A Van Driver’s Safety Handbook

Check List

The Driver is personally liable for each of the following if stopped by the Police, so check before you begin your journey.

  1. Is the Road Fund Licence visible and valid?
  2. Are lights working?
  3. Do the tyres appear to be in good condition and are they inflated to correct pressure?
  4. Is the vehicle likely to be over the gross vehicle weight?
  5. If carrying an external load, is it securely fixed?

Arrange for faults/deficiencies in any of the above, to be rectified before you go out on the road.

You should consider these items especially if you are going on a long journey:

  1. Oil
  2. Coolant
  3. Fuel
  4. Screen wash
  5. Brake / clutch fluid
  6. Jack (brace + handle)
  7. Mirrors
  8. Spare tyre

General Driving Information


  1. Many drivers don’t appreciate the importance of proper use of brakes and the effect they have not only on the speed of the vehicle but on its stability and balance.
  2. Van brakes are designed to cope with a full load. This makes them a little too powerful for the situation when the vehicle is empty, especially in damp or slippery conditions.
  3. You should do a static brake test before moving off and then test them again just after you have moved off (especially after a vehicle has been standing for a while).

Rules and Techniques for Braking

  1. Brake firmly only when travelling in a straight line.
  2. Read traffic situations carefully – ease off prior to the possible need to brake e.g. approaching green traffic lights.
  3. Brake in plenty of time avoiding harsh or sudden breaking.
  4. Vary brake pressure according to the surface you are travelling on.
  5. Both hands should be holding the steering wheel.
  6. Braking in a vehicle at or near its maximum weight always requires more care.
  7. Do not get too close to the vehicle in front.
  8. When descending steep winding hills brake firmly on straight and ease off on the bends. Keep your speed in check with your brakes, but be prepared to engage a lower gear before descending.
  9. Avoid riding the brakes as this can cause “glazing” causing sudden loss of braking efficiency.


  1. Hands should be placed at ten to two position.
  2. Don’t let the wheel spin back – feed it through the hands.
  3. Gear changes should be made whilst travelling straight.
  4. On slippery surface – delicate and gentle movements.

Following Distances

  1. Reasonable distance from vehicle in front – 2 second rule.
  2. Reaction time has to be added to all braking distances.
  3. In towns under 30mph it is possible to leave 1 second.
  4. When stationary leave 6 feet between you and vehicle in front.

Observation and Anticipation

  1. Observation, together with concentration are the two skills that raise a driver above the normal. With observation you can anticipate the actions of other road users and become much earlier with your braking. You may find that in a lot of instances you will only need to decelerate and not brake at all.
  2. One way you can improve your observation and concentration is to talk to yourself about the road situation ahead.

Instruction Manual

Sit down with the manual and familiarise yourself with the checks that need to be made e.g. Engine oil, coolant, windscreen washer bottle, tyre pressures (including spare).

Layout of Vehicle

Get to know the layout of the vehicle.

Pre-driving checks

  1. Make sure doors open and close securely.
  2. Is there a first aid kit and fire extinguisher?
  3. Visual check for external damage.

Seat and Visibility

  1. Adjust the seat and head restraints for comfort and access to controls.
  2. Wear sensible footwear that allows the correct use the pedal controls.
  3. Door/wing mirrors assume greater importance.
  4. Don’t rely on mirrors to reverse in a confined space or where visibility is restricted – get assistance form someone who knows what they are doing . If on your own get out and walk around vehicle first.
  5. Check for obstructions on the ground (and at roof level), for pedestrians and children playing.


  1. Know the height of your vehicle (including roof rack) – this helps when confronted with car park height bars.
  2. Take extra caution when approaching bridges and canopies and when driving under overhanging trees. Some petrol stations may not cater for the size of your vehicle.

Width of Vehicle

  1. Foliage, traffic signs and shop awnings can present a hazard.
  2. Get used to using you mirror on the near side to judge the distance from obstruction on the near side. Always check it before moving off.

Length of Vehicle

On left hand turns keep to the crown of the read checking your near side mirror, as you turn, for cyclists, etc., moving up the inside of you.

Driving With A Load Up

  1. The vehicle is slower to respond to acceleration (greater care must be taken with overtakes).
  2. You need to change gear more frequently to obtain maximum response from the engine.
  3. Hill starts require more care and lower gear is needed on them.
  4. On motorways and dual carriageways do not get caught in the offside lane on a rising gradient (lose momentum quickly).
  5. Cornering presents its own problems – centre of gravity is quite high and a full load does not help the situation – be prepared for roll corners.
  6. Excessive zeal on corner at worst it can lead to loss of control in wet or icy

Fitness of the Driver

  1. The vehicle may be fit to drive but, equally important, so must the driver.
  2. He/She should not be tired or rushed.
  3. Allow plenty of time for the journey – better to arrive earlier than expected after a leisurely drive.
  4. If your health is suffering for any reason don’t allow the pressures of completing the journey to compromise safety in any way.
  5. Work out a route before you start and take map books with you.

Motorway Driving

  1. Motorway driving requires a high level of concentration – things happen very quickly on them.
  2. Be careful with overtakes as even a slight gradient can leave you stranded in lane 3.
  3. Always expect the unexpected.
  4. If you have to stop on the hard shoulder in an emergency remember that your responsibility does not end with bringing the vehicle to a halt.
  5. The hard shoulder of the motorway is one of the most dangerous environments one can find.

Journeys End

At the end of any journey check the vehicle and note any defects- any damage caused such as hitting the kerb should be reported.


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