A couple of years ago, I moved to the country and decided to do the removalist bit myself with the help of family and friends. And naturally I chose the hottest day of the year to do it.
So, I hired the biggest van you can drive on an ordinary car licence, we loaded it up and headed down the road.
Now as it happens, I’m licenced to drive a truck, and as I was heading down the road it occurred to me that I was glad about that and that I’d had a bit of experience driving them.
Sure, the van was easy enough to drive, it was automatic with good, precise steering and good brakes and it drove well for a van.
But here’s the thing: It was big, much bigger than anything you’d normally drive on a car licence, and that required a different set of skills to drive it.
Quite frankly, I don’t think you should be allowed to drive anything that big on a car licence, because it really requires a bit of training to drive it safely.
So, what are some of the dangers facing untrained drivers in vans or light trucks?
Well for starters, there’s stopping distance and rear end crashes. Vans and light trucks are heavier than cars, especially when loaded, so they take longer to stop.
That means you need to maintain your distance from the vehicle in front so you can pull up in time. You need to look ahead and make sure you can react and stop safely.
Next, there are blind spots. Vans and trucks have more of them than cars. You need to look around carefully and even move around in your seat to get a better view. And you need to check your mirrors constantly.
Then there’s turning safely. The size of the vehicle and those blind spots makes turning one at an intersection very different to doing it in a car. You’re far more likely to hit another vehicle, an object, or worst of all, a cyclist or pedestrian.
Finally, there’s vehicle clearance. Light trucks, and especially vans, are taller and wider than cars, so drivers need to have a good understanding of the height, width and length of the vehicle they’re driving.
Overpasses, low hanging wires, narrow alleyways, and buildings that you drive into are all just waiting to catch the untrained and unwary.
There’s a message here for fleet owners who rely on vans or light trucks to get the job done.
Properly licenced and experienced truck drivers are hard to find.
So of course, it’s tempting to get vehicles you can drive on a car licence, then find any person with a car licence to drive them, throw them the keys and send them down the road with a wave and a cheery “just be careful now!”.
Well like many things in life, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
If you really can’t find licenced truck drivers, then you owe it to yourself, your business, your employees and every other road user to make sure your drivers can safely drive those bigger vehicles.
So train them properly and encourage them to get their truck licence. That’s going to prevent accidents and save your business expensive downtime, insurance claims and legal hassles.
But more importantly, it might just save someone’s life.