“White van man” is a stereotype found in the United Kingdom of the driving of smaller-sized commercial vans. According to this stereotype, the “white van man” is an independent tradesperson, such as a plumber or locksmith, self-employed, or running a small enterprise, for whom driving a commercial vehicle is not the main line of business, as it is for a professional freight-driver.
The term White Van Man has been used as part of road safety campaigns by the Freight Transport Association.
The first recorded use in the British press was in an article titled “Number is up for White Van Man – scourge of the road.” published by The Sunday Times on May 18, 1997 written by Jonathan Leake, that papers’ then transport editor.
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. These columns were accompanied by a picture of whichever driver had been interviewed leaning out of his cab. There are suggestions the term have been previously used by comedienne Jo Brand in the early 1990s.
Later in 1997, it was used by BBC Radio 2’s Sarah Kennedy. In 2005, Sarah Kennedy was made honorary president of the First Ford Transit Owner’s Club.
Alastair Stewart, presenter of ITV’s Police, Camera, Action!, in the episode A Lorry Load of Trouble (produced in 1997), had a sequence of footage from police forces in the United Kingdom showing the problems that “white van man” was causing. Between 2001 and 2003, The Sun newspaper used a “white van man” as an alleged representative voice of the people. This feature was subsequently ported[clarification needed] to the Xfm radio show The Ricky Gervais Show, in which Karl Pilkington would answer the same questions as “White Van Karl”. An episode of Top Gear featured the White Van Man Challenge.