About to drive a van for the first time? It can be a little daunting. Even if you’ve had your licence for many years, a van is much bigger and heavier than the compact 3-door car you drive to and from work each day – so you’re bound to feel apprehensive. But trust us, it’s a lot easier than you think.
Here we offer a few tips on how to drive a van safely and successfully from A to B.
1. Get to know the controls
Before setting out on your first journey, try to familiarise yourself with the controls.
Every vehicle is different. Therefore, it’s worth sitting in the driver’s seat and figuring out exactly how to use the main safety features – such as the headlights, windscreen wipers and air conditioning.
It’s also important to bear in mind, vans typically have six gears (compared to the five gears found in a car). There’s no need to worry about this extra gear. In fact, it should only ever be used if you’re driving on a motorway. But to put your mind at ease, it may be worth taking the van out for a quick test drive.
2. Watch your speed
If driving a van, the UK speed limits differ slightly. You’re still allowed to do 30mph (miles per hour) in built-up residential areas and 70mph on motorways. But you can only reach a maximum of 50mph on a single carriageway and 60mph on a dual carriageway,
These restrictions are for the safety of you and other motorists. After all, you’re driving a large vehicle. It’s vital that you drive very carefully and monitor your speed at all times. You should also leave more space for braking than you would in a conventional car.
3. Load the van carefully
Putting too much in the back of your van can be dangerous. So, be sure to check the van’s maximum payload and ensure all items are spread evenly across the base and secured in place.
Also, keep in mind, the weight of your load can have a huge impact on the van’s performance. For example, at just 30mph, a heavily-loaded van can take an extra two metres to come to a stop (compared to the same van when empty). It’s always a good idea to err on the side of caution and, if you’re piled up with lots of hefty items, allow more space between you and the vehicle in front.
4. Be aware of your size
Small vans shouldn’t cause any issues height-wise. But, if you’re driving a van that is around two metres tall or more, it may be difficult to pass under low-hanging bridges and obstacles. You’ll also need to take extra care when turning corners. The bigger the van, the more space you will require.
Forward observation is important here. As you approach an obstacle (i.e. a turn in the road, bridge etc.) slow down and consider it carefully. Is it safe for you to proceed? If you’re not sure, perhaps find an alternative route or ask a passenger to step out of the vehicle and guide you, as necessary.
5. Remember your blind spot
This is one of the main differences between a van and a car. Whilst driving a van, your rear-quarter and over-the-shoulder view will be significantly reduced. Large vans don’t even have a centre rear-view mirror and rely solely on their large wing mirrors instead. Therefore, if a small car or bike is following closely behind, it’s likely to be obscured and completely out of your eye line.
It’s crucial that you’re aware of this at all times and take extra caution when merging into new lanes.
Start driving your hire van today
Driving a van for the first time can feel a little strange. Of course, it’s a big vehicle and it may take you a while to get used to the handling and manoeuvring. But, we promise, it isn’t difficult – and you certainly shouldn’t let your nerves put you off using our van hire service in St Helens.
Nine times out of ten, hiring a self-drive van is the most cost-effective and convenient option. You just need to be sensible whilst on the road. If it’s your first time, our team can provide a comprehensive demonstration of the vehicle and show you how everything works – before they hand over the keys – and they will happily answer your questions and ease any of your concerns.