Just because it has four wheels and a steering wheel, doesn’t mean that driving a moving van is in any way similar to driving your Mazda Miata. Oh sure, you can still spill your hot coffee on your lap while texting and tuning the radio to a station that plays something other than Justin Bieber as you cut off all the yahoos on the road. Okay, so maybe driving a large moving van is exactly like driving a regular car.
Nevertheless, there are a few tips and tricks and points and hacks you should be aware of to avoid fishtailing off the side of the highway and destroying all the personal belongings you so carefully wrapped and loaded into the truck. You can replace your mosaic stoneware dishes and laser disc player, but you can’t put a price tag on that velvet painting collection.
Here’s how to drive a moving van without killing anyone:
- First of all, when we say ‘moving van’, we’re referring to the 10 to 26-foot trucks available to rent at such places as U-Haul, not a hippie-reminiscent cargo van with “If this van is rocking, don’t bother knocking” written on the dust-coated window.
- Although a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) is not required, a valid Class A (i.e. regular) driver’s license is. And if you needed someone to tell you this, please, for the love of God, have your stuff shipped and take a train.
- Moving trucks don’t have rear-view mirrors because there is no rear view, so you’ll have to fix your hair before getting into the truck. You’ll also have to rely on the driver and passenger side-view mirrors when turning or changing lanes. You know how blind people have an enhanced sense of hearing or smell? You’ll develop that, too, as you train yourself to listen for the sound of screams when attempting to change lanes. It will take some getting used to, but the good news is that when you’re driving a vehicle this big, people will pretty much get out of your way.
- Since large trucks take more time to do everything, prepare to stop a full three miles in advance, never egg on other drivers at an intersection to drag race, and keep in mind the impressive fact that it takes about a day to go from zero to sixty.
- Remember to pull in to all weigh station stops. You’re not required to, but it sure is a heck of a lot of fun to hang out with the other truck drivers, kick your vehicle’s tires, and say “ten-four, little buddy” as much as possible.
- To avoid being at the mercy of crappy radio (either clear sound but terrible songs, or great songs with terrible reception), bring your favorite CDs or auxiliary cable for your iPod, iPad, iPhone, iMac, iWatch or iJesusChristHowManyAppleProductsDoesOnePersonNeed?
- Never attempt to pass another vehicle that’s going faster than 40 mph, on a hill, in a curve, in a parking lot, at the drive-in, or going through a car wash. Stay in the right or middle lane on the freeway. Don’t be the knucklehead slowing down the fast lane.
- If you’re traveling with a friend, be sure to take turns driving. And no, imaginary friends don’t count. All that concentration from driving slowly with no rear-view mirror and bad radio is deceptively exhausting. If you’re on the road alone, stop every couple of hours to stretch, get some fresh air, and load up on Red Bull-laced double espressos.
- Make a point to stop for lunch at a roadside diner. There’s nothing quite like driving a four-ton truck with a belly full of greasy waffles and hash browns. If you’re near Doolittle, Missouri, be sure to visit Cookin’ From Scratch, if only for the directions: “from Route 66, look for the El Camino with the giant chicken on top and take that exit.”
- Because you can’t see behind you, get out and walk around the truck before backing up. This may require you to take a look behind the vehicle, hop back into the driver’s seat, back up a few inches, stop, get out and walk around the truck, get back in, reverse another few inches, etc., but at least you won’t accidentally run anyone over.
- Moving vans are taller than regular cars. Sounds obvious until you see a truck wedged under a drive-through restaurant or motel overhang, service-station canopy, bridge, balcony, roof eave, porch awning, electrical wire or tree branch. Don’t be that guy. Unless you’re looking to break into viral-videos-of-stupidity fame. In which case, don’t let our good advice stop you.
- Be sure to set the emergency brake every time you park, and don’t even attempt to parallel park. Because everything you own is in this vehicle, you may also want to park in well-lit areas in the front of motels and restaurants. When parking on an incline facing uphill, turn your wheels away from the curb; when parking facing downhill, turn the wheels toward the curb. That way, in the event that you forget to turn the engine off and set the parking brake, the truck won’t roll down the hill and crush everything and everyone in its path. Remember, the title of this article is how to drive a moving van without killing anyone.
So there you have it, folks! If you can make it to your destination without killing anyone, damaging the moving van, getting robbed, or dying of boredom, that’s a productive day. Oh and by the way, the 1970s called: they want their velvet paintings back.
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