Illustration: Mangena

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 patterns 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 offer 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 roof-rack.

• 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.

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