Ris­ing fuel prices mak­ing it more costly to get to work

Saturday Star - - INSIGHT - KA­BELO KHU­MALO

THE re­cent 67- cent- a- litre in­crease in the price of petrol and the 44c-a-litre rise in the price of diesel have added to the fi­nan­cial pres­sure on South Africans.

The hikes not only hurt those who use their cars to get to work, but also those who de­pend on pub­lic trans­port. The Na­tional Taxi Al­liance has writ­ten to Trans­port Min­is­ter Joe Maswan­ganyi re­quest­ing an ur­gent meet­ing to dis­cuss the im­pact of the fuel-price hike on taxi fares.

An­drew Kerr, a se­nior re­search of­fi­cer at the Univer­sity of Cape Town, says the num­ber of commuters who use cars to get to work (ei­ther as pas­sen­gers or driv­ers) in­creased from about 2.5 mil­lion to 5m be­tween 1993 and 2013. The num­ber of commuters who use taxis also dou­bled, from about 1.5m to 3m. This ex­cludes the nearly 1m peo­ple who use more than one mode of trans­port. The ab­so­lute num­ber of bus and train users in­creased, but the per­cent­age in­creases were smaller com­pared with those who use taxis and pri­vate ve­hi­cles.

Ac­cord­ing to the 2011 cen­sus, 22m of South Africa’s pop­u­la­tion of 51.7m use pub­lic trans­port.

Kerr has cal­cu­lated what the av­er­age wage-earner spends on trans­port. He uses the ex­am­ple of a worker who earns R3 000 a month, which equals an hourly wage of about R17. If the worker spends R300 a month on trans­port (not un­com­mon for some­one tak­ing a bus), his or her net monthly in­come will be 10% lower (at R2 700), and his or her hourly wage af­ter trans­port costs will be R15.70.

The Na­tional House­hold Travel Sur­vey pro­vides a break­down, by mode of travel, of work­ers who, on av­er­age, spend more than R200 a month on trans­port: bus, 92.9%; train, 56.4%; minibus taxi, 95.9%; and pri­vate ve­hi­cle, 91%.

In its 2017 Ben­e­fits Barom­e­ter, Alexan­der Forbes says only 2.3% of em­ploy­ers pro­vide their em­ploy­ees with a trans­port al­lowance, and this is an ex­am­ple of how much of the re­gres­sive tax as­so­ci­ated with com­mut­ing is shoul­dered by em­ploy­ees.

Alexan­der Forbes says the main chal­lenges in com­mut­ing to work in­clude the cost and wait­ing times. It sug­gests the fol­low­ing mea­sures to mit­i­gate against the cost of trans­port for work­ers:

• Pol­i­cy­mak­ers should al­lo­cate trans­port sub­si­dies in line with ac­tual us­age pat­ter ns in­stead of fo­cus­ing on buses and trains, be­cause many work­ers use taxis;

• Gov­ern­ment could fa­cil­i­tate greater pro­duc­tiv­ity by help­ing em­ploy­ees to cut down on the rig­ma­role of com­mut­ing; and

• Em­ploy­ers should of fer em­ploy­ees more flex­i­bil­ity in the lo­ca­tion of work­places and the al­lo­ca­tion of travel al­lowances.

TIPS FOR DRIV­ERS

The Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Au­to­mo­bile Man­u­fac­tur­ers of South Africa says driv­ers can do the fol­low­ing to re­duce what they spend on fuel: • Avoid un­nec­es­sary trips. • Plan your jour­ney.

• Have your ve­hi­cle ser­viced ac­cord­ing to the man­u­fac­turer’s rec­om­mended sched­ule. Poor main­te­nance can sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease fuel con­sump­tion.

• Check the tyre pres­sure. Low tyre pres­sure in­creases a ve­hi­cle’s “drag” and hence fuel con­sump­tion.

• Drive smoothly. If you have a man­ual trans­mis­sion ve­hi­cle, change up as soon as en­gine speed and con­di­tions al­low.

• Moder­ate your speed. Fuel con­sump­tion in­creases sig­nif­i­cantly when driv­ing at more than 100km/h.

• Re­duce the weight of your ve­hi­cle by re­mov­ing items that you rarely use, such as a roofrack.

• Avoid trav­el­ling dur­ing peak hours. Op­ti­mum fuel economy is achieved by driv­ing at a con­stant speed. Stop-start driv­ing sig­nif­i­cantly in­creases fuel con­sump­tion.

• Use your ve­hi­cle’s air-con­di­tioner spar­ingly.

• Con­sider re­plac­ing your ve­hi­cle with a more fuel-ef­fi­cient one. ka­belo.khu­malo@inl.co.za

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