Driving a van or a minibus for the first time can be scary and cause anxiety. Even if you are an experienced driver, who has driven cars of different sizes and shapes, suddenly getting into a significantly large vehicle and being expected to operate it safely and with skill can be daunting. But, it’s even worse if you haven’t been driving for as long or you’ve only ever driven a small car. The vast change in size isn’t just daunting. It can make driving a completely different experience.
Of course, you might also have to contend with the idea of driving more passengers. If you are driving a van for the first time because you are moving to a new house and have hired a van to transport your furniture, passengers won’t be an issue. But, if for example your job suddenly requires you to drive a school minibus filled with impatient and contentious teenagers, it’s a whole other thing to worry about.
Consider Your Load
Driving a van full of furniture is very different from driving a minibus filled with people. The layout is unusual for a start. A van won’t have a rear-view mirror, and the design of the cabin might be different. Then, there’s the load itself. People are unlikely to move around too much. Furniture can. Take the time to pack anything substantial at the bottom, and make sure that everything is well tied down before you start your journey.
Lay Down Some Ground Rules
If you are transporting furniture, you can strap it down tightly. You can’t do the same with people. You can, however, lay down some ground rules. Let your passengers know how you expect them to behave during the journey. If you don’t want them to speak to you, or to make too much noise, let them know. You are the driver. This means that you are in charge.
You might want to choose someone to sit up front with you. Someone sensible, with good map reading skills and a calm manner. Someone that could help to keep the rest of your passengers in check.
The cabin of a van is very different from the front of a car. Buttons are in different places, your mirrors are much larger, your seat will feel strange, and your position on the road will be much higher than in a car. Before you start driving, take the time to adjust your seat and familiarise yourself with the inside of your vehicle and make sure that you are comfortable.
Some people find sitting in a van more comfortable. Many also feel like they have a greater view of the road and more control. It just takes some getting used to.
Set Your Mirrors
Not having a rear-view mirror in a van can take some adjusting to. But, you do have larger than usual side mirrors. Take the time to adjust them so that you can see as much of the road behind you as possible.
Know the Height
Do you know how tall your car is? Most of us don’t. We never need to. But, when you are driving a larger vehicle, there may be times when you are approaching a low bridge and need to know if you will fit through. Make sure you know how high your van is before you even think about driving it. Some vans and minibuses also have different speed limits to cars, so make sure you know this before driving too. Especially if you will be driving on fast roads.
Practice on a Quiet Street
Spending time adjusting your seat and mirrors and getting comfortable with the layout of your vehicle is great, but if you’ve never driven a large vehicle before you might still find things a little strange and awkward when you first hit the road. Your van will handle different, it will move differently, and it will feel different in your hands. So, before hitting highways and other large roads, practice. Drive down a quiet street, or even the car park where you’ve collected it. Spending a little time driving is the best way to get used to any vehicle.
Take Your Time
Whatever the speed limit, it’s important to take your time. When you are driving a larger and heavier vehicle, you need to take more time on the road. You should leave a larger than usual gap between yourself and other road users at all times and drive slower than you usually would, to give yourself more time to think and react to changes on the road.
Plan Your Journey
It’s always a good idea to plan your journey before you leave the house. Even if you are travelling somewhere that you know well, it’s a good idea to check an online map for signs of traffic and roadworks before you leave. But, this is more important than ever when you are driving a larger vehicle. Check for especially narrow roads, low bridges and sharp corners and plan an alternate route if necessary.
Even on wider streets, you won’t be able to corner the same as you do in a car. You’ll need a wider turning arch and more space on the roads. So, it’s crucial that you take corners more slowly than you normally would.
Your van or bus is much heavier than the car that you are used to driving. This means that it will take longer to come to a complete standstill when you apply the brakes. Which means you need to give yourself more time. Pay close attention to the cars in front of you, and always brake early and gently. Remembering that the faster you are driving, the longer it will take to stop.
Parking can also be vastly different in a larger vehicle. You might not be able to see behind you as clearly, and you’ll need much more space. The key here is taking your time, and simply reminding yourself of the size of your machine.