For first time van drivers, it can be tricky getting to grips with a van, as well as its speed limits, paring and van driving in general. How many hours do you spend behind the wheel of your van? Are you aware that the amount of driving that you do is governed by law on van driving hours? We’ve covered lots of tips and tricks for you, especially some tips for first time van drivers, and answering that all important question “how long can I drive a van for?”.
Know your van
The legal hours for driving a van depend on the weight of the vehicle, the type of work you do, and whether you drive in the UK or in Europe. Here are some general rules for driving a van in the UK, according to the GOV website.
If your van weighs up to 3.5 tonnes, you can drive for up to 10 hours in a day and be on duty for up to 11 hours in a day, according to WhatCar?. You must record your hours on a weekly record sheet or on a tachograph.
If your van weighs more than 3.5 tonnes or you tow a trailer, you may have to follow the EU rules on driving hours, which are more strict. You can drive for up to 9 hours in a day (or 10 hours twice a week) and be on duty for up to 13 hours in a day, says Defensive Drive CPC. You must also take breaks and rest periods according to the EU rules. You must use a tachograph to record your driving time.
If you drive a bus or coach, you can drive for up to 10 hours in a day, but you must also take breaks that add up to at least 45 minutes. You must use a tachograph to record your driving time.
There are some exemptions and variations to these rules depending on the type of work you do, the vehicle you use, and the situation you are in. You can find more details on the GOV.UK website. You should always check the rules before you start driving and follow them to ensure your safety and compliance.
Load Your Van Carefully
Van drivers more than any other driver tend to know how important it can be to load your van the carefully and the best you can.
Load large and heavy items first, such as furniture and appliances, and distribute them evenly across the floor of the van. This will help you use the space efficiently and lower the centre of gravity of the load, says Any Van.
Load items in rows from the back to the front of the van, and fill any gaps with smaller items. This will help you prevent items from moving around or falling over during transit, always making sure you have a clear view through your rear view mirror.
Secure your items with straps, ropes, or bungee cords to keep them in place. You can also use blankets, bubble wrap, or cardboard to protect fragile or sharp items from damage.
Create a barrier between you and your load with a mesh, netting, or plywood. This will protect you from any items that might shift or fly towards you in case of sudden braking or collision.
Do not overload your van or exceed its weight capacity. This can affect the handling and performance of the van and increase the risk of accidents, says Admiral. You can check the weight capacity of your van on its vehicle identification number (VIN) plate.
Use proper lifting techniques when loading and unloading your van. Keep your back straight, bend your knees, and lift with your legs. Avoid twisting your body or reaching over your head. Get help from someone else if the item is too heavy or awkward to lift by yourself.
Check your insurance cover
It’s important to check your insurance cover when you’re a van driver because:
According to Money Supermarket, you need to have at least third-party cover to drive legally on UK roads. This will cover the cost of any losses or damage you cause to other people and their property while driving.
You may need to have business or commercial van insurance if you use your van for work, especially if you haul goods or passengers, cross state lines, or have a specific type of van. This will cover you for the risks and liabilities associated with your business activities, says the Insurance Navy.
You may want to have fully comprehensive van insurance to cover your own van if it’s damaged or stolen, as well as other benefits such as windscreen cover, breakdown cover, or legal assistance.
You may need to have additional cover for specific features or needs, such as towing a trailer, carrying tools or equipment, or modifying your van. This will ensure you have adequate protection and avoid invalidating your policy, says Swiftcover.
You can always compare van insurance quotes too from different providers to find the best deal for your needs and budget. You can also save money by increasing your voluntary excess, building up your no claims bonus, or improving your van security.
Know your limits
It is important to know your limits as a van driver because there are different rules and regulations that apply to vans compared to cars. For example, vans have lower speed limits on some roads than other drivers, and may not be sticking to the national speed limit sign, weight limits on how much they can carry, and restrictions on who can drive them depending on the licence category.
Knowing your limits as a van driver can help you avoid fines, penalty points, invalid insurance, breakdowns, accidents, and injuries. It can also help you drive more safely, efficiently, and legally, according to Van Monkey.
Some of the things you should know if you’re in the driving seat of a van:
Your van’s gross vehicle weight (GVW) or maximum authorised mass (MAM), which is the maximum weight that your van is legally allowed to weigh when loaded. You can find this on your van’s vehicle identification number (VIN) plate or in the owner’s manual.
Your van’s unladen weight or kerb weight, which is the weight of your van when it is empty but fuelled. Van Monkey says that this will vary depending on the model and specification of your van.
Your van’s speed limits, which are lower than cars on some roads. Typically, vans travel 10mph less than cars on main roads but can travel 30mph in towns and cities which is usually the same as a car. On single carriageways vans are usually limited to 50mph and 60mph on dual carriageways. On motorways vans are typically allowed to go 70mph, the same as a car. However, these may vary depending on the type and size of your van and whether you are towing a trailer.
Your driving hours, which are regulated by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) if you drive a van for work purposes. You must follow the rules on drivers’ hours and tachographs if your vehicle falls under EU or GB domestic rules. You should also take regular breaks and rest periods to avoid fatigue and stay alert.
Your van maintenance, which is essential for keeping your vehicle in good condition and roadworthy. You need to get an MOT for your van every year when it reaches 3 years old and tax and insure your van according to the law1. You should also check your tyres, brakes, lights, oil, water, and fuel regularly and before any long journeys.
There are some car park limits that you should be aware of as a van driver. These may vary depending on the type, size, and weight of your van, as well as the location and rules of the car park. The good news is that, in most cases, you can park your van as you would park a car. You just need to make sure you park legally.
All in all, driving a van is similar to driving a normal car. It’s all about holding the steering wheel, checking your blind spots, getting your seat position right and displaying all of those amazing existing driving habits that you have.