been waiting for their driving licences to be printed and issued since 2019. The backlog was primarily caused by outdated equipment at the Central Vehicle Registry (CVR) and a shortage of materials required for producing the costly metal discs.

Under the updated system, drivers can expect to receive their licences within seven to ten days after passing their tests. The fee for the plastic licence is set at US$5, or the equivalent at the official exchange rate on the day of payment.

Applicants can utilize an online booking platform to schedule appointments for biometric data capture.

Minister Felix Mhona also announced the launch of the Multilingual Electronic Learner Licence Testing System and the Digital Route Permit System as part of the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development’s strategic plan to upgrade and modernize the transport sector.

The new SADC-compliant drivers’ licence system, developed under the Zimbabwe Integrated Transport Management Information System (ZIMTIS) Project, will strengthen the government’s capacity to maintain an electronic database of licensed drivers linked to relevant stakeholders.

Minister Mhona emphasized that Zimbabwean drivers are highly sought after in the SADC region and beyond. The new licences align with the standard specifications of the Tripartite Transport and Transit Facilitation Programme, which aims to harmonize driver training, testing, and certification across the region.

The introduction of harmonized licence categories will facilitate conformity with international best practices, enabling the use of domestic drivers’ licences for international travel. Article 6.10 of the SADC Protocol on Transport, Communication, and Meteorology mandates member states to adopt a harmonized format for drivers’ licences and mutually recognize each other’s learner’s licences.

Minister Mhona further noted that the new drivers’ licence categories adhere to the requirements of the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic of 1968, as well as the International Organization for Standardization and International Electrotechnical Commission standards.

Once the legal framework is established by SADC, the 13 categories of the new drivers’ licence will accommodate vehicle and trailer combinations, while also addressing the issue of drivers being tested on smaller vehicles and subsequently authorized to operate much larger vehicles without sufficient operational skills.

The new drivers’ licence will consolidate the professional driver’s permit and the defensive driver’s certificate into a single card. Professional drivers will now be gradually certified, unlike the current scenario where Class 2 immediately grants professional driver status.

All professional driver’s permits will be renewable every two years, requiring drivers to undergo eye tests to assess vision and object discernment. Biometric records will also be periodically updated in the system. Non-professional drivers will undergo eye tests and biometric record updates every five years.

Minister Mhona assured the public that the new drivers’ licence system would expedite the clearance of the backlog at the Central Vehicle Registry (CVR) and alleviate the high demand for driving licences in the country. The licences will be easily accessible at a reasonable service fee of US$5 for backlog applicants, payable at the official exchange rate.

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