Historically they’ve been the poor relations of motoring. But today’s vans and light commercial vehicles (LCVs) can boast comfort/equipment levels to match any of their passenger car brethren – and sometimes a lot more besides. Their functionality and practicality remain unchanged.
Payloads, load space and towing capacity are just as important as ever.
But technology advances, safety requirements and better awareness of how important a comfortable environment is for operators, mean today’s LCVs feature items that just a decade ago would have seemed esoterically exotic. Here are just a selection:
1. Purpose-designed cabins.
Aware that drivers spend a lot of time in their vehicles, manufacturers are devoting a lot more effort to ensure their workplace is as comfortable as possible.
Comforts such as air-con, ergonomically designed seats and leather-clad (instead of plastic) steering wheels are now normal fitments.
Many manufacturers now offer a selection of trim grades directly comparable to those in their car range.
2. Automatic gearboxes.
It would have been anathema to van drivers of a generation ago but, increasingly, modern LCVs are offered with efficient auto transmissions – ideal for stop-start operations in urban environments.
We may take Bluetooth for granted in our passenger cars (or maybe not, judging by the number that still insist on holding a phone to their ear), but for a van operator who needs to be in touch with the office or customers, it’s an essential tool.
Another technology made possible though connectivity, the days of a delivery driver setting off on a run with a sheet of paper and a map are fast disappearing.
Modern telematics packages can not only work out the most efficient delivery routes, but can monitor the driver’s driving performance – for better or worse.
5. Driver assistance systems.
Collision avoidance technology advancements of recent years are increasingly offered on LCVs, with the likes of lane assist, park assist, rear traffic alert and road sign display fitted as standard.
6. Cross-wind assist.
A real boon for high-sided vehicles, this is a form of electronic stability control (ESC) that keeps a vehicle on its chosen trajectory when a gust of wind threatens to push it off line.
7. Van racking systems
Specialist storage systems from the likes of Sortimo, Bott and System Edström that can be tailored to the particular needs of the customer are becoming increasingly common.
Beats throwing valuable equipment into the back of the van and hoping it will still be in one piece at journey’s end!
8. Overload indicators.
Instead of risking breaking the law – and putting undue wear and tear on the vehicle – modern vans can provide audible alerts when the permissible payload is exceeded.
9. Advanced camera technology.
Surprisingly, van manufacturers have been slow to fit reversing cameras, but some models such as the European Van of the Year 2019-winning Citroën Berlingo/Peugeot Partner/Opel Combo offer advanced surround rear vision, which provides blind-spot camera vision or rear-view vision when driving.
10. Alternative power.
Diesel still dominates in the LCV sector but anyone who attended this year’s Commercial Vehicle Show in Birmingham could not have failed to notice the focus on electric vans.
A number of manufacturers had new products on display.
Natural gas is another alternative and greener fuel choice, though the refuelling network remains a challenge in Ireland.