Drivers Left Stranded by High Fuel Prices

This report by the Sunday Mirror made me smile – both because of the apallingly inaccurate reporting and because it reminded me of a couple of conversations I’ve had over the last few months – one with an experienced same day courier who really should have known better.

According to the Mirror the recent high fuel prices have been causing more motorists to cut back on servicing their cars and because of that more motorists have been stranded by breakdowns.

Apparently an AA spokesman warned: “More and more motorists are running their cars until the warning light comes on.

“Apart from the risk of breaking down on a busy road, it also causes longterm damage to the car.”

I don’t think that I’ve read this particular AA survey, I certainly can’t find it on their website, but I’d guess from the next paragraph of the Mirror report (“So far this year 532 more callouts a week have involved flat batteries – which can be caused by running on empty”) that the AA spokesman was talking about the low fuel warning light rather than any other warning light.

I can’t see any connection between cutting back on servicing and running out of fuel, or for that matter any connection between a flat battery and “running on empty”. I particularly disagree with what appears to be a claim by the AA that running your car with the low fuel warning light on can cause long-term damage to the car. I suspect that this is more a bad summary by the Mirror of an AA press release rather than an accurate report of inaccurate statements from the AA.

I’ve habitually run vehicles until the tank’s virtually empty for many years. I’ve had several vehicles that have done over 250,000 miles running like this without any problems and many other vehicles which reached 100,000+ before being off-hired, written off, sold etc, all without any long term damage to the engine or fuel system caused by “running on empty” before virtually every refuel.

The subject of motorists running out of fuel because of high fuel prices cropped up at work a couple of months ago. One of our freelance same day couriers – a van driver from London with loads of experience and with the same laid back attitude (does as much work as he feels like doing and he’s happy as long as his rent’s paid at the end of the month and he’s got enough left over for beer and fags) that used to be so common with bike couriers in the 80s and 90s. He’s so used to putting a tenner’s worth of fuel into his van every 80 miles or so that he didn’t bother to get his fuel gauge replaced when it broke a year ago. Of course fuel prices rose so quickly that he suddenly found out while he was on the way to an urgent collection that he’s now only getting 60 miles to his tenner.

A few days after this happened I mentioned it to someone outside the business while chatting about the impact of fuel prices on the courier industry. He wasn’t particularly aware that fuel prices had gone up at all – he doesn’t look at fuel prices, just puts £20 in his tank every Sunday at Tesco when he does the weekly shop and puts a full tank in (Tesco again) once or twice a month when he goes for a long drive at weekends or on holiday. He’d noticed over the last few weeks that his low fuel light had been coming on before he’s fuelled up on the Sunday, something that had never happened before. He’d actually had the main dealer look at the car TWICE investigating the high fuel consumption. Of course they couldn’t find anything wrong (although they kindly charged him £80 for replacing the air filter) because there wasn’t anything wrong – he was getting the same miles per gallon but less miles per pound.

Posted under Fuel Prices

Posted by Alec at 7:49 am, August 11, 2008

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