Every van starts life as a stripped out, basic shell. In some cases, that’s all you’ll need. However, the chances are you’ll want – or need – to tailor the van to a specific use. Here, we look at the most common accessories for the working van.
If you have already bought your van, you will need to go back to the dealer or a specialist to have accessories fitted. Ideally, though, it’s best to specify extras before you buy from a dealer – so long as the price is competitive. That way, you reduce the risk of the dealer and the specialist blaming each other if a problem develops later.
A growing proportion of vans are acquired under contract hire.
Apart from its many other advantages, contract hire simplifies the arrangements for accessories.
With many fleet suppliers, you simply tell them what you want and they sort it out with accredited specialists. If there’s a problem later, it’s the leasing firm’s problem, not yours. Also, the cost of any accessories is spread out over the length of the contract as part of your monthly payment.
Vans have single-skinned panels, so if you dent the inside, it shows up as a bump on the outside. Ply-lining is a sensible way of providing the bodywork with some protection against such knocks.
The van’s load area is lined with plywood, which can be easily removed to reveal pristine bodywork, inside and outside, when your time with the van is up.
For heavy use and for carrying loads that may cause damage, the cost of the lining is usually less than the cost of repairing the inside and/or the effect of the damage on the van’s secondhand value.
A bulkhead is usually available as a manufacturer or dealer option. They can be made of solid metal, mesh or plywood and can be half-height or full-height. Full-height bulkheads can have a small cut-out at the top for rearward visibility. The main reasons for having a bulkhead fitted are security (if anyone breaks into the cab, they can’t get at the load area, and vice versa); safety (it stops your cargo flying into the cab, under heavy braking for instance); and comfort (it reduces noise levels and helps the cab heat up more quickly on cold days).
There are enough different storage and racking systems to fill this entire magazine. So whatever you need, you’ll be able to find it by talking to your dealer, fleet supplier or one of the large racking specialists.
The best companies will visit you, listen to what you need and then show you suggestions on a lap-top by using the precise design model for your van. Load security should be your main priority when choosing a racking system, but you should be able to achieve that without compromising convenience. Beware of DIY attempts, though. We’ve seen shoddy amateur and semi-professional racking that ended up costing more than a modular system installed by a reputable specialist.
If you need to refrigerate your cargo, make sure the van is suited to it before you buy or lease it. Refrigeration is common with hi-cubes and panel vans, although for a high-volume chilled area you’ll probably need a special-bodied chassis cab. Irrespective of the type of van, a refrigeration conversion usually involves lining and insulating the load area and, where necessary, changing the doors to provide a better seal. Then the fridge unit is fitted, commonly towards the front of the roof.
This is the van world’s name for a flashing light. If you need one, it must be fitted where it’ll be easily visible to other road users. For that reason, they are usually located towards the back of the roof.
Frails are used for transporting glass panels that are too big to fit in the van. However, you can also have frails inside the van. Internal fitting can make sense if you frequently carry vulnerable flat items that fit inside the van but which need extra protection in transit. Bear in mind that an internal frail takes up a fair amount of space, though. And like external frails, they are secured by bolts through the van so cannot be removed quickly.
Very few people have signs painted on their vans these days. Most drivers and companies opt for laser-cut vinyl instead. The advantage of vinyl is that you can simply peel it off when you’ve finished with the van and the original bodywork paint beneath is undamaged – much cheaper than having a painted sign removed and the area resprayed.
Some companies opt for a white or silver van and have the whole thing wrapped in vinyl.
This is especially useful if your corporate colours are lurid because, when you get rid of the van, you can quickly turn it back to a pristine white or silver van, which will be worth far more secondhand than, say, a bright pink and orange one.
Vinyl also provides protection against small knocks, such as stone chipping.
Most signwriting specialists will show you computer simulations of various designs for your van so you can be sure of putting across the exact corporate image you want. It’s worth getting it right since the van is the four-wheeled face of your business.