Forget White Van Man, its Rainbow Van Everyone
2017 has been a year of change in the way we perceive gender and gender relations and this has been no different in the area of commercial vehicles.
For a long time, there was a very set image of what constituted a van driver; "white van man" was just that, a balding, slightly overweight, St George-flag waving, pie-eating, Sun-reading white man.
However, as many a fleet van insurance manager may have told you, even ten years ago, things are changing (although it's doubtful things ever really did adhere to the stereotype).
Whether drivers are private policyholders or they drive under the protection of larger fleet van insurance policies, the truth is that they are from all walks of life. They can be black or white, male or female, vegan or sworn carnivores, tabloid-reading or broadsheet-reading; in fact, the broadsheet is now the newspaper of choice for most van drivers.
So it should come as no surprise that Auto Trader recently carried out a piece of research and found that women account for 32 percent of van owners. Often they are working as tradespeople, sometimes they are simply driving vans for the sake of personal practicality and other times they are driving vans because they serve their hobbies well – for example, windsurfing or dog-walking. In some cases, they may actually own one van for personal use but drive another under the protection of fleet van insurance as part of their job.
All in, according to Auto Trader around 1.4 million British households own a van, with around 40 percent of these used for both work and personal use. Furthermore, 37 percent of these vans are in the hands of "middle-class" owners, meaning that there is every bit as much chance of vehicle cabs being covered with quinoa grains as pork pie pastry crumbs.
"Our study shows a revival for the van community which celebrates van drivers of all backgrounds, genders and ages," commented Auto Trader editorial director Erin Baker.
"The van has many benefits beyond couriering work equipment, and now with modern interiors, better technology and connectivity and an overall driving experience that's becoming more comfortable, car buyers are increasingly turning to the van when it comes to considering a vehicle that meets their occupational and lifestyle needs in equal measure."
And, it is not just fleet van insurance policyholders and leisure users who are behind what Auto Trader reports as an increase of 4.4 percent in van purchases between July and September 2017; the UK housing crisis is also a factor. An unspecified number of people are turning to vans as a means of accommodation, both temporary and permanent, with many vans being specially adapted into mobile homes.
2017 has been the year of vans being all things for all people.
Safe winter driving tips for all van drivers
Winter is on its way, and it's important for van drivers to be prepared for all of the hazards that the cold weather may throw at them.
Of course, safe driving is a must all year round, but in the autumn and winter months there are a few unique risks that drivers will need to be extra cautious of so they do not end up in an accident and find themselves having to make a claim.
Below are a few things to be mindful of when driving in winter.
Tyres – First of all, you must make sure your tyres are in good condition and inflated to the correct pressure. You also need to make sure they have enough tread depth. Worn down tyres with hardly any tread are always dangerous, which is why you should always make regular checks throughout the year. However, in the winter, where the surface of the road is far likelier to be icy, the risk is amplified. It is illegal to have tyres with a tread depth less than 1.6mm, but in the colder conditions, a minimum of 3mm of tread is strongly recommended.
Brakes – Icy roads mean less friction, which is why it's crucial for your brakes to be in top working order. If you're at all concerned, you can bring your vehicle into the garage to have your brake pads tested.
Visibility – This may go without saying, but you must make sure you can see clearly throughout your windows and windscreen. With the lack of daylight in winter and potential for fog, Mother Nature has already made it trickier to see without having misted up windows, so make sure your demister is functioning and wipe down your windows. As for your windscreen, make sure your wipers are working properly and that your washer fluid is topped up. An ice scraper is also essential for all those frosty mornings.
It's also likely for your headlights to get smeared with mud and dirt. As you'll be relying heavily on your headlights, you should take the time to wipe them down every day before you set off.
As you're running a business, it's understandable that time is precious and you are in a rush to get going, but you must leave yourself some extra time to before setting off so you can do all the necessary demisting and cleaning.
Fuel – Keeping your tank full will help give you more traction by adding weight to your van. What's more, not having a full tank increases your van's chances of suffering a frozen fuel line, leaving you with a vehicle that won't start and a disrupted business.
Speaking of van's freezing over, does your vehicle have enough antifreeze? Antifreeze will help stop winter doing damage to your engine, but you need to make sure you put the right amount in. Your vehicle's manual should tell you the best type to use and how much of it you should be using.
As a tradesman relying on your van, you are no doubt used to making numerous vehicle safety checks, so taking the time to make certain of all of the above should be no problem at all.
And the last thing you need check you're equipped with? Yes, you guessed it: reliable van insurance.
Whatever the season, accidents can happen at any time, even to the best of drivers. No driver wants to be involved in an accident, but when your business relies on your vehicle, the consequences of an accident can be even greater. That's why, to give yourself peace of mind, picking out the right van insurance is essential. Offering cheap van insurance for young drivers as well as tailored insurance for all types of van drivers, Ivan can find the right quote for you.
Driving tips for Halloween - Beware zombies, ghosts and tiny witches!
Celebrating Halloween can be a creepy, magical experience, and while late October has its own driving dangers, when you add Halloween revellers into the mix, young and old, with their glowing pumpkins and crazy costumes, you have a spectacle which could be a dangerous distraction for any van driver.
If you are planning to be on the roads at Halloween, take a look at our top tips for Halloween van driving so that you and everyone around you, yes even the zombies, can be safe on the roads. It's essential reading for any van driver who might find themselves on the road this Halloween.
Remember, Halloween doesn't just occur on 31 October – there will be all sorts of parties going on around this time, especially the weekend beforehand – and this is the time you might find that some of the adult zombies on the road have had a drink or two! So beware.
Residential areas will be busier than usual
If at all possible, it's best to avoid residential areas on Halloween evening as the streets will be alive with groups of excited children, and perhaps even some tipsy adult revellers. Generally, the hours between 5pm and 8pm are when the younger children will be out, but after that, older ghosts and ghouls might have had a drink or two. If you must travel through a residential area around the time of Halloween, be aware of extra hazards.
Pro tip: Be prepared to stop at any moment.
Think twice about the speed limit
When driving through a residential area, especially if there are parked cars obscuring the pavements, simply sticking to the speed limit may not be enough. Safe, slow speeds are essential in residential areas during Halloween. Excitable trick or treaters could appear out of nowhere at every curb, crossing and junction and, to make matters worse, many of these children will be wearing dark costumes; they will also be excitable, unpredictable and, possibly, supercharged on sugar.
Pro tip: Slow is best around pavements and parked cars and vans.
Beware parked cars and vans
Okay, you don't want to look like you're slowly cruising the neighbourhood, possibly looking for trouble, but if you do find yourself in a residential area you are going to have to drive slowly and keep a constant lookout. Too many pedestrian deaths happen as a result of children suddenly coming out from behind parked cars, so if you drive slowly you increase your ability to react to the sudden appearance of a child, witch, wizard, zombie or alien.
Pro tip: Mini monsters can appear from almost anywhere on Halloween.
Don't hurry on Halloween
Whoever you are and wherever you have to be, there can be no justifiable reason for being in a hurry on Halloween night. Sometimes we just have to let go and accept that we are not going to get to our destination as fast as we would like. Vigilance is essential at all times when kids might be out trick or treating and there could well be delays for parties of children and adults who all want to cross the road at once.
Pro tip: Be patient when driving around trick or treaters.
Beware stopped cars
There is a high probability that any vans or stopped cars on the side of the road are dropping off children. Passing these vehicles can be very dangerous and you should always assume that a child might exit at any moment, even from a commercial vehicle – if you really can't wait, you should proceed with caution.
Pro tip: Be patient if a car stops in front of you.
During Halloween, good visual communication with other road users becomes more important than ever. So, as well as spotting the pedestrians around you, you should do your best to make sure they see you. The same goes for communicating with any other drivers: always use your indicators when turning into a junction and when pulling out or pulling in. And be sure to turn your hazard warning lights on if you are dropping your children off if this is obstructing other vehicles (although remember that putting your hazard lights on does not allow you to park illegally).
Pro tip: Make sure you can be seen when driving and make your driving intentions known.
Junction and crossing safety
Don't be tempted to rush out at junctions and crossings. Children often feel that it's safer to cross at junctions than at other points in the road, but, at Halloween, an excited child may just forget everything they've ever been told about road safety. So, be prepared for children, even quite old ones, to run out ahead of their parents. Always stop, always check for pedestrians and don't move until you are sure that it is safe and clear.
Pro tip: Wait a moment longer than usual at junctions to make sure no children are about to cross unexpectedly.
Beware the drop-off points
Driveways, local venues and other drop-off points can be busy on Halloween night. Proceed with extra caution and if you can't see clearly because there is a blind spot, or a stopped vehicle, you should take extra steps to check it is safe before you drive on.
Pro tip: If the road is busy or blocked, double check before moving off.
Mobile phone safety
DO NOT use a mobile phone or other similar device while driving. You should already know about the risks of using a handheld device at any time while driving, but at Halloween all avoidable risks and distractions should be eliminated. So, switch it off and eliminate the risk. The same advice goes for food and drinks, as well as any Halloween snacks. Wait until your driving journey is over!
Pro tip: Remove all distraction risks.
The days are getting shorter and shorter right now, so your headlights are required earlier as each day progresses. However, consider turning your headlights on even earlier than usual at Halloween as this will increase your visibility to pedestrians. You may feel like it's not dark enough, but it could make a great difference to whether a child or a party goer darts out in front of you.
Pro tip: Headlights on well before darkness descends.
Watch out for drunk walkers
Drunk pedestrians run the same risks of bad decision making and failure to properly gauge reaction times and speeds etc as drunk drivers. Unfortunately, Halloween, and this includes the weekend before the actual celebration itself, is a time when many adults will be out partying and this, for many, will include the consumption of alcohol. So, watch out for weaving witches, stumbling vampires, and zoned-out zombies. You may not be responsible for their actions but as it is Halloween you should be prepared to expect the unexpected.
Pro tip: Halloween for adults means drunk party-goers on the streets.
Halloween driving safety – be prepared
Basically, Halloween is a time when just about anything can happen on the roads. So drivers need to be really observant. Also, it's not just kids who enjoy the festivities, so beware any zombies driving vans or cars, just in case they are genuinely terrifying and have had a sneaky drink!
Be safe and enjoy the fun! And lastly, don't forget your van insurance!
The worrying rattle of skeleton keys
Any driver van insurance holders should beware of a haunting new development in the world of van and tools theft: the remarkably effective skeleton key that is so easy to obtain that it can be bought by even the least sophisticated internet-literate thief. And in even more haunting news, the key retails for just £20.
Reports of the skeleton key's availability may help explain why there has reportedly been a surge in van and tool thefts across the United Kingdom in recent months, with one broker releasing data that reveals tool thefts to be up 30 per cent in England, Scotland and Wales.
News of the skeleton keys' involvement in thefts reached the public through two West Yorkshire builders who set up a social media page devoted to the topic. They were then interviewed by the BBC and told the news organisation that police had informed them that there had been a whole series of thefts believed to be attributable to the skeleton keys.
However, one of the builders said that police failed to properly investigate the theft of tools from his van. "They gave me a crime number and that was it really - forgotten about," said the man. "They said ‘it's a builder's van, there'll be no fingerprints, get yourself to work.'"
The skeleton keys are a standard tool for locksmiths; however, many within the profession have called for their sale to be better regulated.
"These are legitimate locksmiths tools," commented Steffan George from the Master Locksmith Association. "But they shouldn't be available to everyone. We would welcome a restriction of their sale."
It is also thought that skeleton keys could be leading to heftier insurance cost per theft. One broker said that it had recently witnessed a 40 per cent growth in the average value of any driver van insurance claims made for van break-ins.
Until more regulation is brought in to restrict the sale of the skeleton keys, any driver van insurance holders will just have to remain vigilant by ensuring that they lock their vans, park them conspicuously, and remove their tools from their vans whenever possible and that they always do so overnight.
Police commissioner hints at new van hire regulations
The struggle of some tradespeople to find cheap van insurance helps explain why ad hoc van hiring is a surprisingly popular way to get a commercial vehicle on the road and on the job.
However, the fact that the terrorists behind the recent attacks in London used hire vans to carry out their atrocities, the second and third such instances in just three months, has called some to question the ease with which people are able to hire a van and, as a consequence, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, has suggested that new regulations might be brought in to try and reduce the possibility of such tragic events occurring.
Rental companies have already been instructed to take more care in determining exactly who is hiring larger commercial vehicles and have been told to report any suspected criminal activity to police. And now Dick has asked the London Assembly whether van hire "should be regulated in any way?"
"There's a whole big review to be done," she added. "I don't know. It might require some tweaking of legislation."
Although more stringent regulations might seem like yet another unwelcome administrative hurdle to tradespeople already struggling to find cheap van insurance, it should be noted that even if new regulations save just one life, they will have done their job, and there must surely be an intelligent way to regulate van hire that doesn't unfairly punish the operators of small businesses. Dick has recognised that more stringent regulation would be difficult to achieve but underlined her belief that doing so would involve a community effort.
The first attack in London involved the use of a Hyundai Tucson SUV, the second a Renault Masters and the third most and most recent attack, on a group of worshippers in Finsbury Park, a Citroen Relay box van.
Toby Potson, from the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, told The Times newspaper that although his members uphold a "long-established set of protocols to enable the efficient reporting of any suspicious activity" and often do this with the added support of specialist security managers, he would seek to explore additional ways to "share information more effectively with law enforcement organisations."
Whatever the case, it is likely that added regulations will only serve to make cheap van insurance that little bit more attractive, when it can be found, of course.