Origin of the Van and Meaning of the Word Part 2

Author: Kim Jacobs | Last modified on: November 9th, 2015

As mentioned in the opening part of the article, the word ‘van’ although overlapping in general meaning, describes a slightly different type of transport or passenger vehicle in different English speaking countries around the world. Vans are the workhorse of choice for a multitude of businesses and industries worldwide.

Small-vanIn the United States for instance, van is also a boxy shaped trailer or a semitrailer used for transportation of goods. North Americans differentiate between a regular van and a refrigerated one. A normal transport van is usually called a dry van, whereas refrigerated vehicles are known as reefers in American English. In America, the train car carrying people’s luggage is also known as a van. When talking about full sized vans, Americans usually refer to a vehicle which in size and technical capacity resembles a small truck. In North America there are quite a few different types of either passenger or delivery vans, the actual type of vehicle usually determines its ‘name’ and some of the US based car makers have slightly different ‘names’ for these types of vehicles, for instance conversion vans, cutaway vans etc. In the North America, a van can also describe a vehicle also commonly known as a minivan, however the word minivan in US English usually describes a smaller sized, front wheel drive vehicle. American minivans are usually reserved for passenger use only, and provide seven or eight seater capacity. A typical US minivan would also be characterised by double sliding doors on either of its sides.

Vans are not only used in Anglo-Saxon countries. These vehicles are widely in use all over the world – yet again they differ in purpose and size. In India for example, where vans happen to be one of the most common modes of transport, a van is usually used as a school bus. However, vans in India are used as auxiliary school buses in cases where the main bus is full to capacity with students.

In Japan, a country renowned for its diverse automotive industry, the word van also describes a number of different passenger and transport vehicles. Many Japanese built vans, are similar to what North Americans would call a minivan. This is no surprise as the Japanese automotive industry has had a strong presence on the US car market for many decades. In Japan however they also got vehicles called micro vans. Micro vans are really small but versatile and efficient for small business purposes. The Japanese refer as light vans to transport vehicles based or converted from the station wagon versions of some passenger cars. Some of the early and proven Japanese vans were the Mazda Bongo and Subaru 360.

Modern vans of different kinds are now becoming safer for drivers, other motorists and the cargo they are hauling. Early models did not even have a barrier separating the cargo compartment from the driver cabin. Nowadays, vans are fitted with special barriers protecting the driver from spilling the load (and serious injury) in the case of sudden breaking or collisions. These days van engineers have also addressed the rollover safety issue as in the past vans with high centre of gravity were somewhat unstable.

About the Author:

Kim Jacobs is a removals coordinator with over 11 years of experience as part of the Get man and van team and other firms in the home and office relocation industry in London. Before joining our company, Kim has worked in various logistical and transportation companies and institutions such as Transport for London, The Removals Ombudsman, and has coordinated moving projects with some of the biggest suppliers of various goods such as IKEA, HomeBase, Amazon, Sainsbury's and others. While working as a chief removals coordinator, Kim also enjoys sharing her expertise with others through writing in our blog.

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