FeaturesOPINIONS

MOTORISTS MUST DEVELOP A FUEL SAVING CULTURE

…Manage your monthly fuel bill. Fuel prices have increased by 30 percent last two months

By Johnston chikwanda

THE Energy Regulation Board (ERB) increased fuel pump prices the previous week. The increase was about 20 percent on petrol and diesel. Last month, the increase was about 10 percent on petrol also known as motor spirit and low sulphur diesel.

The basis for the increase was the continued crude oil price escalation on the global market and depreciation of the Kwacha against the United States Dollar to some extent for the March adjustment.

However, the most dominant force dictating the behaviour of the local fuel pump price is crude oil price escalation.

At the time of the fuel pump price upward adjustment, Brent Crude oil was trading at about $105 a barrel. The behaviour of the crude oil price has been volatile and spiked to $140 a barrel before starting a downward trend to around $105.

The outlook remains volatile and extremely unstable for any accurate prediction. With factors pushing the crude oil prices still in place and showing no signs of de-escalation, no meaningful projection can be made as the situation can change within a week. 

What is going on is tragic and painful. To this end, I thought of sharing again what I have shared before on some tips you can use to make the most of your fuel money.

Start your car more efficiently:  Do not push the accelerator when you start a modern vehicle. Back in the days of carburetted cars you had to push the pedal to the floor once or twice before driving away.

Today’s modern fuel injected engines do not need this practice. In fact, you can start a car without even stepping on the accelerator pedal. It may look insignificant but you are losing money.

I had little regard for small money such as coins until my South African and West African friends changed my value system. The importance of not taking small things lightly is further amplified by the late Mother Theresa who once said “we ourselves consider our actions as a drop in the ocean but we know that the ocean becomes smaller because of the missing drop.”

Tyre pressure:  Many motorists do not know that there is a serious connection between tyre pressure and fuel consumption. What is even more worrying for me is that most motorists do not even know the recommended tyre pressure for their cars.

You are playing with money. You are playing with your life if you do not have regard for knowing the importance of tyre pressure. The tyre pressure is written in your manual, on the tyre itself and somewhere on the door of your car.

Next time you go to the fuel station, ask a filling station assistant to show you where the pressure is written.  It will only take a few seconds to know. Do not brush them off when they offer to check your tyre pressure for free. They also check your oil and water level for free. Be grateful. Wrong tyre pressure costs money just like lack of enough oil or water can make you cry.

It is not just about tyre pressure but also the design of the tyre itself that is crucial to fuel consumption. Please do not also forget to check tyre pressure in your spare wheel once in a while. This is encouraged etiquette for every motorist. Avoid tyres that increase rolling resistance. This will cost you more fuel.

In addition, pay attention to the expiry dates of tyres. The expiry date of tyres is written on the tyre itself.

Road Traffic Police are supposed to be checking expiry dates on tyres and arrest motorists driving vehicles with expired tyres. They contribute to accidents.

Road worthiness demands you to use tyres that are not expired. We have taken many things for granted.

Avoid short trips:  Short trips which do not allow for the engine temperature to get to optimum level are usually not good at fuel consumption. Plan your movements very well.  Be patient with yourself. There is a Chinese saying which says, “Be patient with others. But with yourself be even more patient.” Impulsive decisions can be very costly. The business of wanting to drive where you can walk and exercise must be thought through well.

Avoid contaminated fuel:  When fuel prices go up, the temptation for criminal activities or unethical behaviour can get to a zenith order. Unethical fuel suppliers can deliberately mix fuel with other compounds or supply substandard fuel so as to lure you with cheaper prices.

They can also do it to avoid tragic losses. This game takes place in many countries. With increased fuel prices, the prospect of trading substandard fuels to make abnormal profits is real.

There are many motorists or transporters who just believe in buying stolen fuel and oil.  One day you will cry. Contaminated fuel does not give you better fuel consumption.

In addition, it has a damaging effect on your engine. You may feel ok for now but down the road your engine will give up on you.  Lift the standard and say no to stolen or contaminated fuel. Buy from reputable sources. 

There are several fuel saving tips. Avoid driving with windows wide open especially at high speed. Take time to read through and put them into practice. I will share some more next week.

*Johnstone Chikwanda is an energy expert, Researcher and a Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Zambia, a PhD candidate at Johnson University, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. Email: j_chikwanda@yahoo.com

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