Van driving tips for new van drivers

White van with mountain in background

March 29, 2022

When you’ve only ever driven a car, it’s understandable to feel a little apprehensive at the prospect of driving a van for the very first time.

However, “forewarned is forearmed” as they say, so knowing what to expect including the different laws surrounding driving and parking a van on UK roads, and how a van’s running costs can differ to a car’s, will help to ensure you’re all geared up to take on this new driving challenge with increased confidence.

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10 driving tips for new van drivers

1. Negotiating driving a van without a rear-view mirror

The number one reason most car drivers are worried about driving a van for the first time is the additional size of a van and not having a rear-view mirror to rely on.

However, to compensate for this, vans typically have much larger wing mirrors and higher seats than cars, both of which give you a much better view than a standard car seat or wing mirrors.

Until you feel confident about solely relying on your wing mirrors, you should reverse as slowly as possible and perhaps toot your horn if you’re worried a pedestrian may be in your blind spot.

For safety, make sure you take time to adjust your seat, steering wheel position and wing mirrors before setting off.

If you don’t feel confident reversing without a rear-view mirror and your van doesn’t have a reverse camera fitted, you should consider buying and installing one.

Read more: The best reversing cameras

2. Check your van Driving Licence category

You’ll be able to drive most small vans up to a certain weight under a standard UK Driving Licence but larger vans can require special Driving Licence permissions.

What type of van you can drive depends on when you passed your driving test and what categories are listed as permitted on your Driving Licence.

If you passed your test prior to 1 January 1997, you are entitled to drive a van and trailer with a combined maximum authorised mass (MAM) up to 8,250kg. For example, this permits you to drive a 7.4 tonne van with a trailer weighing up to 3,500kg.

However, if you passed  your driving test after 1 January 1997 then you are restricted to driving a van with a MAM up to 3,500kg and a trailer weighing no more than 750kg MAM - so a combined weight of 4,250kg. This means that if you want to drive a van with a higher MAM and/or trailer, you will have to take additional driving tests.

If you haven’t got your Driving Licence to hand, you can find out what van weights and sizes you are permitted to drive by using the gov.uk’s Driving Licence viewing tool.

You should not attempt to drive or tow anything exceeding the limits shown on your Driving Licence as you could receive 6 penalty points, a £1,000 fine or a driving ban.

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3. Adhere to van speed restrictions

A ‘car derived van’ (CDV) that weighs no more than 2 tonnes when fully loaded will have the same speed restrictions as a normal car.

However, all other light commercial (goods) vehicles/vans with a maximum laden weight up to 7.5 tonnes have the following speed restrictions:

  • Single carriageways - 50mph
  • Dual carriageways - 60mph
  • Motorways - 70mph

And vans with a maximum laden weight in excess of 7.5 tonnes in England and Wales have the following speed restrictions:

  • Single carriageways - 50mph
  • Dual carriageways - 60mph
  • Motorways - 60mph

Make sure you stick to the speed limits to avoid penalty points and fines.

4. Be aware of van parking regulations UK

In addition to struggling to park a bigger and bulkier van with no rearview mirror, there are also rules about where you are permitted to park commercial vehicles in the UK.

You cannot park a van on:

  • double yellow lines at any time or single yellow lines during the times specified on the nearby signs
  • pedestrian crossings, taxi bays, school entrances, cycle lanes or anywhere else that may cause an issue for others
  • Specially reserved and marked out spaces for disabled drivers, motorcycles, residents or customers

5. Consider a van’s tax costs

Van Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) is based on a van’s CO2 emissions, its size and the date a van was first registered.

The flat VED rate for vans that includes almost all light commercial vehicles weighing no more than 3,500kg in the 2021/2022 tax year is £275 for 12 months if you pay your tax in a lump sum; you will pay slightly more if you choose to pay by direct debit monthly instalments.

In addition to the ‘flat rate’, your van will fall into a ‘tax class’ depending on its size and its first registration date that can increase the VED payable.

Read more: Van road tax guide - everything you need to know about van tax

6. Get the right van Insurance

Insurance for van driver jobs is different to standard car insurance and the type of van insurance you need will depend on the type of employed or self-employed van driver work you undertake - i.e. whether you’re part of an employed driving fleet or a self-employed courier driver.

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A full list of the different van insurance policies you can choose from can be found on our van insurance page.

You might like: Is my van insured? How to check if your van has the right insurance

7. Consider a van’s running costs

Long distance van driving jobs or delivery van driving jobs that are in congested city centres can be very costly in the current climate with spiralling fuel costs and the introduction of new city centre Clean Air Zone (CAZ) charges in many city centres up and down the country.

If diesel costs or congestion charges are eating away at your profits because you regularly drive long distances or through Clean Air Zone classes C and D, you might want to consider buying or leasing an electric van to potentially save hundreds of pounds on your van’s running costs.

Read more: Pros and cons of electric vans and Electric hybrid van insurance explained

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8. Watch out for low bridges and narrow roads!

Never play “Russian roulette” when driving a van and make sure you can safely drive your van under a low bridge without taking the roof off or scraping it on a wall or barrier on a particularly narrow road. It goes without saying that when you first start to drive a van you should always take your time and not rush, especially on unfamiliar routes in adverse weather conditions.

9. Be extra careful with heavy loads

Try to ensure that you do not breach weight restrictions (as per your category permissions on your Driving Licence), that you secure heavy cargo, take it easy driving around corners and never drive too close to the vehicle in front of you. Driving with a heavy load makes it much more difficult to control a vehicle and the additional weight will mean longer [safer] stopping distances are required.

10. Keep your van secure

Vans are much more susceptible to being stolen or broken into so making sure you have the best van security locks and theft deterrents is essential if you regularly park your van in a high-crime rate public area.

Read more: A guide to improving your van’s security

Just bought or leased your first van?

Find cheap van insurance quotes with Bobatoo

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