With only a regular driving licence needed to drive a vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes, climbing behind the wheel of an LCV for the first time can be a daunting proposition for those who have only previously driven cars and have no specialist training.
Many first time van drivers could use some advice when moving to a van, including how to deal with a relative lack of rear visibility and manoeuvring with the vehicle’s extra size and weight, and now LeaseVan has compiled a list of handy tips to get them off to a safe start.
· Check tyre pressure. This is important, especially with a large, heavy load to carry. Before heading off, ensure the tyres are filled up to the correct pressure. If the journey is long, regularly check the tyres during breaks to ensure they remain adequate for the duration of the journey.
· Tie heavy loads down. Chances are that if a van is being used it will have a heavy or large load. Tie all valuables down to avoid damage and to avoid any danger to passengers if there is a sudden stop or a collision.
· Adjust. Once behind the wheel, take a minute to take in the surroundings and adjust the seat so that the steering wheel, gear stick, clutch, brake and accelerator are ideally positioned. With no rear-view window, it’s important to adjust the large wing mirrors so that as much as possible of the road behind can be seen.
· Familiarise. Familiarise yourself with all the functions in the vehicle – remember to locate the indicators, headlights, hazards, wipers, fuel cap and bonnet so there will be no confusion when you need to use them.
· Know the route. Study the route before leaving and stay away from treacherous paths and low bridges. Depending on the size of the vehicle, they may be difficult or near impossible to get through. Get the satnav ready, research well and leave in plenty of time.
· Speed. Be aware of the speed limits for vans and stick to them. For built-up areas it is 30mph, on single carriageways 50mph, on dual carriageways 60mph and on motorways 70mph.
· Take care while overtaking. Remember that vans have less visibility and are bigger and slower than cars. With this in mind, overtaking is more dangerous and should be done with caution. Always ensure manoeuvres are made with complete confidence, and that there is good visibility in the large side mirrors before going ahead. Don’t make any rash moves.
· Parking. It really depends on the size, weight and visibility when parking a van. The ideal situation isn’t always possible, but try to pick a large space away from other vehicles or at the end of a line. Once a space is chosen, make sure the area you are reversing into is clear. Use a passenger to guide you, or failing that a friendly passer-by. If alone, take it slow and steady, and check mirrors regularly. That way, if the van comes into contact with a bollard or another vehicle there will be minimum damage.
· Know the dimensions. Knowing the dimensions of your van will help when it comes to scoping out parking spaces. Many multi-storey car parks have height restrictions, and normal car parking spaces may not fit larger vans. Leave a wide berth between the van and other vehicles to ensure the doors can be opened without damaging surrounding vehicles.
· Be nice. Be courteous. Let people join the motorway and don’t pull out on others. Friendly driving promotes better relationships with other road users and encourages safety.
“People often think because they’ve had years behind the wheel of a car that they will get to grips with van driving straight away, but they have come to rely on having the rear-view window and good visibility and, without it, it’s a whole different deal,” a spokesperson for LeaseVan said.