Driving a Hire Van
Modern vans of the type that all good hire companies rent out, are fairly easy to drive as they incorporate modern car technology, powerful modern diesel engines (at least in the larger vans) and things such as power steering, anti lock braking systems, etc. are fairly standard across most makes and models. Making them much easier to drive than those from 20 or even 10 odd years ago. In addition most vans come with large wing mirrors, to provide good visibility. So don't be put off renting a van by the thought of struggling to drive one.
However it must be emphazied that you are not driving a car (although a combo/economy van could be considered to handle like one), and there are a few key differences to be aware of to make sure your journey is as safe as possible.
- No rear view mirror, this means your rear visibilty is considerably restricted. And it may be a good idea to get somebody to help you reverse.
- Blind spots are larger, and potentially more dangerous, particuarly the left hand side under the passenger's door so watch out for cyclists creeping up on the inside on you at traffic lights. However most hire vans have additional "blind spot mirrors" to help you.
- A fully loaded hire van will behave very differently than the same one empty. Whilst an empty van may well stop as quick as or even quicker than a car (especially the larger 6 wheeler vans - double rear wheels). The same van when loaded will have a considerably greater stopping distance and much worse acceleration.
- Your van will be both wider and longer than the car you are used to driving, and less manouverable as a result. Also the C.O.G. (center of gravity) of a van is higher so they are more inclined to topple or roll, especially when badly loaded. So take corners slowly and secure your load well and evenly.
- The height of the van may be a problem, make sure you know the height of your van and check it against any warning signs on low bridges, barriers, petrol stations, etc. or you may end up with an expensive insurance claim.
Some further things to consider:
If you are inexperienced van driver then don't always look for the cheapest
you may be better of hiring a more expensive model that is easier to drive.
You will have a higher vantage point when driving, so use it to see what is happening further in front.
Criminals like to target vans no matter what is inside, so be careful where you park it, always remember to lock it, and try to avoid leaving it unattended - in particular when it's loaded as the external apperance of the van (lower rear axles) can indicate to car thiefs that it has a full cargo.
But possibly most importantly: Take it slow and easy, use your mirrors as much as possible, that way even if there is an accident there won't be shouldn't be much damage, and pay more attention to what is happening further in front. And don't be afraid to get out and have a look when you are parking or reversing the van.