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Keep Calm and Carry on Driving

I recently completed the specialised defensive driving course, required for full membership of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists (SAGMJ), and did pass with flying colours, I’m happy to add.

With hindsight I owe a debt of gratitude to the many ‘teachers’ I had – those that grit their teeth as I forgot about the purpose of a clutch and crunched through the gearbox, slammed on the brakes and catapulted the car’s occupants backwards with overzealous acceleration.


Truck trailer of balance. Specialised defensive driving, required for South African Guild of Motoring Journalists
As we all know, common sense is rather uncommon. I’m appealing to all fleet owners to please ensure that their drivers are trained to the correct standards for the vehicle they are expected to drive on our roads.

I also say thanks to my less patient passengers for the reprimands and ‘how to drive’ sanctimonious lectures. I recently received an interesting set of tips from my driving course colleague and happily share his tips on driving not only safer, but to save fuel and wear and tear on a vehicle.

Specialised defensive driving, required for full membership of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists

His guidelines are as applicable to extra-heavy vehicle driving as they are to the average motorist. My thanks to the MD of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert for his sensible advice.

“A few years ago when petrol prices started rising rapidly, petrol station owners had to buy new pumps to reflect the double digit prices. Car owners started trading in their large cars for smaller, more fuel efficient cars. Soon after the drastic jumps stabilised a bit and as time moved on, some drivers became less conscious of their fuel expenditure,” says Eugene.

“Car owners started trading in their large cars for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars…”

“Yet, since the Rand’s recent fluctuations against the Dollar, South Africans have seen an increase of more than 150c since March this year. On top of that this month we saw another increase of 27c per litre of petrol and 61c per litre of diesel. The rest of the year does not appear to bode well either. Petrol hikes so far have been protected from even bigger increases due to lower oil prices. Now, however, oil prices are strengthening,” warns Eugene.

“This might be a good time to pay a little more attention to eco-driving again – and everyone driving a vehicle may wish to pay more attention. On average you will see a reduction of up to 10% in petrol consumption. Wear and tear on your fleets or personal vehicles will also decrease drastically.”

Herbert provides some tips on how to drive more economically:

  • Plan your route to avoid wasting petrol on longer routes or when you get lost.
  • If conditions permit, drive with your windows closed – even with your aircon on, you can use less fuel.
  • Do not speed. The faster you drive, the more fuel you use. Rather keep a steady cruising speed.
  • Avoid harsh acceleration.
  • Avoid bringing your vehicle to a complete stop – anticipate traffic light changes to minimise stopping.
  • Vehicle maintenance also helps to save fuel. Do not skip services, and when you service next time, use the correct grades of oil and lubricants.
  • Check tyre inflation regularly, as underinflated tyres use more petrol.
  • Drive courteously. Among other negative consequences, road rage will cause you to use more petrol.
Tristan Wiggill
Special Features Editor at Business Fleet Africa