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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.