Thursday, 1 March 2012
Driving down the cost of motoring
I have always enjoyed driving, and I get a buzz when I do it well. After I passed my car test I took extra lessons to bring my driving up to a good standard to be able to take the Institute of Advanced Motorists test. When I passed it I was offered a job as a driving instructor, by the owner of the driving school I learnt to drive with. I took him up on it and went through the training to gain the qualification needed.
About a year or so after that I decided to move up a peg or two and go for the HGV (trucks) licence, which I passed at the first attempt. Most people do not take extra tests once they have got the licence they want, but I went on to do more training and take the test for a PSV (buses) licence, the motorcycle test, and six advanced driving tests in cars and lorries, with the IAM and RoSPA. I gained a Class 1 Advanced Certificate with RoSPA.
All this training is now paying off for me in my quest to get the most for my money, and I'll tell you how. Fuel consumption can vary widely according to how you drive. From the moment I step into my car I am aware of the fact that every time I put my foot on the accelerator it's costing me money. Every time I move off I apply a gentle pressure on the gas pedal, and steadily build up speed. I don't rev the balls off it, and I don't try and go from nought to sixty in 2.5 seconds. I don't need to race away at traffic lights to beat the guy next to me, because if I do I will watch the petrol gauge go down. This is why it is important to plan your journey, leave plenty of time to get there so you dont need to rush. I don't rush anywhere now.
If you absolutely hate driving you will abuse your car, you don't want to be there you just want to get to your destination. If that's the case it will cost you more, so be prepared to pay for it. A bad temper behind the wheel and other motorists will wind you up, you wont be concentrating because you have other things on your mind. You will be accelerating and braking when you don't need to be, so if you want to burn your money go ahead and do that.
Which bit of the road are you looking at when you are driving? When I am behind the wheel I look just beyond the bonnet, then my eyes scan the road ahead so my brain can take note of anything which might make the need for adjustments to speed and direction. Approaching a roundabout up ahead I take my foot off the gas pedal quite a distance away from it, I let the car slow down naturally, and when I reach the give way, I brake gently if I need to. If there is no traffic I don't brake at all as I have already slowed down and selected a lower gear to be able to continue. The same technique can be applied on the approach to traffic lights. Watch the sequence of the light changes before you get there, work out how long it will be untill your side will be green depending on how many changes there are and how many roads meet at that point.
I concentrate on my driving so I can plan a course of action, that way I can make informed decisions on when I need to gain speed or slow down. By looking as far in the distance as I can see I am never taken by surprise because I know what's coming. The advanced driving rule is that you should always be in the right position on the road, and going at the correct speed for the conditions.
The speed limit on a motorway and a dual carriageway is 70 mph, I very rarely reach that speed. I travel between 55 and 60mph, that way I get the best fuel consumption I can. I will happily sit behind a lorry for ages in the first lane at 56mph, lorries are limited to that. I am aware that if I put my foot down and go faster it is costing more money. It's surprising how many people do the same, I am often in a convoy with two or three others, all doing the same steady speed.
Something else I do is remove everything out of the car when I return home. I don't carry clutter around with me because that adds weight to the car, which will increase fuel consumption.
So, when you are about to make a journey clear the junk out of your car, and clear the junk out of your head. Put all other thoughts in a closed box in the corner of your brain, and concentrate fully on the job in hand, your driving. Tell other people in the car not to talk to you because that will interupt your train of thought. Distractions can literally be a killer. After many years of sitting high up in a lorry I have seen what devastation can be caused through lack of concentration.
If you feel your driving skills are not up to scratch, you could invest in a few extra lessons. You can get free training from RoSPA
or the Institute of Advanced Motorists
Worth it if it's going to save you money, and it might even save your life.