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Van driving is slightly different from driving a regular car. This is partly because vans are considerably much larger and heavier than the normal car, with most vans having an extra weight (cargo) at the back. While the principles of driving might be the same, a van driver has to pay extra attention to the vehicle to avoid getting into a situation that could be avoided. He/she thus has to check oil, water, and windscreen levels before a journey, as well as the condition of the tires, tire pressure, and tire tread depth. Check out van finance if you are looking for a new van.
Vans aren’t usually as fast as normal cars are, one of the reasons it will take longer to cover the same distance as a car. While driving at lower speeds is considered safe, driving for extended periods only increases the risk of getting into an accident. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, especially if you are an attentive and careful driver. Here are a few tips to help you stay safe as a van driver.
- Choose A Comfortable Driving Position
The first and most noticeable difference between driving a regular car and a van is the driving position. The driver is usually in a more elevated position giving him/her an excellent view of the road ahead. They also do not have a rearview mirror, meaning more blind spots. Most vans will either have a steel cargo area behind the driver or just a panel with no windows. You thus need to identify the most comfortable driving position to reduce the blind spots as much as possible. This may require you to adjust the large door side mirrors to expand your field of vision, thus fewer chances of causing/getting into an accident.
- Familiarize Yourself With The Controls
This is particularly important when driving a van for the first time or trying out a new vehicle. You thus need to be able to operate the lights, indicators, wipers, and hazard warnings before starting the journey. You don’t want to start looking for the indicator controls while on the freeway or when trying to overtake a double-decker bus.
A van’s gear level is normally adjacent to the steering wheel next to the dashboard, which isn’t the same as the regular car. Some vans may also have an extra gear (sixth) for improved fuel efficiency too. You don’t want to discover this several dozen miles into your trip.
- Know The Dimensions Of Your Van
Most vans will be several inches longer and taller than your normal car. This means you need to be extra careful while driving, overtaking, and even introduces restrictions on how and where you can park. It would be best if you thus were cautious enough and know your van’s dimensions before attempting to drive into an underground car park. Some bridges, overhanging trees, and tunnels might be too low or narrow for the van to pass under/through.
- Plan Your Route Ahead Of Time
Many are times when you will be moving items from one place to another with the van. This might mean driving on roads you aren’t familiar with, or sometimes have to change the route to avoid traffic, etc. However, planning your route ahead of time helps prevent stresses and anxiety when/if things don’t go as expected, especially when driving during peak hours or a deserted road. You might also want to allow an hour or two for unforeseen emergencies and delays on the road.
- Ensure The Cargo Loaded Properly
How cargo is loaded on the van can/will make a huge difference in how the vehicle handles on the road. You thus might want to supervise the loading process to ensure it is in the centermost position and as low as possible for even weight distribution on the wheels. Any tall items will need to be anchored down properly for stability. You also need to make sure there’s minimal to zero load/cargo movement, as this could destabilize the van putting both you and other road users in danger.
- Secure The Cargo Doors
Make a habit of checking to see all cargo doors (both rear and side doors) are firmly locked before setting off. Doing so eliminates the risk of losing your cargo or even causing an accident, should the door swing wide open when on the move. Cases of pedestrians getting knocked by unsecured van doors aren’t anything new – you don’t want the same to happen on your watch. Ensuring every door is locked also reduces the risk of opportunistic thieves targeting your van.
- Beware Of Speed Limits
As mentioned before, speed limits for vans are a lot different from a normal car. You should thus be aware of these limits to stay safe on the road and avoid legal implications. A van has a 10mph slower speed limit as compared to cars. This is to say, the national speed limit for a van on a single carriageway translates to 50mph and 60mph on the dual carriageway.
- Increase Your Braking Distance
Vans are considerably much heavier than cars. Their heavier payload thus affects how fast the van will stop when you slam the brakes. That said, it would be advisable to increase your braking distance to allow for inconsistencies and the extra weight. Doing so reduces the chances of getting into an accident or hitting the car in front.
It would help if you also were particularly careful when driving on wet and icy roads. Strong winds can also cause taller vans to topple when at high speeds, which is another reason to slow down if the weather isn’t forgiving enough, just to be safe.