6 Top Tips For Safe Van Driving

Driving a van, especially for the first time, can be an intimidating experience. With a standard driving license, you're able to drive any van up to 3.5 tonnes without needing to take any additional tests. Of course, driving a van isn't too dissimilar to being behind the wheel of a car, but there are some key points that you should take into account for a safe journey in a LCV (Light Commercial Vehicle).

It's always a good idea to get to know your van including its length and height so that you can perform reversing and turning maneouvres much easier as well as navigate bridges or height-restricted car parks. If you don't think you can fit, it's not worth the risk.

1. PERFORM PRE-JOURNEY CHECKS

This is an important thing to do whatever vehicle you're driving, but before each journey check the oil, water, tyres, lights, fuel and windscreen washer fluid. If you're driving a van it's normally your business vehicle, or you're performing an activity like moving house or going to the dump and you don't want to break down because of a simple check you could've done in five minutes.

2. SET UP THE PERFECT DRIVING POSITION

Travelling in a van all day can be uncomfortable, so it's in your best interests to find a driving position that's not going to leave you with a bad back at the end of the day. You also need to set your wing mirrors up to see as much of the road as possible - most vans don't have a rearview mirror, so they are solely reliant on the door mirrors to safely switch lanes and park.

3. SMART LOADING

Learning how to load a van is something that comes with experience. Essentially, you want anything heavy and solid to be put down first and spread evenly across the base - there's no point putting a box of pillows down and then a washing machine on top! Trying to distribute the weight evenly will help make the van more stable and easier to drive. You also need to think about securing your cargo appropriately using netting and straps to stop it from falling over and moving around.

4. PLAN YOUR JOURNEY

Uknown territories in an unknown vehicle are a major stress point. It's always best to try and familiarise yourself with a route, even if you only know the basics (e.g. Junction 30 of the M4). Make sure you give yourself extra time so that you don't start worrying about being delayed by traffic or going wrong at some point.

5. INCREASE YOUR BRAKING DISTANCES

Even an empty van has a bigger braking distance than a car because it is heavier. When you start to load it with cargo your van gets even heavier which increases the breaking distances further. To compensate for this, you should leave plenty of space between your van and the vehicle in front.

6. BE CAUTIOUS WHEN PARKING

For some people, parking comes naturally; for others, it's more of a chore that is avoided at all costs. Parking a van requires extra levels of skill because they have fewer mirrors and are typically longer than most cars. Remember to take it slow and steady and there's no harm in getting your passenger to jump out and give you guidance (if you're lucky enough to have a passenger).

If you're really nervous about getting behind the wheel of a van, the best thing to do is to pretend you're sitting your driving test - keep a steady pace, use early indicator signals and check your mirrors frequently. Surprisingly, driving a van can be an enjoyable experience with its raised ride height and commanding driving position.