If you’re a new van driver, the thought of taking to the road can be a bit of a daunting prospect. However, while some things do need a bit more consideration, don’t worry, most aspects of van-driving are very similar to driving a car.
The majority of modern vans come equipped with all of the technology and safety features you’ve come to expect from a car too so, with a little preparation, you should feel ready to hit the road with confidence.
Here, The Van Insurer has highlighted a few tips to make sure you start off on the right track.
Get to know your van
Before you set off on any journey, it’s a good idea to get to know where all of your vehicle’s essential features are.
Understand how the controls work and the different tech and safety functions that are available to you. A key difference to driving a car is that you probably don’t have a rear-view mirror so get used to using your door mirrors as an indication of what’s around you – they’ll become your new best friends!
It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with where the lights and windscreen wipers are too, and how the sat-nav and radio work, so you won’t have to take your eyes off the road while driving if the conditions change.
Comfort and confidence are key
Good posture while you’re driving will make a huge difference to your comfort and concentration levels, particularly if you’ll be driving for long periods of time.
Make sure you’re sitting comfortably with good sight of your mirrors and a clear view through the windscreen. It pays to take a couple of short practise drives before you set off, as it’s harder to make adjustments when you’re on the road.
Always plan your trip ahead too, making sure you have a couple of route options mapped out in case you have to divert. Familiarising yourself before you set off means you’ll be less prone to stress and panic. Remember to always allow plenty of time for your journey.
Know your limits
Whether you’re driving a van as part of your job or just as a one-off, you need to be sure that you can manoeuvre the vehicle confidently, particularly as you’ll need more space for things like turning and parking.
Your manual should have all of the van’s relevant specifications, for example its length, weight and key dimensions. You’ll also need to know your van’s height so that you’ll have the foresight of whether you can access covered car parks and other height restricted areas.
Remember that with heavier vehicles you’ll need to increase your braking distances, and the laws tend to be different for vans. The national speed limits on single carriageways and dual carriageways are 10 mph slower for most vans compared with cars so know your limits to stay both safe and legal.
If you’re carrying goods in your van then you’ll need to give consideration to how you load your cargo.
If you’re making several deliveries, it makes sense to load the earlier drop-off items within easy reach, with later deliveries further back.
Place heavy items on the floor and lower levels with lighter loads higher up. Loose items can destabilise your van so make sure you secure them appropriately. The heavier your van, the less effective your brakes will be, so remember that you’ll need more braking time as your load weight increases.
Make sure you’re covered
It can be easy to forget that you need the right paperwork in place before you hit the road. Most driving licenses allow you to drive a vehicle that’s up to 3,500 kg in weight, so you may need to add a higher category to your license if you exceed the limit.
Whether you’re using your van for commercial purposes or for leisure, it’s a legal requirement to have adequate insurance too, so you’ll have peace of mind that you’re covered if you’re involved in an accident.