The Government has announced plans to raise the speed limit for lorries on single carriageway roads to 50 mph and the move has generated diametrically opposed views.
On the pro side, Transport minister Claire Perry says that the move is part of a package of measures to cut congestion, reduce dangerous overtaking and help get the country moving. Hauliers across England and Wales could see a £11 million a year boost, it is claimed.
The thinking is that heavy goods vehicles over 7.5 tonnes are currently stuck at 40 mph on single carriageway roads a speed limit set in the 1960s and at odds with other large vehicles on our roads.
The government has also launched a 6 week consultation on plans to increase the speed limits for HGVs on dual carriageways from 50 mph to 60 mph.
Claire Perry said: “Britain has one of the world’s best road safety records and yet speed limits for lorries have been stuck in the 1960s. This change will remove a 20 mph difference between lorry and car speed limits, cutting dangerous overtaking and bringing permitted lorry speeds into line with other large vehicles like coaches and caravans. Current speed limits for HGVs were introduced around 50 years ago and need to be updated given improved vehicle technology.”
Also in favour is Geoff Dunning, from the Road Haulage Association, who commented: “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 The current limit is long out of date and the frustration it generates causes unnecessary road safety risks.”
The change in speed limits for HGVs on single carriageways will come into force in early 2015 and will bring England and Wales in line with other European road safety leaders, such as Denmark and Norway. Depending on the consultation responses, the increase for dual carriageways will come in at the same time. The existing limits continue to apply until the change has been put into effect.
On the other hand…
Not everyone welcomes the decision; Brake, the road safety charity, has expressed serious concerns about the proposed limit increase and the announcement comes as a survey by Brake and Digby Brown solicitors reveals the extent of risky driving on country roads.
Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive for Brake, said: “We are disappointed and concerned by this announcement. Put simply, when vehicles travel faster, it takes them longer to stop, increasing risk. It is very well evidenced that increases in speed equal increases in crashes and casualties. At the same time, the road safety justification for this move is dubious: we are not aware of evidence it will help tackle risky overtaking, which should be addressed through other means. Pronounced speed differences between traffic can pose a risk, but the way to address this is by preventing car drivers going too fast, not speeding trucks up. The minister says she wants to get the country moving, but we ask at what cost to road users and the environment?
“Our own survey has just revealed the worrying extent of dangerous fast driving on country roads. We should be taking steps to address this, through driver education, lower speed limits and better enforcement. We are concerned for rural communities already blighted by fast traffic and for those who want to safely enjoy the countryside on foot, bike or horseback. This threatens to make these problems worse.”
Brake campaigns for lower speed limits – 50mph maximum and 40, 30, and 20mph where there are particular risks – to save lives on country roads through its Rural roads not racetracks campaign.