How do heavy loads affect my driving in a van?
If you drive or hire a van on a regular basis, then it’s likely that a fair proportion of your job is going to involve transporting heavy loads – whether that’s in the form of tools you need for a job, or cargo you’re delivering, or even teams of people that you’re ferrying from place to place.
Whatever type of extra weight you’re carrying (and maybe be careful of using that phrase in front of your passengers), it’s important to try and distribute it evenly across your van. That’s going to help prevent it from drastically affecting its centre of gravity, and therefore reduce the nightmare risk of it accidentally overbalancing on a sharp corner.
In fact, while we’re on the topic, it’s worth taking a quick look at some of the key ways in which heavy loads can affect your driving!
1. Your handling is reduced
Here’s one that you’ll probably notice yourself, right off the bat. With heavy enough loads, you may find that your van becomes a lot less responsive – in other words, much more sluggish when turning, and harder to accelerate.
We’ll spare you the detailed physics lesson, but the key takeaway is heavy loads mean more weight and more friction between the wheels and the road. That requires more energy to get your van moving, and it’s why it’ll seem harder to turn too, especially on tight corners. The extra difficulty in manoeuvring is worth bearing in mind, especially if you’re working in relatively compact spaces – for example if you’re driving through small rural hamlets or villages.
You may find you need to be particularly wary on uphill slopes, as your van will probably need even more acceleration, as well as obviously downhill, because that’s going to require you to be more judicious with the brakes. In fact, speaking of which…
2. Heavier loads increase your braking distance
This technically comes under handling, but it’s so important that we thought it was worth highlighting individually! One of the most critical ways that heavier loads affect your driving is by reducing your braking distance. In simple terms, more weight means more momentum, which in turn means your van will take longer to stop.
It’s without question one of the biggest dangers of having an overloaded van; underestimating it can easily mean a crash, whether you’re going into the back of another vehicle, or onto someone’s private property, or even (in the absolute worst case scenario) a vulnerable road user.
Your stopping distance increases directly in proportion to any extra vehicle weight. Again, we’ll try and spare you the more involved calculation, but most trade professionals carry (on average) about an extra half tonne of weight, usually in the form of tools and materials. And when you’re travelling at 30mph, that half-tonne increases your stopping distance by two metres. When you accelerate to 60mph, that extra stopping distance rises to five metres. And that can make all the difference as to whether or not you have a crash.
3. You’ll use more fuel
We’ve already covered how the extra weight means that it requires a bit more oomph to get going. That in turn means that your engine has to work harder, which demands more fuel. Now obviously, higher fuel bills are to some extent part and parcel of running a business, because you can’t exactly leave the tools (or staff) at home if you’re going to do the job properly. But if your fuel expenditure is any higher than it absolutely needs to be, that can start making a significant impact on your bottom line in the long term.
For that reason alone, it’s a good idea to take a regular review of what tools, cargo or equipment you’re taking to each job, and checking to see if there’s anything that you could potentially take out of the vehicle for each trip. If you’re able to remove any particularly heavy items, you may be surprised at how much it ends up saving you!
That’s all the essentials covered – when it comes to what you actually need to take on each job though, we’ll leave the final judgement to you! As for us, we’ll keep doing exactly what we do best: providing the very best prices on daily car hire and van hire.
With over 50 years of van, car and minibus hire experience here at Intack Self Drive, our fleet now spans over 450 cars, vans, and minibuses – so if you’re a business user looking for vehicles to meet your company requirements, or just a private customer looking for a personal vehicle for short-term use, you can count on us to have exactly the right vehicle at exactly the right price. Feel free to give us a call on 01254 57811, and we’ll be happy to help however we can!