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How to set up a car pool

The Powers That Be in the world of transportation, which includes town planners, city councils, roading authorities and traffic engineers, do not like single-occupant vehicles, which is the technical way to describe all those cars that have just one driver in them and a whole lot of empty seats.  Think about it for a moment: if you have 10 cars waiting at the lights, each of which has only one driver, then you have 30 spare seats (or even more).  If all those seats were full, you’d only have 3 cars waiting at the lights, which means less of a wait, a faster commute and less pollution, unless every single one of those cars waiting at the lights is a hybrid or electric vehicle.  Carpooling makes good sense.

So how do you set up a carpool and do your bit to reduce congestion and pollution – and save yourself a few dollars when it comes to fuel costs?  First of all, do a bit of asking around at your workplace (if you work alone as a contractor, this isn’t going to be a goer) to find people who live roughly where you do who might be interested.  This can make a good point of conversation in the smoko room, or you can post notices around the workplace (either of the electronic type or of the traditional pen and paper type).  If you can’t find too many people in your office/shop that live in your approximate neighbourhood, then ask around the shops and offices near yours to find more people.

How many people do you need to set up a carpool?  This really depends on how many seats each of you has in their car.  If you all have MPVs (e.g. Honda Odyssey) or seven-seater 4x4s (e.g. Landrover Discovery) or vans (Ford Transit), then you can have seven people in your carpool.  However, if you’ve all got different vehicles, then the number of people involved should be equal to or less than the number of seats in the smallest vehicle available – which means four people for a small hatchback such as a Mazda2.  You can, of course, have fewer people than you have seats, so you can set up a carpool with only two or three people.

With a carpool, you should take turns at the driving, which means that the petrol costs are shared and you all get a turn at being The Boss (i.e. the driver).  However, you could come to an arrangement where one person does all the driving (e.g. the person with the big seven-seater) and everyone else chips in to help out with the fuel costs.  Do the maths here: you’ll need to work out how much fuel gets burned on the average commute and divide the weekly costs by the number of people involved.

When it comes to getting in the car and travelling, you can either all agree to meet at a certain point at a certain time (e.g. beside Deepak’s Corner Dairy or Smith Park) or whoever’s doing the driving picks up everybody else.  The important thing is to be punctual so you don’t irritate everyone else and make them late.

Make sure you have a contingency plan and can let the others in your carpool know if you can’t make it (if you’re sick or whatever).  This is one of the things that cellphones were invented for.  The easiest thing to do if the driver for the day is sick is to skip onto the next person in the cycle – the person who was sick can do the driving twice in a row next time round, or you can opt for the “what goes around comes around” principle and not worry about it.

One of the fun bits about a carpool is you get to show of your car to your workmates in a way that isn’t offensive or “swanky” – they’ll really admire the cushy leather seats or the top-notch sound system if they’re passengers.  If you’re the person with the not-so-stylish car, you get a chance to ride in something smarter than what you’ve got: you might not own a BMW 7-series, but if you’re carpooling with someone who does, you get a chance to ride in one and enjoy it anyway.

Another good part of carpooling is that it does help you get to know your co-workers better – it’s amazing what you’ll end up talking about during a 20-minute commute.  If you’re higher up the corporate ladder, this could be a good reason for swallowing a bit of pride and joining a carpool with your underlings: they’ll probably be more supportive and loyal towards you, and you’ll get to know their strengths and weaknesses a lot better.

And if you’re attracted to an eligible workmate, being in a carpool with them might just do the trick romantically – we all know the effects of enforced proximity!

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