In the UK, as soon as you have passed your driving test you can get behind the wheel of a van up to 3.5 tonnes. For newly qualified drivers, that have probably only ever driven a small car during their driving lessons, this can be quite daunting. Ideally, you should gain some van driving experience before you step into one for the first time, but sometimes this isn’t possible.
The Bayfield team in Telford is always driving about in our vans, dropping them off around Bridgnorth, Ironbridge, Much Wenlock, wherever. If you see us out and about, give us a honk! But if it’s you who’s going to be behind the wheel, here are our safe van driving tips to help you on your way…
It’s the obvious one, but vans are a lot bigger than most cars you will have driven before! They are taller, longer and wider. Allow more room than you usually would, and be aware of height hazards such as low bridges, the eaves on single-storey buildings, lamp posts and signs. Modern vans drive exceptionally well and are better than some cars, but this can lull you into a false sense of security when it comes to handling the vehicle… don’t let it.
A van is heavier than a car, even more so when laden with your prized possessions, and a lot of larger vans use rear wheel drive systems. This means vastly different driving responses from the vehicle. Our advice is to take it slower, especially when coming into corners or when driving on wet surfaces.
If possible, pick a dry, clear and wind-free day to make your journey. This isn’t always an option in Shropshire (!) but, as a van is bigger than most cars, it is more affected by poor driving conditions, such as high cross winds. Don’t pick hurricane season as the time to try your first van drive! Similarly, avoid a night time drive until you are comfortable behind a van wheel during the day.
4. Blind spot
Vans do not have rear view mirrors, and often a lot less glass, so looking right over your shoulder to see past your blind spot isn’t an option. This may seem off-putting to van driving newbies, but the good news is that most vans have excellent wing mirrors, with main view and blind spot mirrors on both sides. Before you set off, make sure they are set up properly, that you can see your blind spots and you are comfortable in your seat. Get a friend to walk around the van while you are in position at the wheel. Can you see them in your mirrors as they move around? If not, adjust the mirrors accordingly.
5. Turning circle
Vans naturally have longer wheel bases than cars (the distance between the front and rear wheels), meaning they have a bigger turning circle. On tight bends, you may need to let the front end swing out before you turn the wheel, otherwise you could clip the kerb on the nearside or cut the corner on the driver’s side. Both are against the highway code and could cause an accident.
6. Vehicle banksman
When manoeuvring at low speed, get a friend to act as ‘banksman’. This means they get out of the van and watch for hazards while you manoeuvre. Open your window so you can hear them and make sure they always stand where you can see them. Keep the speed down and bear in mind shorter objects, such as posts in car parks, as they can be easy to miss.
Remember, your speed limits in a van are different than in a car, generally 10mph less on main roads and dual carriageways. If you’re unsure, check the limits before you set off.
8. Plan your journey
When planning your journey, do take into consideration the lower speed limits and allow plenty of time to reach your destination. Give yourself time to get to grips with the van, too. As soon as you start rushing, the chance of an accident increases greatly.
9. Don’t panic!
If you get into a tight spot, keep calm and remember our driving tips. If other road users have to wait while you get it right, so be it. Ignore impatient looks and angry horn blowers… better to be a bit embarrassed than cause an unnecessary accident!
Our last tip for van driving is to relax and savour the experience. Driving a van can be a lot of fun! Your driving position is a lot higher, so you get a great view of the road and the surroundings. We have lots of beautiful views in the UK to take in! Whether you’re approaching the Shropshire Hills or the skyline of London, the fact that you are hiring a van probably means you are heading off on an adventure of some kind. So why not pause at a truck stop café and sample some traditional British fare, or meet fellow knights of the road? Always remember – enjoy yourself! And know that you have done something that many won’t.
Would you like to take advantage of Bayfield’s reliable, competitively-priced van hire in Shropshire? Call us on 01952 570057 (Telford) or 01743 770035 (Shrewsbury) to speak to a member of the team and get a quote today!