Vans can assure you of one of the most enjoyable driving experiences, even if you haven’t driven one before. Once you have properly prepared yourself and adjusted your technique to account for the larger vehicle, being behind the wheel can be a truly pleasurable experience.
The first few moments may seem strange if there are no rear windows – remember, you have huge wing mirrors to compensate for this. Some vans even have separate blind spot mirrors – these are an important safety feature, so make sure you make good use of them.
Before you set off, you should position your seat, adjusting it so that your feet safely reach the pedals. Next, adjust your wing mirrors so that you can easily see the view behind. You should now start to familiarise yourself with the size of the van. Most vans are at least two metres high, so don’t try to go under an average-size car park barrier. You should also watch out for narrow routes – if there are any roads with width restrictions of 6ft 6ins, many vans won’t fit or if they do, it will be a tight squeeze! Avoid narrow routes where possible. If in any doubt, plan your route ahead of time.
Accustom yourself with the van’s all important controls before you turn the key in the ignition! Locate the indicators, windscreen wipers, hazard lights, fuel cap, headlights and horn. Check your gearbox – how many gears does it have? If it has a sixth gear, this is ideal for long motorway drives – to save fuel.
The way you load your van is important if you’re carrying a lot of items – it may seem like common sense but always put the heavier, most solid items in the van first. If you’re carrying tall items, tie them up so they won’t fall. Spread the load evenly, with any particularly heavy items placed in the centre.
Modern vans are powerful, often having car-style gearboxes and power steering, so in terms of actually driving, you shouldn’t have any problems. An important consideration; if you’re driving a fully-loaded, heavier van, think about the the time it will take you to stop – this will be longer than it takes in an average car.
Take corners slower and wider but above all, take it easy – remember to brake and corner gently. Do not even attempt to drive your van as you would a car because if you drive too quickly or if your manoeuvres are too severe, your load will likely shift – this can present a driving hazard all of its own!!
Parking a large van for the first time can seem a little daunting but as long as you use your wing mirrors or even if you put your head out of the window when you reverse for a clearer view, it shouldn’t be too difficult. Take it slowly and if you’re worried about how much space you have behind, hop out and take a look.
If you have a long-bodied van with a rear overhang and you’ve parked close to a wall or bollards, pull forward slowly, turning the steering wheel gently to move away – putting the full lock on will possibly cause you to scrape the wall.
A general rule of thumb, driving a van is best done at a more leisurely pace. So make sure you leave enough time for your journey!