How the ‘white van man’ is about to be overtaken by ‘green van woman’

The stereotypical image of van drivers as being white, male and working-class is heading for the scrapyard, according to a new report, as ‘The Green Van Woman’ is set to steal the road.

Nearly half (43%) of van owners are now revealed to be female, a far cry from the White Man Van image when the phrase was first coined in 1997.

Out of the numbers of female van drivers in the UK, most (51%) read a broadsheet over a tabloid, 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.

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.

The mother-of-one, from Bromley, south east London, drives a Mercedes-Benz e-Sprinter and says the report shows the stereotype of the white van man ruling the roads is past its sell-by date and doesn’t reflect the image of modern van drivers.

She said: “I’m definitely not your stereotypical white van driver. If I had any newspaper rolled up in my windscreen it would be the Times business section and 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 to hear so many women are behind the wheel of a van. It feels like you’re part of a community of women who run businesses and start-ups in London and everyone’s very friendly.

The Mercedes-Benz Vans report, titled ‘A Driving Force for Change’, also revealed van drivers care about the impact their vans have on the environment and make an effort to be more sustainable.

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. Meanwhile over a third (37%) said being able to buy or lease a van online would save them time and 33% said it would be cheaper.

Business owner Aurelija added: “Since I launched my business in 2016, having a van has become essential to me and I am proud to be a van driver. But I also see myself as a sustainable business owner. I care about the environment and at home we’ve taken steps to live more sustainably such as cutting down on the amount of meat we eat.

“Among the other business owners I speak to, sustainability is becoming more of a priority, not just from an environmental perspective but also as the cost of living and fuel price rises kick in.

“I switched to an electric van in 2021 because of the environmental impact but I quickly saw a financial benefit as well, with my fuel bill falling from £200 of diesel to £70 of electricity per week. It’s reduced my bills from £9,600 to £3,300 a year.”

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. Business owners are making sustainability a priority – from the materials they use, to their vehicle of choice.

“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. Many of them tell us their next step is to move to an electric van and we’re here to support them through the transition to EV and beyond.

“By the end of the decade, all newly launched Mercedes-Benz vehicles will be electric-only and customers will be able to choose an all-electric alternative for every model we make to support business owners in a fully connected, low-carbon future.”