Van drivers are being urged to remember that they need to take extra care when carrying heavy loads – because it will take them longer to stop.
Volkswagen carried out tests in its vans to show the extent to which cargo affects how quickly you can brake – and found that carrying even 500kg could increase your braking distance by a third.
The company has warned van drivers they risk having an accident if they don't bear this in mind on the road.
Tests in the three Volkswagen vans - the Caddy, the Transporter, and the Crafter - found that braking distances at 30mph increased by two metres on average, or 33 per cent, with a load of 500kg. At 60mph the average increase was five metres or 19 percent.
The company also polled 500 van drivers to see how well they knew their stopping distances. More than half didn't know how much longer it would take to brake when carrying heavy van loads, and only 17 percent knew the 30mph stopping distances in the Highway Code.
The survey found that, on average, van drivers carry at least 500kg of equipment daily.
Volkswagen's director of commercial vehicles, Carl Zu Dohna, said: “Braking distances in the Highway Code don’t take into account the loads that many van drivers carry.
“Van drivers need to be aware they need to adjust their driving style to avoid having a potentially serious accident.”
Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham Research, which was set up to reduce the cost of motor insurance claims, added: “We also encourage van drivers to ensure that loads are well secured, as the movement of heavy items in the back can affect stability and stopping distance.”
The Highway Code stopping distances are:
Total (car lengths)
These are for dry conditions. If a driver is distracted, the van is in poor condition, or the weather or road surfaces are poor, stopping distances can increase dramatically. Plus the heavier the load you're carrying, and the larger your van, the longer it'll take to stop.
Volkswagen became the first manufacturer in 2017 to fit autonomous emergency braking as standard to all its vans. The vans use radar to detect when you might be at risk of crashing into something and warn you – and if you don't respond, will break for you at speeds of up to 18mph. The van will also automatically apply the brakes after a crash to bring your speed down and try to prevent a follow-on collision.