Monday, 27 February 2012
It's because my van insurance is due and we all know it's a pain in the gut to have to sit down and go through all those sites and quote forms just to get your van insured for another year.
So this year I tried to find a good van insurance comparison site and if you're about to compare van insurance policies, iVan could be the site for you.
I got a great deal on my Transit van insurance and my mate Terry got his any van driver insurance there too.
It was just one online form to fill in and that was that. They offered me a few different quotes and I chose the cheapest (not because I'm tight, it looked the best value and had everything I wanted).
So, now my van's covered I can go off and do what I like.
What time does the pie shop open?
However much it might not become a proud van-driving alpha male – someone who has had three wives in the past decade, used to box for the county and once was on the youth books of not one but two professional football clubs – I have to admit that I have a mortal fear of being left stranded in the van.
Call it a phobia or just call it sensible, you decide, I spend so much time driving my Vauxhall Vivaro across some of the remoter parts of Wales and Scotland, including Snowdon and the Hebrides, that perhaps my single greatest fear in life is being stuck and isolated in bad weather conditions with nothing but a malfunctioning commercial vehicle to keep me company.
The list of my colleagues' fears ranges from such traumas as being killed in collision with an HGV to relative inconveniences such as being priced out of the van insurance market, so you can understand that in comparison my van related phobias might seem, well, a little girly.
I get a lot of stick from the lads about it. "How many torches have you got with you today, John?" they'll ask, facetiously, often adding, "And how many batteries have you got for those torches? Just in case, like."
"Got your space food, John? Never know you might end up on the moon – think I saw a story like that in the Daily Sport once, a van photographed nose-down in a crater. These days anything can happen."
"Got a fortnight's supply of water? Never know, could take a wrong turn and, bang, you're in the middle of the Sahara."
Yes, I do have multiple torches with multiple batteries, just in case! Yes, I do have three boxes of strawberry-flavoured space ice-cream, just in case! Yes, I do have a fortnight's supply of water, just in case!
Hey, I even have thermal underwear, a change of pants, a change of socks, a box-set of Jeffrey Archer novels, a more than usually well-endowed first-aid kit and a precious family photo album!
But, after Swedish police recently discovered a man who'd been trapped in his car under snow for more than two months I'm beginning to feel rather smug – seems the last laugh's not on me after all. Police spokespeople say he was in "bad shape", "nearly starving", and "barely able to speak."
I don't want to sound insensitive, but that wouldn't have happened to me. I mean compare us –I've got multiple insurance policies stocked throughout my van. I'm well-prepared, me.
Thursday, 23 February 2012
Some technologies I can only pray never fall into the hands of my wife. Take my van, for example, sacred space and compared to my hectic home space, the last bastion of peaceful thought.
All that could change soon, though. As if it were not enough for the wife already that she is able to ask me, "What are you thinking?" or "What are you doing?" every time I'm either silent or out of sight, scientists have only gone and blooming well invented a way to read people's minds.
Yes, researchers in the US have developed a computer programme that is able to make sense of brain activity and put it into words.
I can only hope that it is never developed into an App – the Hubby Headspace Checker, because I know there would be no escape and my days of having a roving eye would be over.
I know that I sometimes feel like I've no space to think, but compared to how I would feel if my wife were actually able to get inside my Vauxhall Combo and subsequently into my head, however virtually, I'm living in paradise.
Tuesday, 21 February 2012
Van drivers get such a tough wrap compared to other drivers out there on the road. This is a fact I'm well accustomed to. Over the years I've had to put up with quite a bit of prejudice, whether I've been behind the wheel of Ford Escort van (as I was for most of the 80s), behind the wheel of a Ford Transit (the 90s and noughties) or behind the wheel of a Vauxhall Vivaro (as I am nowadays).
For the most part, receiving treatment that many a time I've compared to that which would be meted out to driving dogs has only made me more determined to confound the unfounded prejudice. As such, I make a point of being ultra-polite, courteous and considerate to my fellow road users.
But I have to be realistic – it's not like my chivalrous adventures behind the wheel of a Vauxhall Vivaro are ever going to be front-page news. Changing people's perceptions of van drivers is a process that's probably going to take more decades of driving than I have left in me.
And how can I change perceptions when there are van drivers out there who are prepared to act so stupidly that it doesn't matter what the rest of us sensible, considerate and law-abiding van drivers do.
In this instance I'm talking about the van driver who was recently stopped by police after being spotted snorting cocaine behind the wheel.
On being chased by police, the man then tried to make a quick getaway on foot – the only problem being that he had only one foot to get away on.
So, once apprehended, what did our one-legged van man admit next? Why, that he had no van insurance, of course.
Thanks a bunch, mate.
Thursday, 16 February 2012
vans, vans, vans, vans, lovely vans, wonderful vans.
Monty python fans out there – try this:
"Vans, vans, vans, vans, vannity vans, vannity vans" – sing it to the tune of the Spam sketch and you'll have a song in your head that you won't be able to shift all day.
And I'm sorry, but while you're at it, you might just want to refresh your memory at the genius which was the Flying Circus team – AKA messrs Gilliam, Palin, Jones, Idle and Chapman – in one of their all-time most genius sketches. And, no, it doesn't compare with the Dead Parrot sketch – this skit is very much alive!
To my knowledge I don't think they ever did a really successful van-related sketch, but I'm willing to be educated if you can point me in the right direction.
And in the meantime, I shall content myself by singing:
"Vans, vans, vans, vans.
Vans, vans, vans, vans,
Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Oh dear, oh dear, I feel sorry for all my mates who make a living from house moves, because the forecast for them could be bleak in 2012.
It won't matter what van or lorry they drive, because when you compare the numbers of house sales with those from a few years ago, it's easy to see that being a removal specialist might not be the best line of work to be in at the moment.
So, many removal van drivers are taking on a bit of extra work doing other things at the moment and some of these jobs can be quite unusual.
The other day, my mate, who normally does small house moves, was asked to drive a woman and her dogs to show in Milton Keynes (a dog show – not a production of The Wizard of Oz).
When he took the job on he thought, how difficult could it be, but when he saw the dogs and all their paraphernalia he kind of wished he'd never offered his services.
Apparently the dogs, three bitches and two...dogs, were well-known champions and their comfort in transportation was the most important issue of the day. Each one was in a separate travel cage and each was kitted out with blankets, toys, water bottles and all manner of stuff to make the journey comfortable.
My mate thought it would be a bit of a doddle, but the amount of heavy lifting he had to do was crazy, and at one point, during a rest stop, he was left holding four leads while the owner attended to some grooming emergency of the most-prized canine.
Imagine the scene, my removal man mate on the side of the A41 with all these furry pooches trying to drag him down the road. And these things were very excitable, apparently.
Anyway, when the dogs were delivered back home and the day out was finished my mate said, "Never again! Fridges don't growl at you then try to lick your unmentionables!"
Oh how right he is!
Thursday, 9 February 2012
For years I've been desperately wishing I was 25 again, but in fact it seems that I could be much better off if I was 22 or younger.
A recent study undertaken by a van insurance broker has revealed that in January last year, young male and female van drivers both saw a reduction in the cost of their cover.
This must mean that insurers see young van drivers as less of a risk than young car drivers.
If I had to guess why, I'd say that a young person with a van is likely to be an enterprising individual with a fledgling business who doesn't want to crash the vehicle that helps them ply their trade.
Young car drivers don't really need their vehicle as much, so I suppose they're more likely to become reckless on the road at some point and collide with something.
It's only a guess, but I think I could be right.
Anyway, good luck to all you young van drivers, and enjoy your youth while it lasts. God knows my youth went in a blink of an eye…I'd really like it back. Loading and unloading my tools and materials would be easier for a start!
Tuesday, 7 February 2012
The scheme has been put in place so that foreign hauliers will have to pay to use our highways, since Britain is one of the only countries in the EU that doesn't charge at the moment.
UK hauliers will apparently be able to claim the money back through road tax, but I imagine it's just more forms to fill in; an extra thing to find time for and I'm pleased to not have to bother with it all as I'm a light-goods-vehicle man.
Filling in van insurance quote forms is bad enough as it is – unless you go with a company which searches for the good deals for you and does it all online.
Still, having said all that, it's quite a positive move forward for the country. Mike Penning, the roads minister, has stated, "Each year there are around 1.5m trips to the UK by foreign registered lorries – but none of them pay to use our roads, leaving UK businesses and taxpayers to foot the bill.
"A lorry road user charge would ensure that all hauliers who use our roads are contributing to their cost, regardless of where they are from – helping UK hauliers to get a fairer deal and increasing employment and promoting growth in the UK."
I just have to hope that the Government don't decide to charge us van drivers too, I could do without the hassle!
Thursday, 2 February 2012
With all the nasty comments about white van men being bad drivers, it's nice that a recent survey has showed that we van drivers are actually the best at manoeuvring our vehicles.
One of the UK's leading providers of motor cover polled one thousand road users, asking them to fill in a questionnaire about their driving skills.
Guess what? Us van drivers came out on top!
Sixty-eight percent of the van insurance policyholders surveyed noted down scores of five out of five when it came to evaluating how easy they found it to manoeuvre their van.
It's no mean feat I can tell you – when you're in a tight spot and you have to get out of it without taking the paint off your van door – sometimes you wish you were strong enough to lift up the whole vehicle and put it back on the road.
The commercial vehicle manager for the insurance firm that undertook the survey stated, "Van drivers spend a lot of time in their vehicles driving to jobs across the whole of the country, so this in itself would give the driver more practice at doing manoeuvres such as parallel parking, reversing round a corner and even turning a vehicle round in a tight space.
"The fact that vans are considerably larger vehicles than the average car also works in a van driver's favour – it's more difficult so if you can master manoeuvres in a large vehicle, then doing the same in a smaller vehicle should be much easier."
I agree. I feel that driving my beloved van has helped me become a better driver. When I get into my car, parking and reversing round corners seems a breeze!