4 Things You Need To Know Before Driving A Van In London
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4 Things You Need to Know Before Driving A Van In London

London is known the world over for many things, it’s diversity and multiculturalism, the winding Thames that separates the city, it’s imposing skyline and of course being a nightmare to drive in. As one of the world's most densely populated cities, it is lucky that 70% of London residents don’t drive a car. However those that do share the roads with the nearly 3 million registered London road users, 23,000 registered taxis, countless commuters and of course the London busses.

The world's most congested city is stressful enough for car drivers, but driving a bigger bulkier van filled with furniture is another kettle of fish. Here at Compare the Man and Van our drivers know the roads as well as London cabbies, and they know how to get a full van from one side of the river to the other without breaking a sweat. Here is our expert guide from the professionals at Compare the Man and Van who do it everyday, to make sure you get a head start in the London man and van game.

Low Emission Zones

As one of Europe’s most polluted cities, there are measures in place to try and cap this pollution and bring it down to the EU guidelines. This means that for those of you driving a big diesel powered moving machine, there are places you’ll need to pay for if you want to go through, and it’s far from cheap.

The scheme is monitored by number plate recognition, so if you drive through one of these zones your plate will be read by CCTV and it will be apparent if your vehicle meets the guidelines, and if you have paid the charge. Most of greater London is covered with these LEZ and those of you with older models of vans are going to be hardest hit. Fear not, Compare the Man and Van have some tips on how to lower your emissions and the costs of your journey.

Firstly check on TFL if your vehicle is affected. As of 2012 when the restrictions were upgraded, any van weighing from 1.25 tonnes to 3.5 tonnes need to meet the Euro 3 emission guidelines, and anything over that needs to meet Euro 4 standards.

If your vehicle's emissions do not meet these guidelines then it’s going to cost you. And with the majority of Greater London being covered in LEZ there’s no avoiding it for a man with a van who wants to work. The penalty for driving in these zones in a forbidden vehicle is £100 - £200 a day, if you do not pay the daily rate then you are issued a £500 fine.

Although there are a wealth of modern vans which have great emission rates, there are ways around it for those of you who have an older van. An extension to your exhaust system will need to be fitted by a TFL approved mechanic, you’ll then get a certificate which states you are allowed to drive in the LEZ freely. Depending on the age of your vehicle, this can cost anywhere from £1500 - £2200. Sounds expensive? Try paying £200 everyday you travel through Greater London.

Parking

Not only is London notoriously difficult to get about in, it is equally as troublesome once you stop and try to find somewhere to park. For van drivers this is especially hard work, the further you park from your customer's house, the further you have to lug their precious good and the longer the job takes.

London is officially the most expensive city to park in, with the average Londoner paying a whopping £42 a day just to park in the city. 51,866 parking tickets issued between 2014 and 2016, there is no doubt that parking in London is an issue that cannot be avoided. The Here at Compare the Man and Van, we automatically add the price of any pay and display parking charges to the customer's bill, so you don’t have to worry about the costs or take it from your own pocket.

As every borough of London has their own unique parking systems and prices, we always advise our drivers to research the location of their customer’s house before getting there. If it is a large job and your vehicle is likely to be outside the customer's house for more than a few hours, we recommend researching a parking permit before undertaking the job. These will not only save you money but allow you to load and unload in red zones, this is called dispensation. The rules vary greatly from council to council, The City of London stands at £130 per bay per days and requires a minimum of 6 days notice, whereas Ealing is £30 per bay per day, and requires 7 days notice. This variation means it is vital to plan your parking well in advance to avoid huge penalties.

Congestion Charge

Not only should you plan your parking carefully, but the route you take is just as important as it can incur some nasty bills. The congestion charge was introduced in 2008 by the Ken Livingstone in an attempt to solve the cities horrific traffic jams, and although TFL states that inner city traffic has dropped by 10.2%, it costs regular commuters up to £5000 a year.

At Compare the Man and Van we automatically add an additional £11.50 to the customer's bill if they are moving within the peak times that congestion charges are applied. If you do not want to have to deal with a congestion charge, then try to take jobs either on the weekends or after 6pm on weeknights, as you will not have to pay a congestion charge.

There are plenty of specialised services dedicated to finding you a route that avoids congestion charges, it is worth researching these before undertaking a job in order to establish whether the added journey time would work out cheaper than purchasing the congestion charge.

If however, there is no way around the central streets that are covered by the scheme, we recommend signing up to the Congestion Charge Auto Payment scheme or CCAP. This means that the days you travel through charge zones are recorded, and you are charged with a bill at the end of every month. This not only saves you money, paying £10.50 per day rather than £11.50, but it means that you do not need to plan so far ahead and pay for it on the days you need to use it.

Cyclists

Another important aspect of driving a large vehicle around London is to be vigilant of the cities many cyclists. The cycling boom of the last few years has lead to roughly 610,000 cycling journeys being made every day in the capital, that is 23 million a year. The infrastructure of London’s roads has been unable to keep up with such a sharp rise in the number of cyclists on the roads. This makes it extra necessary to be aware of cyclists whilst driving through the city.

If you are not yet used to driving a large van, ensure you know your blind spots are turning circles inside out before undertaking journeys in the city center. Be aware of the many tourists using pay as you go bikes who are still getting used to using the left side of the road.

If your vehicle is over 3.5 tonnes, under the safer lorry scheme you’ll be required to fit Class 4 or 5 mirrors in order to see as best you can in the blind spots. TFL requires its van drivers to attend a certified “Safer Urban Driving Course”. Although this is not a requirement for all LGV vehicles in the city, your certificate looks great for potential customers and costs just £50.

What are you thoughts on driving in London, is it really so bad? Let us know in the comments section below. For more articles just like this one visit the rest of our blog.


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