In praise of white van man

It’s fair to say that white van man hasn’t always had a great press. In the popular stereotype, white van man is typified by aggressive, inconsiderate and generally loutish behaviour and driving. As with many stereotypes, the reality is a long way removed from the myth.

abc

Although the white van has been around for decades – the first “Transit” van rolled off the production line in Koln in 1953 – the term “white van man” seems only to have been coined in the 1990s, with the term’s first recorded appearance in the press being in a Sunday Times article in 1997. White Van Man became an unlikely “vox pop” cypher in a certain Redtop newspaper column with the alleged protagonist giving a less than politically correct view (though it may have been a view which was entirely in tune with its editor and owner) on topical issues of the day. White van man’s reputational nadir came with a BBC comedy series of the same name in 2011.

But white van man is fighting back. While the term in its original context could be taken to refer to any small business or tradesman – plumbers, electricians for example – who use the ubiquitous white van as a combined transport and tool shed, the more modern incarnation of white van man has a different role.

Personal transport in larger cities, and especially London, often mean using public transport. But what happens when you need to move house or flat – or even just get a heavy package or two across town? Because the average square footage of most London properties tends to be rather less than the national average (unless you’re one of the super-rich), most London removals don’t require a huge removal HGV to carry them off. In fact, trying to manoeuvre, park and load or offload these beasts in the average London street can be a nightmare all in itself.

That’s where a man with a van really comes into its own. As far removed from the tired stereotype as you could get, these white van men (and occasionally women) make a point of being polite, flexible, helpful and courteous – in fact many of them stake their reputation on it. Because light haulage and removal companies in London are generally locally based, their drivers are knowledgeable and well-versed in the problems of negotiating London traffic making for quicker and less stressful journeys from A to B without the aggressive and inconsiderate driving which the stereotype alleges.

From the customers’ point of view, the accent on courtesy and flexibility is a key advantage to hiring a London man and van to help with removals. Moving house is stressful enough without having to deal with a less than helpful removal company. Word gets round quickly and any van man company which doesn’t put stress on customer service simply isn’t going to survive. The customer is always welcome to muck in with the lifting and carrying, saving money on the final bill but it’s not mandatory; with flexibility as the watchword, white van man will take care of the whole thing, from packing through to putting the furniture in place at your new home.

Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the stereotype: white van man, it turns out, is the good guy after all.