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This page has a large article on types of commercial vehicles.
Small vans are used on smaller jobs by painters, decorators, carpenters, plumbers, tradesmen etc.
Need easy access at rear for tools, equipment and supplies.
Larger panel vans are for moving bulky equipment, big drops of materials, exclusively transportation jobs like delivery or removals, etc.
Trucks might include small liquid concrete carriers, crane trucks, drain trucks, cherry-picker trucks, etc. These are very customised for a specific use. The Building DIY Truck article will be on shortly.
Some smaller vans are used for domestic purposes as well. This saves money for a small business or sole trader. It has been known for carpenters and other 'clean' trades to use people carriers or MPVs since these have a lot of configurable space in the back.
Also any waste materials can be taken for recycling to the dump for free, as not a chargeable commercial vehicle (this is not recommended as illegal but at least it reduces fly tipping).
We think all waste disposal should be free even for commercial vehicles, as it promotes recycling. The councils and government spend such colossal amounts of money on advertising how green they are (or we should be) so why don't they put their money where their mouth is?
Commercial vehicles usually have diesel engines for maximum economy.
Different vans and light commercial vehicles are suited to various types of job. Pickups (open backed, small size) and open trucks are used for bulky, dirty or awkward items, so they are used on most big building jobs.
The defining factor is budget and the biggest and heaviest item you move. Also number of trips you are able or want to take.
There is a lot of overlap. Not only on the way the van or truck is used, but even the physical style of the vehicle. There are many hybrids around now including small pickups with a proper 2 row front and back cabin, which means a small builder can use this as their main work and domestic vehicle. See later.
Classify vehicles by size:
Made for city streets, busy urban centres. They are used multi-drop deliveries where parking is difficult. Payloads are small. Tall drivers will be squashed somewhat, so they are tiring to use. Fuel economy is bad by weight moved.The Piaggio Porter is popular.
Small vans developed from passenger cars. They have a load area in the back instead of rear seats, and side panels instead of side windows. The front is the same as a car. Gearing might be different for loads.
As they were designed as cars they are easy to drive, cheap to run, and economical for small weights. Popular ones are the Fiat Punto and Vauxhall Astravans. Ford also have some offerings.
A similar wheelbase to CDVs. Carry a bigger load volume and weight.
The first hi-cubes where based on the front of a three-door hatchback with a high cubic load space behind.
These are easier to drive than a proper panel van (see later) but have a biggish carry volume.
Popular examples include the Ford Transit Connect and Renault Kangoo, also Citroen Berlingo & Vauxhall Combo.
Above: Panel van again
Good choice for small traders but might be better to get a large panel van if spending serious money on a commercial vehicle. Can't really be used for anything else unlike smaller vans. Have to do a calculation and trade off the costs and volumes you need to move.
The large panel van comes in all shapes & sizes.
Three / four lengths
Check specifications first as these categories are not official so descriptions differ. Large panel vans are workhorses with good fuel economy. Popular examples include the Citroen Relay, Renault Master, Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter.
Usually a separate body is built on a chassis. The closed off body volume is extended over the front cab to give extra space. Much loved by furniture removers.
You can move the maximum volume with good fuel economy. Surprisingly maneuverable. (I once got caught in a dead end and had to do a 15 point turn to get out - very easy - just took ages!)
These are custom built so you will get a quote and warranty on body and chassis. Negotiate. Load volumes of up to 20 cubic metres are possible.
Chassis typically might be a 3.5 tonne commercial vehicle. At the back, can be rear barn doors (twin open out) or a rear roller shutter with possibly a tail lift for heavy loads.
Above: Mercedes-Benz Luton van
Above: Mitsubishi L200 pickup
Open load area to the rear of the cab. Known as pick up, pickup, or pick-up van. 4x4 and 4x4 trucks are very popular as you will be off road or on rough surfaces.
Most pick-ups are four-wheel-drive and overdone for town use. But they can have nice cabs. See a lot of these around - they look good and have commercial and domestic use. Can get a hard top for the open area at the back. Better for the shopping!
Popular examples of pick-ups are the Ford Ranger, Mitsibushi L200 (nice), Nissan Navara, Mazda BT50, Toyota Hilux and Nissan NP300.
Cabs on chassis, then customised. This is for our forthcoming truck or lorry section. Common types are:
Popular ones are the Ford Transit, Renault Master, Iveco Daily and Mercedes Sprinter.
Dual purpose, can stick the crew in the back on benches, or use all the space for loads.
A PCV licence needed for minibuses with 9 or over seats. Can add wheel chair lifts and ramps if required. Popular examples are the Fiat Ducato, Renault Master, Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter.
Tautliner curtain allows easy access for dry freight transport.
Rear end is solid, curtain sides, Very good for loads on palettes as the forklift can get in and see what is going on too.
Here's another list of types: