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The Newbie's Guide to Driving a Van

27 July 2019

Buying, borrowing or hiring a van? We’re with you…

Whether it’s helping a mate to move or running a business that needs you to deliver the goods, more and more of us are getting behind the wheel of a van.

According to recent Department of Transport figures, van traffic is growing faster than car traffic across the UK. And that’s for a few reasons – changing taxation rules can make a van a more attractive, economic option for some, while the rise in internet and home shopping is creating more opportunities for delivery drivers. That’s all on top of the surge in more people becoming self-employed, starting businesses where they have to be CEO and courier all in one!

Whether you’re hiring a van or buying one, you’ll notice it’s quite different to driving a car. So, it’s really worthwhile to spend a little time finding your feet – and your optimal driving position. 

Check out our handy guide to driving a van safely, with less stress and increasing your confidence behind the wheel – you might even enjoy it! 

1. Get comfortable

The driving position in larger vans especially is quite different to a car. You’ll be much higher up for starters, which can feel strange. However, you’ll also feel more in control and have a much better view of the road ahead. In saying that, your rear-view will likely be limited, so it’s important that you make sure your seat is in the best position for you and your rear-view mirrors are adjusted accordingly. You can get wireless rear-view camera kits for vans too – may be worth investing in if you’re going to be doing lots of miles!

2. Get to know your van

Just as you do when getting into any car, get familiar with all the functions: knowing where the indicators are will save you switching on the windscreen wipers approaching a junction!  Check the gears – and your brakes. They’re designed to stop a loaded van so may be sharp when the van is empty. Plus, importantly, where is the horn? Also check which side the fuel cap is on before you have to fill up!  

3. Check your destination.

If you’re driving a van for work, you’re more likely to be going somewhere you’ve never been before. A sat nav is a great investment in this case. Though at the very least you should plan your journey before you leave – saving you time and the stress of getting lost. Plus, as with any journey, build in a little wiggle room if you can. It makes for a much better day!   

4.Learn how to load

You’ve selected your van for maximum capacity at least cost. So to make the most of every journey, give a little thought to how you can best load your van to get more in – safely! A good rule of thumb is to put large, heavy or bulky items in first, then smaller or lighter items can fit around or on top of them. Also think about how you can secure fragile or unusual shaped items. A major consideration is spreading any load evenly across the base to ensure stability.      

5. Drive Safe

Sensible and basic advice for any road user, for van drivers it goes double! Because if you spend longer on the road and do more miles, you don’t want that time to be stressful. For your own sanity and safety, leave time to travel within the speed limits, minimising the opportunities for road rage incidents.

6. Brake smart

One of the ways a car differs from a van is stopping distances – especially if it’s got a heavy load. The heavier your payload, the longer it will take you to stop. So leave lots of space between you and the car in front and take extra care manoeuvring corners and roundabouts. Advanced braking technology in newer vans can include pre-collision assist and active braking, warning you of any dangers and activating the brakes when needed. These are reassuring but no substitute for staying alert.  

7. Think security

Making sure the rear doors are locked before you set off is of course essential - so double check just to make sure! Also, think about where you park and store your van – and its contents. Keep everything out of sight and remove valuables, even if leaving it for just a moment. If yours is a hire van, you’ll lose your deposit and excess if your van is damaged. 

8. Parking

Most vans are trickier to park than a car given almost all have a limited rear view. Most will also have a longer wheel base, so squeezing into a tight spot is not an option. Take your time, size-up your options and, if you have a co-pilot, ask them to hop out and direct you in.    

9. Make sure you’re covered

Well we would say that, wouldn’t we? But it is essential – especially for peace of mind. If you’re buying your first van, we’ll compare cover for you to get the best deal. If you’re hiring, most rental companies tend to have insurance included, but you should also check things like excesses. Hire company excesses can be substantial – much more than your own car or van excess. 

If you own a small business and are on a budget but also value great service, we can check that your van is covered in all the ways it needs to be. Or, if you’re an old hand at driving a van and just want to make sure you’re paying the least for the best possible cover, we can help too. In fact, we could save you up to 40%!

Call our Autoline Van team today on 03452 30 30 30.