Survey Debunks the Myth
‘The White Van Man’ is perceived as a menace on our roads, but ten years ago, the Social Issues Research Centre went a long way to debunking the myth that drivers in white vans were rude and reckless.
The SIRC gathered two hundred van drivers for the study by approaching them in the places you might expect to find men on owner driver jobs: filling stations, industrial estates, lay-bys, cafes and motorway service stations. They then set about defining White Van Man – what he does and how he drives.
The survey suggested that the White Van Man is distinct from the commuter in their driving habits and even their attitude to the journey. About three quarters of the drivers surveyed did not stray too far from home, with their owner driver jobs keeping them local and in urban environments. There was a suggestion that he often knows the local roads and streets better than some taxi drivers. This seems especially relevant for drivers who use their white vans for courier jobs.
Tool of the trade
According to the survey, fleet vans and those used for courier jobs account for about 22% of all vans on the road. For the rest, the van is a ‘tool of the trade’ with the white van owner or driver’s job varying from service engineer to builder, roofer to fishmonger and so on. The study also estimated that about 26% of the White Van Men are also self-employed; this makes the van they drive crucial for their owner driver jobs.
The truth is that ‘The White Van’ man is let down by the behaviour of a minority. Drivers of emergency service vehicles readily come to the defence of the White Van Man, claiming that they demonstrate a better awareness of the roads, and are quicker to respond to the sirens and flashing lights, making room for the approaching ambulances or fire trucks.
Another finding of the SIRC survey was that none of the drivers interviewed were happy with the proliferation of the ‘How am I driving’ stickers, pointing out that the people motivated enough to dial the number and leave a message are only likely to complain. Those who have vans for their owner driver jobs have the opportunity to play with this concept; one van has been seen with a doleful variant of the usual message: “If you see this vehicle driven in an unsafe manner, please don’t call us – it increases our insurance.”
White Van Woman?
Another observation of the White Van Man survey was that drivers of light commercial vehicles are predominantly male, with female drivers in a 4% minority. You have to travel to the other side of the world to find an example of a woman who drives as part of a self-employed courier job.
Laura McCaughan recently featured in a human interest story in the New Zealand news, talking about how her varied career has brought her around to running owner driver jobs for a delivery company that she co-owns. Working in a male-dominated industry, Laura confesses that she thrives in ‘blokey’ job roles, illustrated by the fact that she’s an officer in the Territorial Army. She has picked up forklift driver qualifications and a heavy truck driving licence along the way to becoming self-employed. Her courier jobs now vary from the mundane to the amusing, delivering “everything from a car door to six rolls of toilet paper.”