Safe Loading of Vans (Video):
This video contains some great information on van loading. Particularly useful if you’re just starting out in the courier industry. I know that when I first started out, just trying to calculate my van’s payload seemed like a mystic art, handed down from one wise driving druid to the next!
How Not To Do It!
Loading your van requires no mystic arts, or even any specialist knowledge for that matter. However, we have all seen the videos of people literally chucking parcels onto the back of a van and, as you can see from the picture above, tidiness and care sometimes seems to get away from us.
I hate to admit it, but this picture is actually the back of my van, when I was doing a route for a company that shall remain nameless (they’re name after the Messenger of the Greek Gods and are not known for their diligence in terms of looking after their customers’ gear)!
This was route I had not done previously, which involved mainly collections, rather than deliveries, which makes planning how you’re going to load your van tricky because you just don’t know what’s coming at you. When combined with the time pressure that is demanded, ethics about parcel care are put under considerable strain.
Believe it, or not, on this day, I did try to place the bags full of parcels in the back of my van with some kind of logic and care. But, having said that, I also took this picture because I was quite frankly ashamed of the state of my van loading and wanted a reminder of how not to do it!
Not All Loads Are Created Equal!
In the safe loading of vans video above, there was an emphasis on securing your ‘load’.
For many van drivers, their load will hardly vary from one day to the next because they use their van to carry the tools of their trade. As long as they have got secure racking in the back and they make sure they strap down heavy mobile items, like their toolbox, they should be okay.
What happens, though, if you’re a parcel delivery courier and you might not know what you are going to be transporting from one hour to the next, let alone one day to the next?
Moreover, if you’re doing multi-drop on a regular basis, a whole new approach to van loading is needed.
We’ll briefly cover each below.
(For a definition of ‘distance work’ and more information, please click here).
Many of the issues that you may face while undertaking distance work are already covered in the above video. i.e. Make sure that you do not exceed your vehicles’ payload, make sure that you securely strap down heavy loads and also make sure that the weight is distributed evenly as possible over your axles.
If you speak to any experienced driver, who has done this type of work on a regular basis and he, or she will tell you about the time that they didn’t adequately secure a heavy load in the back of their van. Coincidentally, this also happens on the same day that they get cut-up by the idiot in the flashy car, or they had to go round that round-a-bout (you know the one…… the one with the really bad adverse camber)!
They will tell you about that sinking feeling that you get as you hear the load in the back sliding at pace towards the bulkhead and how they hunch their shoulder and wince as the inevitable deafening clang occurs as half a tonne of gear smashes into the thin wall of metal just behind their head.
A friend of mine took a bend a touch too sharply, with a poorly secured load behind him, and was never able to use the side door of his van again as a result. (This was also due to the fact that he was too stingy to pay for a new side door)!
However, it could all have been so easily avoided, by ensuring that they had the correct equipment and taking the small amount of time necessary to secure the load properly. (For more information on freelance courier equipment requirements, please click here).
(For a definition of ‘multi-drop’ and more information, please click here).
With multi-drop work, your are entering a whole other realm, when it comes to van loading techniques.
Stability is the name of the game here. Unlike distance work, when undertaking multi-drop work, it will be likely that you will have hundreds of parcels in the back of your van, all of which will be destined for multiple different locations (hence ‘multi-drop’). As a result, you cannot be expected to secure each individual package in the way that you would with a single, heavy load. It would be impractical.
There is a reason that the Great Pyramid of Giza has been standing for over 4,500 years. Not least is the fact that thankfully, the ancient Egyptians chose not to build it on its ‘pointy’ end!
Keeping a low centre of gravity is the multi-drop-van-loading key to success. At the start of the day, your van will be full of parcels. Front-to-back, side-to-side and possibly bottom-to-top too. However, as your day progresses and the volume of goods decreases, make sure that you continue to utilise the full floor area of your van as much as possible.
Frequently re-stack the parcels in your van to keep the centre of gravity low and minimise the risk of them falling over when you take a sharp corner.
Additionally, work from the bulkhead. Use your vans’ bulkhead as a natural barrier and fill your van from the bulkhead backwards. This way, if the idiot in the flash car cuts you up and you have to brake sharply, you won’t hear the crashing sound of your goods-in-transit insurance policy being put to the test!
As a parcel delivery driver, you will cover a lot of miles and deliver a lot of parcels/goods. In this environment, it is impossible to reduce all risk to zero. However, there is a lot that you can do to minimise problems and ensure that your customers receive their goods in tip-top condition:
- Know you vehicles’ payload. i.e. the weight of goods you can put into the back of your van after accounting for passengers, other items and yourself. (See the video at the beginning).
- Secure loads properly using the correct equipment. (Ratchet straps, bungees etc.)
- Distribute load weight evenly across the axles.
- Keep the loads centre of gravity as low as possible.
- Re-stack loads frequently throughout the day.
- Use the bulkhead as a natural barrier.
- Try to drive as steadily as possible to mitigate against having to brake hard, or taking bends and corners too sharply.
Finally, it needs to be stated, if products do get damaged, whilst in your charge, be honest about it and don’t try to palm them off on the poor, unsuspecting customer. This kind of behaviour eventually gets found out and as a result, you will find yourself always struggling to get (and keep) the best jobs.
For more information, please visit www.drivingforprofit.co.uk
Edmund has a wealth of experience, as a freelance courier himself, in management and in logistics.
He is also the author of the book Driving For Profit – A Comprehensive Guide to Becoming a Profitable Freelance Courier/Owner-Driver, which is available in paperback and Kindle formats on Amazon. This is essential reading for anyone interested in monetising their passion for driving and becoming a self-employed, freelance courier.
It also contains useful information for many of the more experienced drivers out there.