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Speed limit for HGVs to increase from 40mph to 50mph

The speed limit on single carriageway rural roads for Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) over 7.5 tonnes is due to increase. In this article we look at the reasons for this change and consider the implications for the road haulage sector.

The speed limit on single carriageway rural roads for Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) over 7.5 tonnes is due to increase from 40mph to 50mph.

The exact date on which the increased speed limit will take effect is yet to be confirmed; however it is anticipated to be implemented in early 2015.

Transport Minister, Claire Perry, announced the move following a public consultation as part of a package of measures to cut congestion, reduce dangerous overtaking and help get the country moving.

Reasons for the change

HGVs have been limited to 40mph on single carriageway roads since the 1960s, which is considered by some to be out of date. Increasing the limit will bring England and Wales into line with other European countries, such as Denmark and Norway, and remove the disparity which exists between HGVs and other large vehicles, such as coaches.

The change aims to reduce the speed differential between HGVs and other vehicles on the road to help traffic flow and reduce the frustration which leads to overtaking in inappropriate places.

As well as safety benefits, the move is expected to provide an estimated £11m a year boost the haulage industry.

Support and concerns

The move has been backed by transport groups, including the Freight Transport Association and the Road Haulage Association (RHA) who had long campaigned for the increase. RHA Chief Executive Geoff Dunning is quoted as saying:

“This evidence-based decision by ministers to increase the limit to 50 mph will be strongly welcomed by hauliers and their drivers. The current limit is long out-of-date and the frustration it generates causes an unnecessary road safety risk.”

The change is not without its critics. Whilst advances in technology and design means that lorries are considered to be much safer than they were when the speed limit was first set, road safety campaigners have raised concerns that the increased differential between HGVs, oncoming vehicles and vulnerable road users (such as cyclists and horse riders) will increase the severity of collisions.

The Department for Transport (DfT) defended the decision to increase the speed limit, commenting that it would be urging local councils to implement lower speed limits on roads where necessary, taking into account factors such as road layout and local use of roads by cyclists and pedestrians. The DfT also announced its intention to carry out a major study about rural road safety in the near future.

Speed limits are, of course, a maximum and the speed at which a person drives at must always be appropriate for the circumstances. Driving could still be considered careless or even dangerous even when travelling within the speed limit, for example where there is limited visibility or when passing vulnerable road users.

As the exact date on which the increased speed limits will take effect is yet to be confirmed, HGVs must adhere to the current 40mph speed limit on single carriageways.

N.B Government consultation: increasing HGV speed limit on dual carriageways

The Government is also proposing to increase the speed limit for HGVs on dual carriageways from 50mph to 60mph. A Government consultation has been launched which is due to close on 5 September 2014. You can respond to the consultation online >. Depending on the outcome of that consultation an increase to the speed limit on dual carriageways could also come into effect.

This article was written by DWF’s Motor Prosecutions Unit; a specialist team dedicated to defending criminal prosecutions brought against drivers and companies. To contact the Motor Prosecutions Unit, please contact Lee Foulser or Andrew Barton.

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

Lee Foulser

Director

I am a Director in the Commercial Insurance team based in Manchester. I handle a wide range of complex and high-value matters for the firm’s leading insurer clients.