Aurelija Meakin: part of a growing community
A new breed of drivers are challenging the stereotypical image of white van man, writes JULENA DRUMI
He has been a familiar feature on British roads for a generation, an aggressive and selfish driver who even had his own column in a tabloid newspaper. But time and trends have caught up with white van man. Nowadays, nearly half of van drivers are female and they’re more likely to practice yoga and care for the environment.
A new report has discovered a friendlier face of the British commercial fleet. Green Van Woman has emerged to challenge the stereotypical image.
Among women van drivers who took part in a survey, most read the quality press over the tabloids (51%) and have a fondness for BBC Radio 4. More than a quarter (27%) are vegetarian, vegan or pescatarian and seven in 10 (70%) prefer a night in watching TV rather than going to the pub.
The first recorded use of the term ‘white van man’ was in May 1997 and it stuck as a term for describing the unpopular antics of tradesmen and other commercial van drivers who had little time for other road users.
The Sun newspaper ran a regular “White Van Man” column for some years in which the driver of a light goods vehicle was interviewed in his van on the issues of the day. BBC Radio 2’s Sarah Kennedy was made honorary president of the first Ford Transit Owner’s Club in 2005.
Mercedes-Benz Vans has now produced a report titled ‘A Driving Force for Change’, revealing that the new breed of female van drivers may still have white vehicles but they care about the impact their vehicles have on the environment and make an effort to be more sustainable.
Female van drivers are also highly politically engaged, with 85% voting in the last General Election – well above the national average 67% UK turnout.
The report also showed a positive shift in attitudes. Almost two-thirds (63%) of van drivers felt the community had become more welcoming to women drivers over the last 25 years.
Business owner and van driver Aurelija Meakin, 43, is the founder of Balloonista, a luxury balloon styling business who has worked for celebrities including Keanu Reeves and Raymond Blanc.
She said: “I’m definitely not your stereotypical white van driver. When I’m driving I usually have business audiobooks on.
“As a woman van driver, I’ve noticed more and more women in vans and I speak to a lot of other female business owners so I’m not surprised. It feels like you’re part of a community of women who run businesses.”
The report found that more than three quarters (77%) of van drivers are actively trying to change their business to reduce the negative impact on the environment, while 74% take routes that reduce fuel consumption and 77% believe it’s important their children understand the impact of climate change.
More than three quarters (76%) said they would consider switching to an electric van and over half (52%) said high fuel costs were their biggest concern at the moment.
Sarah Palfreyman, sales director for Mercedes-Benz Vans UK said: “Our research shows the old image of the van driver is changing into something that truly represents the people making up the van driving community, and that is always evolving.
“Small business owners have been through a lot over the last few years and we’re proud to play a small part in helping keep business moving. The van drivers we speak to are hard-working business owners who are fuelling the economy and the drive towards sustainability.”