Looking to move house in the coming weeks or months? Or perhaps you are devising a grand plan for the mother of all spring cleans? Either way you could probably do with a sizeable vehicle to help you transport furniture or any unwanted goods. Hiring a van is a great alternative to going down the sometimes expensive removal company route, although many people can be put off by the prospect of having to drive such a large vehicle themselves. In truth, however, anyone can drive a van – and with the help of our practical tips for driving a van, you’ll soon be hitting the road in confidence with Europcar.
Before driving off
One of the most unnerving aspects of driving a van for the first time is the lack of a rear view. But fear not, as your higher vantage point and large wing mirrors more than compensate. The height of your vehicle provides you with a greater overview of the road, enabling you to plan ahead and spot any potential hazards. You will also rely heavily on your wing mirrors, aka your new best friends, so take time to ensure they are adjusted in a way that gives you a clear view on both sides.
Here are some other basic safety factors to consider prior to setting off in your hire van:
- Make sure you adjust your seat and head restraint to a comfortable height and familiarise yourself with your dashboard, paying particular attention to where your indicators, headlights and wiper switches are located.
- Examine your gearbox before setting off, as most vans have six gears as opposed to the standard five gear system utilised by most cars. The extra gear is nothing to fear however and should be used on the motorway in order to save fuel whilst travelling at higher speeds.
- If you intend to pack your van with heavy items, then always ensure it is loaded properly in order to avoid loose objects slamming around and causing a distraction during your drive.
Relax and take your time
Larger vehicles need more time to stop and turn, so keep the following tips mind to ensure your journey is as smooth as possible:
- Take extra caution when approaching low hanging bridges or when entering car parks, as it can be easy to misjudge the height of your vehicle.
- Decrease your speed when turning sharp corners and bends, as taller vehicles can tip over more easily – particularly if they are carrying an uneven load in the back. Always double check your wing mirrors prior to changing lanes.
- Only a fool breaks the four second rule: The bigger the van, the longer it takes for it to come to a full stop. To ensure you leave plenty of space between you and other vehicles, try sticking to the four second rule: Pick an object which is level with the car in front of you, such as a traffic sign, and count 1,001 – 1,002 – 1,003 – 1,004. If the front of your vehicle passes that object before you reach 1,004, then you are following the car in front of you too closely and should reduce your speed accordingly.
The art of parking
Let’s be honest, we’ve all mucked up a parallel park once or twice. And if it just so happens to take place in front of onlookers, then it can be quite a mortifying experience. So naturally, the thought of parking a van may well fill you with even more dread. But relax, dear novice – it’s really not that bad.
Without rear mirrors or windows, you’ll have to rely on your wing mirrors and the old fashioned ‘head out the window’ manoeuvre. Aside from that, the same basic parking rules apply: slow and steady wins the race. Give yourself plenty of time and don’t be afraid to get out of the van to double check your angles or ask someone to guide you in.
If you’re parking in a designated parking bay then try reversing in whenever possible, as this will give you a better overview of your surroundings when pulling away.