Van, Artic, Rigid Lorry or Road Train – Which One Is the Most Suitable for Your Job?

Did you know that the word lorry comes from the Old English term ‘to lurry’, which means ‘to pull’? It’s not just the word lorry that has developed over time; vehicles have developed too.

Shortlisting which vehicle is most suitable for your business is quite the headache. You might not even be entirely sure what each one is, what it’s best for or what it does. Let’s see if we can make it a bit clearer for you.

Before you consider any type of vehicle, first consider what you are trying to transport. For example, if you are looking at a Road Train to maximize the capacity available to you, then on average you’ll find that they are only usually filled to a quarter of their capacity. A large van would probably suffice.


Vans are ideal for the transportation of smaller goods. Whilst it may seem that investing in the smallest vehicle would seem like wasted potential, it could in fact mean the opposite.

Mercedes SprinterThere are more than 3.5 million vans currently registered for business usage across the UK. This number is on the increase and outnumbers the number of lorries by 7 to 1. We see a lot of them on our Irish Sea and English Channel ferry routes.

In terms of transport, a van would be best suited for smaller items. For example, furniture, farming / construction supplies, stationary, clothing or anything else in between.

When considering a van, you need to think in terms of volume and dimensions. Measure the largest item’s height, width and depth. Then, compare it with the size of the back of the vehicle. You may be surprised with how much could fit in the back of a van with a well utilized space; especially with a well fitted racking system.

Once you’ve worked out the approximate cubic footage, start shopping around for a van which best suits your needs. Take a look at our ‘Buying A Used Van for Courier Work’ guide and ‘8 New Commercial Vans for 2018’ article.

Rigid Lorries

A rigid is usually the best bet if you are new to the game. Their lack of flexibility between cab and trailer makes the driving experience similar to a car.

Many experienced HGV drivers will tell you that it is invaluable to gain experience in different types of truck early on in your career. As you gain more experience, you can increase your load capacity and the size of your vehicle. As it is unlikely you will downsize vehicle as you progress, don’t miss the chance of developing your road skills by bypassing this vehicle.

Rigids are not suitable for all forms of goods transport due to their typically rear only access. However, they are ideal for secondary distribution and commercial deliveries. Most models are equipped with an electronic tail lift, which makes goods easily accessible and reduces the amount of physical labour that may be required if you opt for a large van.

Although not always the case, some rigid manufacturers produce models equipped with sliding side, rear and roof access making them ideal for collection from depots with restricted access.

With a capacity up to approximately 26 tonnes and typically able to carry around fourteen standard palettes, a rigid is ideal for a mid range load.

Once you know what cargo you will be carrying and what kind of access is available at the depots you will be collecting from, research your options.


"Wasted space equals wasted money."

Articulated Lorries

An Articulated ‘Artic’ lorry is known for its two parts; a tractor which pulls a trailer.

Artics are ideal for consistently large loads with a maximum fully laden weight of 44 tonnes and 6 axles. A HGV or LGV (Large Goods Vehicle) can be up to 16.5m in length, according to UK Government 'Moving Goods by Road' guidance.

If your load is on the small side and under 3.5, an Artic will not be your most financially viable option due to the additional licensing and insurance requirements of a HGV.

Road trainThe next step up from a smaller vehicle is usually a bigger fixed axle. If however you’re taking the leap straight to an artic, be prepared for how different this kind of lorry is to drive compared to a rigid.

Artics are the most popular lorry for sea crossings, including Mediterranean routes as the trailer can travel on ferries separately from the van and be picked up by another driver at the destination port. This should be considered by employers as it is potentially a cheaper solution for international haulage.

Road Trains

The bigger brother of the Artic, the Road Train is the largest vehicle you can take on UK roads.

Although larger in length, the same tonnage limitation applies to a Road Train as it does to an Artic. This means the vehicle cannot surpass a maximum fully laden weight of more than 44 tonnes and can only have up to six individual axles. Road Trains are ideal for longer but lighter goods transport.

With additional licences and declarations required for a Road Train, it is worth considering whether the investment is necessary. In terms of maximum weight, there is nothing really to be gained from the extra space.

For more information on vehicle types and what can be taken on ferries, check out our Vehicle Types on Ferries guide.

01 May 2018

Search and Book

Sat, 9 Dec 2023
Sun, 10 Dec 2023
Need help?