We recently wrote an article on driving a minibus but we also get questions from some of our corporate drivers about whether or not they can drive a van. To help them, and anyone else who might want the answer, we’ve put together this article.

What is a Van?

You might think it’s an obvious answer, but actually what vehicles fall under the van category is fairly complex. HMRC define a van as a vehicle with the primary function of carrying goods and a car is a vehicle that isn’t commercial. Additionally, there are car-derived vans and vans that are converted to passenger vehicles that further complicate the issue.

It all comes down to whether HMRC would class your vehicle as a commercial one or not.

The Different Van Classes

There are several different classes of vans:

  • Car-derived vans
  • Small vans
  • Medium vans
  • Large vans
  • Double cab vans (also known as crew or combi vans)
  • Luton / box vans
  • Tipper / dropside vans
  • Pick-up trucks

Car-derived vans are those where the manufacturer has made some changes to an existing car model to make a van. It looks like a car from the outside, though there will usually be no rear or side windows but the interior has been modified with rear seats removed to create a cargo area. Some popular models include the Ford Fiesta and the Vauxhall Corsa. 

Standard vans fall into three categories, based on their side; small, medium and large. The size is based on the wheelbase and the height of the vehicle. Small vans will have a short wheelbase, and because of their size have great manoeuvrability. An example of a small van would be the Citroen Berlingo. Medium vans are mid-sized vans that combine the manoeuvrability of a small van with a more spacious cargo area. Campervans and a lot of panel vans fall into the medium van category and one of the most popular models is the Ford Transit Custom. Large vans offer the biggest cargo space and have the longest wheelbase. Luton vans like the Mercedes Sprinter will generally fall into the large van category.

Double cab vans are able to carry cargo and passengers. Generally, they have two rows of seats, though the rear row can usually be folded away to create a larger cargo space. One of the most popular combi van is the Renault Trafic. 

Luton vans are also known as box vans thanks to their boxy design. They are a larger van that has a tall boxy cargo area that is separate to the passenger cab area. You’ll generally only be able to access the cargo from rear doors, and some will have lifts at the rear as they are typically higher off the ground.

Pick-ups have an enclosed passenger area and then an open rear cargo area. They are sometimes referred to as trucks, but because they can be classed as commercial vehicles we think it’s important to include them in this list. They will be classed as a commercial vehicle if the payload is over 1,000 kg or they’re used for commercial purposes.

Tipper or dropside vans, are technically a type of pick-up but they have a flatbed that raises at the front to empty the contents out the rear of the vehicle. Some will also tip to the side as well as the rear of the vehicle, though these will be a little pricier.

Can I Drive a Van?

Entitlement to drive a van is based on the weight of the van. All drivers with a UK standard driving licence that allows you to drive a car will enable you to drive a van up to 3,500 kg.

Drivers who passed their driving test before the 1st of January 1997 will have a C1 entitlement. This allows you to drive a van and trailer with a combined maximum authorised mass (MAM) of 8,250 kg.

For drivers who passed on or after the 1st of January 1997 then their category B entitlement is what allows them to drive a van with up to 3,500 kg MAM. You can drive with a trailer, but the MAM cannot exceed 3,500 kg including the trailer.

MAM includes: the vehicle weight, the driver, any passengers, the luggage / cargo and the petrol and other fluids.

If you want to drive a heavier vehicle then you will need to get additional entitlements on your driving licence. For drivers who passed after 1996 then they will need to apply for a C1 entitlement.

Preparing to Drive a Van

There are several differences between driving a car and a van that you should be aware of before driving one. It’s also important that you only drive a van if you feel comfortable and capable of doing so.

Vans have a lower speed limit than cars or car-derived vans.  A van can only do 50 mph on a single carriageway and 60 mph on a dual carriageway. If you have a trailer hitched as well then you are also limited to 60 mph on the motorway as well.

Five Tips to Drive a Van for the First Time

1. Before setting off on your journey we recommend checking the route to make sure it’s suitable for a van as some roads may have low bridges, narrow parts or otherwise be unsuitable for a van. This is especially true if you are driving a van for the first time or don’t regularly drive one.

2. Familiarise yourself with the controls for the vehicle. You should always do this before driving any new vehicle but we think it’s particularly important when driving a van as most have six gears, while cars typically have five.

3. Use your mirrors. You’ll be driving a much larger vehicle than you’re used to and you will need to be aware of what’s around you and your blind spot will also have changed so make sure to check it regularly.

4. Keep it slow. We’ve already mentioned about the reduced speed limits for a van, but if it’s your first time driving then we recommend going a little slower until you know your brake distance. Slowing down is also important if you have a heavy load, as going fast can cause the load to move and might unbalance the van causing an accident.

5. Be aware of the weather. Wet and windy weather can make driving more difficult in any vehicle but in a larger vehicle like a van it can be much more noticeable. High winds can be particularly dangerous when the van is empty because of the high centre of gravity. We recommend going a bit slower when it’s bad weather as well to help reduce the impact of the weather on you.

Driving a Van FAQs

What Does My Driving Licence Need to Show to Drive a Van?

It depends on when you passed your driving test and the weight of the van you’ll be driving.

Drivers who passed their test before the 1st of January 1997 will have a C1 entitlement that allows them to drive a van up to 8,250 kg. There

What’s the Minimum Age I Can Drive a Van?

Unlike driving a minibus, there is no minimum age to drive a van. As long as you have the right entitlement you can drive a van from 17 just like a car.

How Long Can I Drive a Van?

If you drive a van for business purposes and do more than four hours of driving a day then you will need to comply with the GB domestic rules on driver hours.

Do I Need Training to Drive a Van?

It is not legally necessary to have additional training to drive a van, unless you are looking to drive a heavier vehicle. However, you may find it beneficial to have some guidance before you drive a van for the first time.

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