Tips for Beginners on How to Drive a Step Van

portrait of a courier writing on a clipboard while sitting in his stepvan

Driving a step van the first time around can be a daunting task. It’s different from driving an ordinary car. You need a whole set of new skills and began a new journey to learn the vehicle’s ins and outs. A step van is much larger than an ordinary car. 

A new step van driver needs to adjust to its size when it comes to parking, road spaces, speed, and start-and-stop moves. Although one can apply the basic skills of driving, it may take time to be comfortable for a newbie to drive a step van. Below, are some tips for beginners on how to drive a step van. 

A step van is larger than a car but smaller than a truck. Its gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is 14,990 pounds. Its common dimensions are a width of 6.75 feet, a length of 14 feet, and a height of 7 feet. What’s comfortable about a step van is the ability of the driver to either sit or stand while driving. In the United States, a step van driver needs a Class D Chauffeur’s driver’s license. Such a type of driver’s license allows one to drive a vehicle with a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 10,001  to 26,000 pounds.


Safety Adjustments and Checks

Sitting on a step van may feel different at the start. Sitting up straight is the best-recommended driving position for a step van. Adjust the angle, height, and tilt of the seat. Make sure that you can reach the pedals comfortably. Your knees should be slightly bent while pressing them. Most of the time, a step van doesn’t have a rear-view mirror. But it always has two good-size door mirrors. This is why a step van driver needs to be in the correct position of having the best view of the road behind you. 

It’s also important to know the exact dimensions – height, length, and width – of the step van. This will help a driver know whether the step van fits a narrow road, parking area, and passages with height restrictions. Knowledge of these dimensions can also free you up from stressful situations. 

Familiarize yourself with the step van’s dashboard. The icons or gauges may be arranged differently from that of a car. Take time to learn about their placement and settings. Consult the vehicle’s manual to better learn the dashboard design. 

Keep an eye on new controls you may need to watch out for while driving a larger vehicle like a step van. Check the step van’s speed limit. You need to be aware that step vans have a lower speed limit than cars – normally around 10 mph.

Importance of Practice

It’s more difficult to adjust the brakes and pedals of a step van than that of a car. So, it’s important to practice driving a step van before hitting a congested road. Take some time to drive it on an empty lot, small streets, and wide parking spaces. 

Test how the step van accelerates, stops, and turns. Such experiences will give you more control over the said vehicle. Learn how to position the step van where you won’t have any blind spots while on the road. 

Always remember that the brakes of a step van are designed for a full load. So, the brakes may be over-responsive or sharp when driving it empty. Aim to expertly maneuver the step van during your practice.

It’s also important to learn how to load items on the step van. It’s commonly built to transport bulky packages or large parcels. Distribute the weight evenly as much as possible between the front, left, right, and rear parts. 

Heavy items should be tied down at the bottom. You can hook them with a bungee cord strapped to the step van’s interior holes. This is to keep the item from moving as it can destabilize the vehicle. Staying under the step van’s weight limit is also a must for safety.

On the Road Driving Tips

No matter what type of vehicle you’re using, it’s recommended to drive with both of your hands holding the steering wheel firmly. This is to have the greatest control and avoid rollovers among step vans.

Always leave extra space between the step van and other vehicles on the road. It’s because a step van is bulkier and heavier, so they take longer to brake. A general rule of thumb is to maintain a 4-second distance between the step van and the vehicle in front. 

A step van may be subject to different speed restrictions than that of a car. In most cases, it’s 10 mph slower than that of cars. Obey the specific speed limits set per road or state. When approaching turns, it’s best to slow down around 5 to 10 mph when using a step van. It’s because a step van is narrow and tall making it prone to tipping over. 

A wide turn makes the step van much safer. Try to position the vehicle on the leftmost or rightmost lane when turning. Use your door mirrors to make sure that you are far enough from other vehicles on the road to avoid sideswiping them.

Take extra caution when going under bridges and low ledges. Check if the height of the step van meets the height clearance or limit before passing through.

Before backing up or changing lanes, don’t forget to put on the blinker to signal your intentions. Check the door mirrors for other vehicles or pedestrians. If needed, take time to get down and check the surrounding before backing up.

A step van needs more room for parking. Look for open areas with multiple spaces you can occupy or section for large vehicles. You can also check for a side lot where you can parallel park. When parking, back into the spot to make it easier to get out instead of pulling over. Never forget to apply your parking brakes to avoid the step van from rolling while parked. 

The best safety tip when driving a step van is to keep calm. Be friendly and patient. This shows other road users how a good driver you are. At UsedVending, we aim to give you the most affordable and safest vehicles you need.