Harmonise speed limits for safer roads, argues FTA

Tuesday 04 May 2010

Speed limits for buses and lorries should be harmonised to give the greatest safety benefits for all road users. So says the Freight Transport Association in its response to a government consultation on heavy goods vehicle (HGV) and passenger carrying vehicle (PCV) motorway speed limits.

Although broadly supportive of efforts to normalise speed limits on these classes of vehicles, the leading trade body has questioned the logic behind introducing a different speed limit for lorries and a higher speed limit for passenger carrying vehicles (PCVs). Malcolm Bingham, FTA’s Head of Road Network Management Policy, said:

“These plans should make it easier for police to enforce the law and, crucially, by reducing the speed limit for smaller trucks from 70mph to 60mph it will remove some of the incentive for operators to run unrestricted lorries which are older and, by virtue of that fact, could be less safe and more polluting.

“However, despite this being a step in the right direction, it is odd that the proposed 65mph limit for passenger carrying vehicles is not being extended to HGVs – if anything the safety implications here would surely be greater.”

It has long been FTA’s contention that leveling speed limits between motorists and commercial vehicle drivers will remove instances of risky overtaking procedures, which are especially prevalent on single carriageways where HGVs over 7.5 tonnes are limited to 40mph.

Bingham concludes:

“For the most part it is the differential between speed limits that causes the greatest problems so any efforts to reduce this gulf must be supported. The speed limiter settings themselves are enshrined in EU law and therefore difficult to change, at least in the short term. For now, FTA recommends setting the national speed limit for all coaches, minibuses, and different categories of lorry travelling on our motorways at 65mph.”

Notes for editors

Vehicle Class                       Current motorway                 Proposed limit (mph)                Speed limited
                                                limit (mph)                                                                                     setting (mph)

HGVs 3.5-7.5 tonnes          70                                             60                                                  56
HGVs 7.5 tonnes +              60 (no change)                      60 (no change)                           56
PCVs less than 12m           70                                             65                                                  62.5
PCVs more than 12m         60                                             65                                                  62.5

By reducing the motorway speed limit of Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes from 70mph to 60mph the Department for Transport (DfT) hopes to level the commercial playing field between owners of older trucks, which do not have speed limiters, and those newer trucks, which are limited to a maximum speed of 56mph.

FTA agrees with the DfT that benefits may be derived from lower speeds, such as reduced transport costs and emissions. However, FTA contends that there may be additional costs – particularly in the express parcels market where deliveries may need rescheduling due to longer journey time. Other costs that need to be accounted for include the cost of additional vehicles, the cost of overnight stays to cope with additional journeys and modal shift requirements, particularly in the express delivery market. FTA members have experienced significant costs when changing to speed limited vehicles and often turned to air transport to ensure deliveries are on time. The significant financial and environmental costs are not considered in this consultation.


FTA Press Office

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