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Advice: Driving a fully loaded van

Loading up a vehicle with significant weight can massively affect its handling and this will need to be accounted for by the driver. Be sure to check the maximum payload of your van and do not exceed it when loading as this can be hazardous while on the road. Keeping within this limit and following our advice will help ensure that you are driving safely with your payload.

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Pack the vehicle properly

Distributing the weight effectively across your vehicle is the first step to driving safely. This won’t be possible with every load, but wherever you can make sure that you pack everything in the right way. Place the heaviest items closest to the cab and make sure they are secured with packing straps. This will keep them shifting in transit which can alter the handling of your van. Lower the centre of gravity of the load as much as possible. You can do this by laying furniture flat on its side, or when loading sacks of gravel or compost placing them in a layer across the floor of the van rather than in a stack in the corner.

Drive carefully

While this might seem like obvious advice, there is a method to driving a heavily loaded vehicle. Many driving organisations use the IPSGA system of control. This stands for Information, Position, Speed, Gear, and Accelerate. When you encounter a hazard on the road, assess what is in front of you, get in the right position on the road, reduce your speed to pass the hazard, change gear, and then accelerate once you’re clear. An advanced driving course will go into more detail about this principle, but it is still worth keeping in mind when on the road.

Stopping distances

A fully loaded vehicle will likely have greater stopping distances than normal. A test conducted by Volkswagen found that that the stopping distance for a fully loaded van moving at 30 MPH rose by as much as five metres. That’s a 33% increase. If you will be driving and know that your van has a heavy load or is hauling its maximum payload, then you will need to account for this. To gain confidence, test the brakes in a quiet road first before embarking on your journey so you can get a feel for how long it takes to safely stop. Remember to obey the speed limit or drive below it if there is congestion. Also, take special care while descending hills as your speed can creep up with you realising. This will cause your vehicle to build significant momentum and make it more difficult to stop suddenly if you need to.


As a vehicle brakes, the weight shifts to the front wheels and the rear becomes lighter. If the weight is properly distributed, around 60/40 rear wheels to front wheels, you will be able to break later and harder into corners as the weight is shifting to being closer to a 50/50 distribution and all the tyres have equal grip on the road. If the weight in your vehicle is improperly distributed, you will find that you can lose traction in the back tyres and the rear of your vehicle can swerve. In this case, prevention is better than cure. Distribute the load across your van in a 60/40 ratio to reduce the risk of the weight shifting unexpectedly when you tur

Driving a heavy van comes with new rules and can take some getting used to. But the versatility and convenience of having a vehicle that meets your needs are always worth it. Get the van you need today by contacting H&H Van Hire. We are a well-established local van hire company renowned for the quality of both our fleet and our customer service. Get in touch by calling 020 7916 6616 or emailing

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