How to drive a van safely

How to drive a van safely

Many car drivers have told us about their experience of driving vans for the first time and how  driving a van is, in some ways, very different to driving a car.

As a response, we have put together this short guide. We hope motorists who are driving a van for the first time will find it valuable, and that it will be a welcome reminder for those who have not driven a van for a while.


When you arrive to pick up your vehicle you will be provided with a set of keys and shown to the vehicle allocated to you. One of our advisers will explain the operation of the vehicle, identify the controls, advise you on the location and operation of the petrol cap and which type of fuel is appropriate for your vehicle. Your adviser will be happy to answer any questions you may have about operating the vehicle safely and appropriately.

In order to prepare for driving your hired van we ask that you consider the following:

  • Seat belts – you and any passengers must wear the seatbelts provided at all times while the vehicle is in motion;
  • Mirrors – the position of the rear view mirrors and wing mirrors must be adjusted appropriately to meet the needs of each new driver;
  • Seats – the distance between the seats and the pedals must allow the driver to have full control of the pedals. Your advisor will demonstrate for you how to adjust the seat correctly. Where seats have a head restraint they are provided for your personal safety and should be adjusted so that they provide adequate protection in the event of a collision;
  • Footwear – wearing certain types of footwear or wearing no footwear at all, may interfere with your ability to operate the vehicle correctly. In order to ensure the safety of everyone in the vehicle, and other road users, we insist that you wear appropriate footwear at all times while driving the vehicle;

Operating the vehicle

It is very important that you become familiar with the operation of the vehicle before leaving the depot. Once you set off you should adapt your driving style to suit weather conditions and whether you are driving during the day or at night.

  • If you have no experience of driving vans then we encourage you to briefly drive the vehicle in the immediate vicinity of the depot, where there is no traffic, in order to ensure that you are able to operate the vehicle confidently. In the event of any problems arising one of our advisers will be happy to help;
  • Before setting off on each journey you must make sure that all side and rear doors are closed and locked. Furthermore, if you have to leave the vehicle for any reason please ensure that it is locked up securely;
  • The fact that you are driving an unfamiliar vehicle, possibly in an area that you don’t know very well, means that it may take you longer to reach your destination. Take this into account when you plan your journey and give yourself enough time to get to your destination. That way you will feel less pressured, less distracted and you are more likely to arrive on time;
  • Be aware of the position of your vehicle with regard to other road users at all times. Use your elevated driving position to anticipate the road ahead more effectively and keep an appropriate distance between you and the driver in front of you. Also, be aware that the vehicle may have blind spots which means that you should check your external mirrors (and then look to your right, where appropriate, before changing lanes and when overtaking;
  • Remember, that heavily laden vehicles can perform very differently to cars. This is especially true in relation to stopping distances and manoeuvring vans around tighter bends. Also bear in mind that reversing can be very different – the van maybe longer than you are used to and there may be blind spots at the rear of the vehicle;

It is important that you follow the advice that we have provided for you.

If you do, you will be are able to drive safely and will be able to operate the vehicle effectively, and appropriately, while taking into the account the needs and requirements of passengers and other road users at all times.

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