Definitions

delivery van

Van

[van]

A van is a kind of vehicle used for transporting goods or groups of people. It is usually a box-shaped vehicle on four wheels, about the same width and length as a large automobile, but taller and usually higher off the ground, also referred to as a light commercial vehicle or LCV. However, in North America, the term may be used to refer to any truck with a rigid cargo body fixed to the cab, even up to large sizes.

In the UK usage, it can be either specially designed or based on a saloon/sedan car, the latter type often including derivatives with open backs (such as pick-up trucks). There are vans in all shapes and sizes, ranging from the classic van version of the tiny Mini to the five metre long (LWB) variants of the Mercedes Sprinter van. Vehicles larger than this are classified as trucks (or lorries in British English).

Word usage and etymology

The word van is a shortened version of the word caravan which originally meant a covered vehicle.

The word van has slightly different, but overlapping, meanings in different forms of English. While the word always applies to boxy cargo vans, the most major differences in usage are found between the different English-speaking countries.

United Kingdom

British English speakers will generally refer to a passenger minivan as a people-carrier or MPV (multi-purpose vehicle), and a larger passenger van as a minibus. Ford makes a distinct line of vans with short hoods ("bonnets" in British English) and varying body sizes. Minivans are the same Vans but smaller. The word van may also refer to an enclosed freight railway vehicle (US boxcar).

The driver's mate of a delivery van was sometimes referred to as a "vanguard".

United States

In the United States, a van can also refer to a box-shaped trailer or semi-trailer used to carry goods. In this case there is a differentiation between a dry van, used to carry most goods, and a refrigerated van (a reefer) used for cold goods. A railway car used to carry baggage is also called a van.

A vehicle referred to as a full size van is usually a large, boxy vehicle that has a similar platform and powertrain to their light truck counterparts. These vans may be sold with the space behind the front seats empty for transporting of goods (A cargo van), or furnished for passenger use by either the manufacturer (Wagon) or another company for more personal comforts, such as entertainment systems (Conversion van). Full-size vans often have a very short hood, with the engine block moved to within the passenger cabin.

The term van may also refer to a Minivan. However, minivans are usually distinguished by their smaller size and traditionally front wheel drive powertrain, although many now are being equipped with four wheel drive. Minivans offer similar seating capacity (traditionally seven passengers), and better fuel economy than full-size vans, at the expense of power, cargo space, and towing capacity. In addition, many new minivans have dual side sliding doors.

Japan

Early Japanese vans include the Mazda Bongo and the Subaru 360 van. The Japanese also produced many vans based on the American flat nose model, but also mini-vans which for the American market have generally evolved to the long-wheelbase front wheel drive form factor first pioneered by the Nissan Prairie and Mitsubishi Chariot. Microvans, vans that fulfill kei car regulations, are very popular for small business.

Australia

In Australian English, the term vann is commonly used to describe a minivan, a passenger minibus, or an Australian panel van, manufactured by both Holden and Ford at various times.

A full size van used for commercial purposes is also known as a van, however a passenger vehicle with more than 7 or 8 seats is more likely to be called a minibus.

Finally, the term van can sometimes be used interchangeably with caravan, which in the U.S. is referred to as a travel trailer.

The British term people mover is also used in Australian English to describe a passenger van. The American usage of van to mean a cargo box trailer or semi-trailer is used rarely, if ever, in Australia.

Examples

The first generation of American vans were the 1960s compact vans which were patterned in size after the Volkswagen Bus. The Corvair based entry even aped the rear mounted air cooled engine design. The Ford Falcon had a flat nose with engine mounted between and behind the front seats. The Dodge A100 had a similar layout and could accommodate a V-8. Chevrolet also switched to this layout. The Ford, Dodge and Corvair vans were also produced as pickup trucks.

The standard or full size vans appeared with Ford's innovation of moving the engine forward under a short hood and using pickup truck components and taillights. The engine cockpit housing is often called a dog house. Over time, they evolved longer noses and sleeker shapes. The Dodge Sportsman added a plug to the rear of a long wheelbase to create the 15 passenger van. They have been sold as both cargo and passenger models to the general public and as cutaway van chassis versions for second stage manufacturers to make box vans, ambulances, campers and other vehicles. Second stage manufacturers also modify the original manufacturer's body to create custom vans for the general public.

In the 1970s, songs like "Chevy Van" and nicknames like "sin bin" became part of the culture as owners transformed them into rolling bedrooms and lounges. Conversion vans became a large market with plusher accommodations than factory seats.

Dodge ended production of their full-size vans in June 2002 (as 2003 models), and replaced it with the Dodge Sprinter, which is based on a narrower, more fuel efficient European design pattern with a diesel turbo I5. Typical versions of the Sprinter are taller than other unmodified vans (tall enough to stand in), with a more slanted (aerodynamic) profile in front. They have been adopted primarily for delivery and lightweight Class-C van cab motorhome applications.

Usage

In urban areas of the United States full-size vans have been used as commuter vans since 1971, when Dodge introduced a van that could transport up to 15 passengers. Commuter vans are used as an alternative to carpooling and other ride sharing arrangements.

Many mobile businesses use a van to carry almost their entire business to various places where they work. For instance, there are those who come to homes or places of business to perform services or to install or repair appliances.

Vans are also used to shuttle people and their luggage between hotels and airports, to transport commuters between parking lots and their places of work, and along established routes as minibuses.

Vans are also used to transport elderly and mobility-impaired worshipers to and from church services or to transport youth groups for outings to amusement parks, picnics, and visiting other churches.

Step Van

Another type of van, peculiar to North America, is the step van, so called because of the ease with which one can step in and out of it. Widely used by delivery services, courier companies and the parcel division of the US Postal Service and Canada Post, they are often seen driven with the door open, especially in big cities.

Rollover safety

Recently, the larger passenger versions have appeared in news stories for having a tendency to roll over, particularly in the case of inexperienced operators. The van body is taller than the cab and bed of the pickup that uses the same style frame and powertrain resulting in the basic van having a higher center of gravity than a similarly loaded pickup from which it is derived. The suspension is also higher because of the extreme weight capacity of 15 passengers of between and each which may be over one ton of passengers alone. The seats in the passenger version raise the load, passengers, above the floor, further raising the center of gravity (and often shifting it rearward). The bench seats allow passengers to slide if safety belts are not used. In the United States it is common for only the front seat passengers to use their safety belts, perhaps because belted passengers feel they can still lean and shift a large amount. However, the NHTSA, cited below, has determined that belted passengers are about 4 times more likely to survive in rollover crashes.

Safety can be greatly improved by understanding the unique characteristics of 12- & 15-passenger vans and by following a special set of guidelines developed for drivers, according to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). A summary of this information is available at Reducing The Risk of Rollover Crashes in 15-Passenger Vans.Among other things, this document advises that carrying 10 or fewer passengers (preferably towards the front of the van) greatly reduces the risk of rollover crashes, and it suggests that repeated operation by the same drivers tends to increase their ability to handle these vehicles more safely over time. Car rental companies have also started adding stickers to warn renters about the difference in handling while compared to standard cars. Items should not be added to a roof rack of an already top-heavy vehicle.

Models of vans by manufacturer

Buick

Chevrolet

Chrysler

Citroën

Daihatsu

Dodge

Fiat

Ford

Freight Rover

FSC

  • Żuk A 03, A 05, A 14, A 09, A 11, A 15, A 07, A 18, R, M, A 151 C, A 16 B
  • Lublin van

FSO

  • Nysa N57, N58, N59, N60, N61, N63, 501, 503, 521/522

GAZ

GMC

Honda

Hyundai

Isuzu

Iveco

Kia

LDV

Mazda

Mercedes-Benz

Mercury

Mitsubishi

Nissan

Oldsmobile

Opel/Vauxhall

Peugeot

Plymouth

Pontiac

Renault

Rīgas Autobusu Fabrika

Saturn

SEAT

Subaru

Suzuki

Toyota

Vauxhall

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles

Alternative propulsion

Since light trucks are often operated in city traffic, hybrid electric models are useful:

Wheelchair accessible

Some vans can be converted into wheelchair accessible vans for mobility impaired people:

The following vehicles may be used in yards or in historic city centres:

See also

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