New HGV speed limits in force in the UK

Controversial increases in speed limits for large goods vehicles are now in force in England and Wales for roads covered by the national speed limit.

Following consultations and an announcement last summer from the Department for Transport (DfT) that the speed limits would change, Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV) over 7.5 tonnes are now subject to speed limits of 50mph (80kph) on single carriageways and 60mph (100kph) on dual carriageways. These each represent a 10mph increase on previous limits and are still 10mph less than the corresponding speed limits for lighter vehicles on roads where the national speed limit applies (60mph on single carriageways and 70mph on dual carriageways).

The original purpose behind the change in the law was to reduce the speed differential between light traffic and heavy goods vehicles, a differential that led to frustration and dangerous overtaking manoeuvres. The move has been welcomed by the UK’s Freight Transport Association (FTA) which has always supported the increase as a means of improving safety for all road users. The organisation believes that the earlier limits were no longer valid due to changes in vehicle technology that have taken place since the original speed limit for HGV equipment was introduced in the 1960s.

According to the FTA’s Head of Road Network Management Policy, Malcolm Bingham, the existing speed differential of 20mph leads to poor overtaking decisions and associated casualties on the roads, something that the increased speed limits will help to reduce. He also indicated that the freight industry will also benefit from improved running cost benefits through using the additional speed when safe to do so.

The FTA’s opinion on the new speed limits was reflected by the Institute of Advanced Motoring (IAM). The road safety charity believes that stress induced bad overtaking manoeuvres will be reduced, a notion that was proven during trials of the new limits on Scotland’s A9 route. Driver awareness was also mentioned by the IAM.

According to the IAM’s Director of Policy and Research, Neil Greig, this is a key element of ensuring that safer roads are the result of the increased limits. Currently, general ignorance of HGV speed limits results in frustration as queues of light vehicles form behind lorries which are being driven within the speed limits. A reduced differential will result in reduced frustration.

Not all road safety charities are happy about the changes though. Brake is against the change, stating that increased speed is linked to increased casualties and therefore it makes no sense to increase the speed of the most dangerous vehicles on the roads.

Describing the changes in speed limits as “short sighted”, Brake’s Campaign Manager, Gary Rae is disappointed that the charity’s advice was ignored by the Government and believes that the change only serves to legitimise those who break the law by driving over the existing speed limits.

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