If you’re hiring a van, you’ll feel either excited or scared by the prospect – there isn’t really a middle ground.
Whichever emotion you feel about getting behind the wheel of that machine, there are lots of things to bear in mind to ensure you remain safe.
The good news? It’s all common sense – once you know it. And that’s where we come in, with our top 11 tips for driving your hire van.
Check your driving licence
If you don’t have the right driving licence, you won’t be able to drive the van anyway, so make sure yours covers the type of vehicle you want to hire.
Know the spec of your van
Vans come in all shapes and sizes, which greatly impact the type of work they can undertake – and where you can take them.
Make sure you know the height and width of your van to ensure it’s suitable for any access points, roads, or tracks you’ll encounter on your journey.
Understand the speed limits of your vehicle
Lots of vans have built-in speed limiters, so make sure you know what yours is before you jump on board.
Similarly, newer vans often feel like they’re going slower than the speedometer suggests (a bit like most modern cars). Therefore, it’s easy to inadvertently speed, so make sure you keep an eye on that dial.
Remember the blind spots
Vans have more blind spots than cars, due to their size and shape. So, before you move off, make sure you’re familiar with all of the blind spots on the van you’ve hired and keep them in mind while driving.
Think vehicle length
The van you’ve hired is almost certainly going to be considerably longer than your car. That means you’ll need to take into account the length of the vehicle when pulling out of junctions and roundabouts.
It’s also an important consideration when performing three-point-turns, reversing, and driving around tight corners.
Get used to the controls
Before you pull away, familiarise yourself with the van’s controls. This is important, because they may be different to what you’re used to on your car.
For instance, the windscreen wipers might operate differently, or the gearbox could be 5- or 6-speed. You don’t want to be caught fumbling while driving.
It always takes time to get the driving position right in a new vehicle, and vans are no different.
Make sure you feel comfortable and in control of the steering wheel and gears before pulling off. You might find yourself sitting higher and further forward than normal, but that’s fine – if it feels right, go with it.
Consider the weather
This might sound odd, but you’ll need to take into account weather conditions before setting off in a van.
For example, if you’re hiring a high-sided van, it may feel a little unstable in high winds. Therefore, if there’s a storm incoming, or you just don’t feel happy about the conditions, it’s always safer to wait until things clear up.
Understand your load
Your load will have a considerable impact on the van’s driving experience.
A fully loaded van will of course be heavier, which means its stopping distance will be longer. It may also feel a little slower or not be quite as responsive as when you first picked it up.
Lastly, even if everything’s tightly packed, you do need to be mindful of any valuable possessions which could break free of their packaging or harness. Take it easy.
Plan your route
Planning your route with a sat nav or smartphones can help you to find the shortest route, but they don’t always take into account the vehicle you’re driving. If you’re new to van driving you may want to think about avoiding narrow lanes, significant road works, or rural roads that are in bad condition.
If you plan your journey upfront it should help you to avoid situations when you get nervous or confused at unusual junctions with more than one possible road to follow.
Take a friend
One of the best things you can do for any van trip is take a friend. They’ll be able to help with reversing, parking, and loading, but they’ll add to the adventure of it all, too!
If you were feeling a little unsure about driving a hired van for the first time, we’ve hopefully quelled those fears a little. However, if you’ve still got questions or concerns, just get in touch with the friendly van hire team at Squab and ask away!