What you need to know about driving a van

Many people are now looking to drive a van for work purposes, especially with the increase in home delivery services. If you are thinking about this or are looking to hire or buy a van (or campervan) for personal reasons, then it is a great idea to take some professional help to ensure you are driving a van to the best of your abilities.

Below are some of the rules and regulations you need to be aware of when looking to drive a van or campervan in the UK.

Check your licence

If you have a standard car licence, driving a van up to 3.5 tons is legal. If you tow a trailer, the entire van and trailer must be at most 3.5 tons. You will need further training to drive a van up to 7.5 tons if you have passed your practical driving test after 1997. This will be classed as the C1 licence. There is a £1000 fine and penalty points if you do not have the correct licence for the van you are driving.

MOT, Road tax and Insurance

As with any vehicle on public roads, the van you are driving will need a valid MOT, road tax and insurance covering you to drive. Not having any of these will result in fines of up to £1000 for each offence and penalty points.

Speed limits

You may not be aware, but when driving a van or a van and a trailer, there are different speed limits that you must adhere to.

Type of van Built-up area    Single carriageway     Dual carriageway          Motorway

Van and trailer  30 mph             50 mph                         60 mph                         60 mph

Car-type van     30 mph             60 mph                         70 mph                         70 mph

Van                  30 mph             50 mph                         60 mph                          70 mph

Weight Limits

You must make sure that you know the weight of the goods you are transporting, as you can only drive a van, fully laden, at 3.5 ton. If you are towing a trailer, the entire van and trailer, loaded, must be at most 3.5 tons. These weights include the van itself, the driver and any passengers, the fuel, and the load you carry. You can check van weights at a local weighbridge, and most towns will have them. Overloaded vans will result in a £300 fine and a possible court appearance if the total weight exceeds those recommended for the vehicle’s axle.

Loading a van

Any goods you are transporting must be loaded and secured safely, as any movement in the van’s rear can result in an accident, especially when cornering or slowing down. 

You must use netting or straps to ensure your load is secure. It is best to load the heaviest items at the bottom and not overload the individual axles. Some vans do not have a bulkhead, which can cause severe issues. If the load is not secured and you stop suddenly, the load can end up in the van cabin.

Safety checks

It is the first responsibility of the driver to do all checks daily to make sure the van is legal on the road. It would help if you also did these checks on a regular basis:

Brakes – Make sure the van pulls up safely; if you can, check the condition on the pads and discs.

Horn – Always check the horn on the van before driving. Make sure you know where it is situated and that others can hear it.

Exterior lights and dashboard warning lights– With another person’s help, check to ensure all your lights are working, including headlights – both dipped and full beam, reverse, indicators, brakes, and side lights. If you do not have the help of another person, then check in an area where you can see the light’s reflection. Check all dashboard lights as well. These must be checked and fixed if you have any warning lights on. Remember that a vehicle may not pass an MOT if there are warning signs on the dashboard, such as ESP, Engine Management, SRS, or ABS. Any of these can result in penalties if pulled over.

Mirrors and windows – You must check all windows to make sure they are clear, are fitted correctly and have no obstruction to the screen with stickers or chips and cracks in the line of vision. Wing mirrors must be positioned best for your vision, not broken or cracked.

Seats and seatbelts – You must check that your seatbelts are working. If you expect to drive with a passenger, you must do this for all seatbelts. Your SRS light should not be present on the dashboard, as this will indicate that airbags could not be deployed properly in the event of an accident. Set the driver’s seat position best for your height and ensure you can reach all foot pedals easily.

Wipers and screen wash – Your windscreen must be kept clear at all times, so windscreen wipers must be in good condition, not perished and that they clear the screen. You must also make sure that you have plenty of wash fluid in the washer bottle for your journey, and you must stop and refill if you run out of screen wash during your trip. It is a good idea to have clean cloths to wipe the inside of the windows if they are misted with condensation.

Battery – It is wise to check your battery regularly as often in the winter the battery can reduce charge, especially so when using lights and heaters and even more so on short journeys.

Fluids and oil – You must check that you have the required amount of fluids the van may need. These include oil levels, brake fluid, power steering fluid and engine coolant. Modern vans will show a warning light on the dashboard if any of these are low. Make sure your fuel filler cap is secured, and check to ensure you can see no apparent fluid leaks under the van. Start the van and then check to see if oil leaks are evident. If you find a leak, it is wise to diagnose it as soon as possible.

Bodywork and doors – Walk around the van and check bodywork so all doors can open, close, and lock without issue. Make sure that all body panels are secured and not broken or have sharp edges and remember that you can be pulled over if you have any bodywork issues, which could result in penalties.

Exhaust – Check to ensure that your exhaust is not blowing out fumes from leaks in the system and that it is secure and will not fall off during your journey. If the exhaust is smoking, it could be an engine issue, so it’s important to get it sorted, as you will be pulled over if you have excessive smoke coming from the exhaust.

Tyres and wheels – The legal limit for tyres is 1.6mm. If any of your tyres are below this, they will be illegal and unsafe and can carry penalties of 3 points per tyre, They should be properly inflated and have no cuts or bulges, and all wheel nuts must be fully secure.

Loading – You must ensure that your load is secure and not overweight and that your van doors are lockable.

Towbars and tail lifts – If your van has a tow bar, you must check that it is secure and any electrics are working when towing a trailer. If you have a tail lift, it must be secure and free of damage, and any electrical components must be working.

Driving a van should not be too much of an issue for any confident car driver; it is mainly the spatial awareness and the lack of a rear-view mirror that concerns most people when considering driving a van. An advanced driver van training session will help build confidence for the bigger vehicle than you are used to. Contact us for more details, we have helped many van drivers be safe on the road, and although we do not supply a van to train in, if you do not have one of your own, then we can train you in a van that you hire.