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What is Shelving and Racking? Key differences

18 May 2022

Van shelving and racking provide storage solutions that enable you to organise your mobile workshop so you can find and access tools easily. There are, however, slight differences between shelving and racking. 

Why is this important? The purpose of a van storage system is to maximise your cargo space and make your work van more efficient. Subsequently, you can carry more cargo and save time which helps to make your business more profitable. 

However, to achieve your business goals, your storage system should be designed and built in a way that provides the most benefits. In short, your van’s storage system needs to meet your precise needs. 

For some businesses, a van shelving will provide a better solution. Other businesses will be more productive with a van racking system. Whilst both systems help to organise the rear of your van and provide a palace for everything, they provide different benefits. 

Choosing between shelving and racking depends on how you intend to use your van. If you need a storage system purely for the purpose of storage boxes or a few heavy-duty tools, a van racking system will probably be the most ideal solution. 

However, if you also have multiple accessories or smaller tools, adding van shelving ideas is a better solution. You can create shelving systems as a standalone design, or build them into a racking system. 

What’s the difference between Shelving and Racking?

The key difference between shelving and racking is that van racking solutions can transform your work’s vehicle into a mobile workshop. Shelving units, on the other hand, can be folded, adjusted, removed and replaced to give you more versatility. 

Tradesmen that carry out different jobs with different materials every day can really benefit from a flexible shelving system. The ability to adapt your storage system to your needs on a day-to-day basis is a godsend. 


Shelving systems also make a racking storage system more sophisticated. It provides you with specific compartments you can use to categorise accessories. For example, carpenters may want a shelf for screwdrivers and screws, another for hammer and nails and another for drills and drill bits etc. 

This type of compartmentalisation is also best served with drawers which can be further compartmentalised with dividers. Shelving is available with a closed back to prevent drawers from scratching the walls of your vans and with latches so the drawers don’t fall out. You can also install locking drawers to improve the security of your tools and equipment. With van theft rising in the UK, locking drawers are very popular. 

Van racking is the framework which gives you the foundation to create a custom-designed mobile workshop. This can range from a simple storage rack for housing boxes, to a fully-kitted out racking system with cabinets, folding tables and removable metal suitcases. 


Racking is ideal for delivery firms and tradesmen that carry large equipment. A gardener, for example, can install a racking system to securely house a lawnmower and wheelbarrow, whilst storing handheld tools on hooks attached to the rack walls.

A racking system can also include accessories such as ramps and loading platforms to make loading and unloading equipment easier. You can also add things like soap dispensers, rubbish bins, an extendable gutter and drawer units. 

Building shelves into your racking system, as described above, gives you even more options to organise your tools.

Shelving And Racking: What to Consider When Designing? 

The first consideration when designing a storage system for your van is how much storage space you have in your van. The amount of space you have will determine how much equipment you can carry.

The second question to ask then, is how much equipment do you need to carry? Remember, the purpose of building a storage system is to organise the back of your van so that: 

  • You can find tools and equipment easily and quickly.
  • To create more space so that you can carry more equipment.
  • So you manoeuvre around in your van.
  • To protect tools from damage and theft.
  • Keep your van tidy so you look professional and trustworthy.

Another consideration that should not be overlooked is load volume. How much weight are you legally permitted to carry? This is important to know because it can affect the shelving or racking design of your storage system. It will also determine the type of material you use for racks and shelves; wood, steel or aluminium. 

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