By Jessie Taylor
As South Africans face yet another massive fuel price hike, many will find their budgets stretched in accommodating increased transport costs.
The latest price hike has been caused by a number of factors, including the war in Ukraine and structural issues within the economy. But there are some things that commuters can do to lower the impact of the rising fuel cost on their pockets.
South Africans rely heavily on road transport to reach their destinations. More than 80% of South Africa’s workforce rely on taxis to commute to work, with another 16% using buses to reach their places of employment. In South Africa, four million workers drive to work, and most of these motorists live in urban areas.
Travel costs are highest among those that drive to work, with the average motorist spending more than R2000 a month. By comparison, those commuting via taxi spend R960 and bus users spend R745.
According to Statistic SA’s National Household Travel Survey, the cost of all modes of transport to work had increased between 2013 and 2020. The highest increase as seen among those who drove cars to work.
Take your driving to task
Motorists are most likely to feel the fuel increase at the pumps, but a few simple changes to driving behaviour can help boost your vehicle’s efficiency. Smooth driving can help you reduce your fuel expense, as most vehicles will use around 50% of their power on acceleration.
Consider making the following changes to your driving:
- Gentle braking: Accelerating and braking gradually will increase your vehicle’s fuel efficiency, as well as reduce general wear and tear. Just remember to keep a safe following distance between yourself and other vehicles, to allow you more time to slow down.
- Pump up your tyres: Driving with your tyre pressure as recommended can also boost your fuel efficiency. Under-inflated tyres can cause more friction on the roadway, and your petrol gauge will quickly drop in response.
- Slow it down: Driving slower while in an optimal gear is the easiest way to boost your fuel economy. Lower speeds can use as much as 25% less fuel, and most vehicles are at their most efficient when driving between 80 and 110km/h.
- Avoid the traffic: Stop/start driving in heavy traffic is certain to deplete your fuel faster than regular driving. Try to avoid congested routes or consider travelling outside of peak traffic hours to reduce your petrol bill.
Another great option to reduce the amount you spend on fuel is to start carpooling with colleagues or friends. This will allow you to all contribute to the cost of the transport and reduce your environmental impact while enjoying some company during your commute.
Change your lifestyle and save
There are other transport alternatives that can get you out of your car altogether and dramatically reduce the amount you spend on transport.
Try some of these lifestyle changes to limit the amount of time you spend in your car.
- Take public transport: South Africa’s major cities have implemented a number of safe and reliable public transport options in recent years. These include the Gautrain, which runs between Pretoria and Johannesburg, Cape Town’s MyCiTi bus network and the GO!Durban rapid transport routes.
- Walk or cycle: If you live close to your destination, consider walking or riding a bicycle. This is a great option if you live in a city such as Cape Town, where the municipality has invested in cycle lanes to promote cyclist safety. Not only will you bring down your petrol usage, but you’ll also be healthier from the extra exercise!
- Online shopping: Over the last few years, South Africa has experienced exponential growth in online retail offerings. More and more people are now purchasing online, and by following suit you could reduce the hours you spend travelling. Ordering online means that your purchase will be delivered to your home, very often with other deliveries destined for the same neighbourhood, reducing your carbon footprint.
- Work from home: COVID-19 saw workplaces pivoting to accommodate employees working from home and many companies are still using a hybrid working model. Taking advantage of flexible hours or working from home can see you spending less time on the road, reducing your fuel expense and freeing up your schedule.
Changing your driving patterns and lifestyle can reduce your expenditure on fuel, but it can also have positive knock-on effects: You could find yourself with more time in your day, feeling fitter and healthier, and reducing your impact on the environment.