The reputation of the white van over time


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The white van man was and is a widely known British stereotype – but where did it originate from? Originally, white vans were chosen to transport food from location to location because they were the most efficient at keeping the produce cool before fridges were available in vans. However, now, more companies are choosing different colour vans, or having their vehicle wrapped to advertise their business and ensure they stand out on the road against competitors. But how has the white van evolved over time?

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The beginning of the white van man

Constructed to describe and categorise drivers of small commercial vans, the white van man’s first recorded use of the stereotype in the press was in 1997, by The Sunday Times in an article titled ‘Number is up for the White Van Man’. Closer to present day, the term was used in road safety campaigns ran by Freight Transport Association in 2010.

White vans were considered to be the most efficient coloured van to keep produce cool inside – which helped catapult them to the top spot for the most popular coloured van. This is because the light colour of the vehicle is able to reflect more sunlight away from the vehicle. White, silver, and other light colours are coolest, reflecting about 60% of sunlight.

Once considered as a negative stereotype to categorise all van drivers collectively, a new study now reveals that ‘white van drivers’ are now considered as diligent and hard working with average yearly earnings of £21,000. Dispelling the clichés, they therefore contribute over £35 billion annually to the UK economy and have an estimated turnover of £215 billion per year.

Most popular van colours of today

White vans still own the top spot in the league table. In 2014, white still remained the most popular colour for vans, with 57% of new vans registered in white. However, some industry professionals believed this could have been down to cost rather than anything else. White light goods vehicle still seemed to dominate the roads, however, 2014 also experienced an influx in sales for silver vans – 8% in the past decade.

Silver vans take second place, with third place owned by blue and in fourth is red. Whilst white still reigns supreme in the world of vans, an increase in other colours shows that fleet managers are willing to step out their comfort zone and inject some colour into the fleet. However, for vehicle wrapping and customisation, white vans provide fleet managers with a blank canvas to market their business – another reason why white vans could have stuck at the top spot.

A marketing opportunity

Van customisation is becoming largely recognised as a marketing opportunity for many businesses looking to reach a wider audience. The audience potential is large. Arbitron’s In-Car Study claims UK drivers can spend an average of 20 hours on the roads every week (a 31% increase from the 2003) which equates to 1,040 hours a year, or a month and a half, for every driver. The Department of Transport revealed there were 35.6 million registered vehicles on the road in the UK. That is a lot of potential customers!

And figures suggest that this method of marketing is proving incredibly successful and a worthwhile investment. According to experts, more than 70% of motorists are influenced positively by the products and companies that they see advertised on other vehicles. And if that isn’t enough to convince you, 98% of people on the roads said they noticed truck ads, with 35% of them actually study these advertisements closely, and on average, a busy vehicle can be seen by more than 3,000 people every hour, meaning just one car wrap could generate between 30,000 and 70,000 views per day! Vehicle wrapping is a cost-effective way to advertise your business that can generate significant results fast.