If you’re contemplating driving a van for the first time, no doubt the extra size and the different handling that is required is giving you a few sleepless nights. There are a number of situations where you may have no choice but to get behind the wheel of a van – whether you’re moving house or transporting objects or products from one place to another – but even if you don’t have any experience with this type of vehicle it doesn’t have to be a complete nightmare. For those who are feeling a bit nervous about the experience, here is a beginners guide to driving a van!
Watch your speed
You may not have realized this but if you are driving a van than there is a different set of rules as there is for cars. Unless you are driving a ‘car derived van’ (such as a Vauxhall Corsa) with a maximum weight of less than two tones, then you will have to abide by specific speed limits for vans – these are 70mph on a motorway, 60mph on a dual carriage way, 50mph on a single carriageway and 30mph in a built up area. It’s never an excuse when driving to say that you just didn’t know, so even if you haven’t driven a van before you need to make sure that you understand which rules of the road apply to you.
Take a good look at the mirrors
You will notice that your mirrors in the van are different to those you will be used to in a car. Most vans have no rear window, which makes using your wing mirrors absolutely essential when it comes to maneuvering the van around the road. However, remember that you will have no central rear view mirror either (because there is no rear window), so you will be relying entirely on the wing mirrors and – if the van has them – specific blind spot mirrors.
Get used to the van you will be driving
This is especially important if you are planning on travelling long distances or on busy roads, as a lack of familiarity with the way the van operates can cause accidents. Have a look at the gearbox and see how many gears the van has, practice putting the handbrake on and off, make sure you know how to work the windscreen wipers and the horn, and try the indicators and headlights before you set off from home – even if you are driving in daylight.
Remember you are not in a car…
This sounds stupid but sometimes you can just slip into the zone and forget that you are driving a completely different vehicle. You will need to be much more aware of height restrictions with a van – most vans will not be able to squeeze through the entrance to a car park, for example, and there are new obstacles that may not have been relevant when driving a car, such as low bridges. Make sure you know how high and how wide the van is before you drive off and then bear in mind the increased size of the vehicle when you come to any situations in which you are trying to get through a small gap!
Driving and parking are a different experience
Driving a van is not hard but you should remember that the size of the van makes it different to handling a car. You will need to leave longer stopping distances when the van is in motion, remember that it may be less stable when turning a corner (particularly if full) and sudden breaking should be avoided at all costs. When it comes to parking the van, just take it easy and use your wing mirrors as much as you can. It can seem a bit intimidating parking such a large vehicle but most vans nowadays have efficient steering mechanisms and parking properly is not an impossible task. If you need to, get out and look at your position or ask someone to help – it’s better to do this than scrape the car in front!
So, whether you have bought a new van or are driving a hire van for the first time, with this beginners guide to driving a van it doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Just bear in mind the increased size of your van, take everything very slowly and don’t turn into an aggressive driver just because you’re in a bigger vehicle!