Driving a fully loaded 3.5 ton van is significantly different to driving a car or motorcycle. The additional weight increases stopping distance and you’ll take longer to accelerate. Your larger van will take up more space on the road and present you with blind spots that other motorists may not be aware of.
Since it’s not easy to get motorists to change their driving habits, we’ve put together some tips to help you while you’re out in your van.
You should anticipate the road ahead, and how other drivers may act. Be aware that cars will try to jump in front of your van at junctions, so plan to brake a little earlier than usual. You will also need to know how much space you need when you pull out from a junction, as you’ll accelerate slower than you might expect if you are at maximum load capacity. This can also apply to roundabouts when it can be hard to see cars coming.
You’ll find cornering a little different with a fully loaded large van. Turning sharply at speed can shift your load and potentially damage your cargo. It can also redistribute the weight in the back of your van, which can lead to load balancing issues during your journey. It is best to take corners a little wide, giving you plenty of room to manoeuvre. Keep your speed down and try to turn into the corner smoothly to keep your van steady. Staying wide will also give you a better view of the road ahead, allowing you to make decisions earlier.
By this, we mean trying to maintain speed and momentum while driving. Slow down in plenty of time if there’s traffic ahead, or you are approaching a tight corner, so that you don’t have to brake quickly. If you can smoothly reduce speed by the correct amount, you will be able to pull away again without having to stop suddenly. This sort of driving can save you a lot of money of fuel and cut out a lot of stress on the engine.
One Thing at a Time
Advanced driving training organisations for vans and other vehicles use a system of control called IPSGA. It stands for Information, Position, Speed, Gear, Accelerate. There’s a lot more detail to it than what we are going to into here, but essentially the point is to do one step at a time. Assess the hazard, so you can get in the right position. Slow to an acceptable speed, change gear, and then accelerate once you are clear. Trying to do it all at once can cause issues, such as not slowing enough, taking the corner too sharply, or not seeing a hazard in time.
Use Your Driving Aids
Stabilisation features help with crosswinds and for keeping traction on icy or wet surfaces. Many vans will also detect if you are going too fast into a corner and will apply brakes or adjust throttle automatically to compensate.
These can all help inform and assist you as you drive your van.
Keep your van lease well-maintained, so that it is ready to handle whatever job you give it. Correct tyre pressures and tracking will help with the van’s handling, while looking after your brakes will ensure you can stop when you have to, even when fully loaded. It may seem obvious, but when you are pushing the limits of your van’s capabilities, you need it running to its full potential.