Road Safety News

Drivers unaware of speed limit for lorries

Wednesday 26th February 2014

A lack of awareness among drivers of the speed limit for lorries on single carriageway roads is increasing the risk of road rage and accidents, according to AA DriveTech

The findings are from the AA/Populus online poll of 23,700 adults conducted in January 2014, in which eight out of 10 (81%) respondents did not know that the limit for lorries on these roads is 40mph.

Knowledge of the correct speed limit for lorries on single carriageway roads was highest among Scottish drivers (40%) and lowest among those in Northern Ireland (14%).

Men had a slightly better than average knowledge of the correct speed limit than women (21% compared to 15%).

AA DriveTech says that a lack of knowledge of speed limits for other vehicles can cause “problems and frustrations” on the road.

Jim Kirkwood, managing director of AA DriveTech, said: “Many drivers say they feel intimidated by lorries. But, this research highlights how a lack of understanding of the laws surrounding lorries, and how best to drive around them, could be contributing to this.

“Drivers who find themselves frustrated because they are stuck behind a lorry they perceive to be going slowly need to remember that there are different speed limits for different vehicles.

“Professional lorry drivers have been required by law to hold a special licence for 80 years; highlighting the specialist skills needed to drive large vehicles safely and legally.

“As an industry we need to ensure that we continue to uphold the highest standards and the upcoming Driver CPC* deadline should ensure all drivers and fleets get their training in order.”

Click here to read the full AA DriveTech news release.



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Funny, I have never to my recollection come across a HGV doing the maximum legal for the road 40 mph. It's a nonsense to believe that they would comply with the speed limit on A roads or other single carriageways as they flaunt the laws re tailgating and driving without reasonable consideration on the motorways all the time. I do, however, often find fault with tractors doing 40mph on a 50 or 60mph road. Holding up all and sundry without pulling in and allowing the long line of followers to make progress - as the Highway code suggests that they should do.
bob craven Lancs

Agree (0) | Disagree (3)

Come to think of it, didn't Hollywood pick up on this very subject in their road safety themed film 'Speed' starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock? If I remember rightly, the heroine had to drive a bus through LA, not letting the speed drop below 50mph otherwise she would lose concentration and she would inevitably then become instantly drowsy and possiblly fall asleep at the wheel and crash. Conversely, in an old episode of Batman, a bomb had been placed under the hood of the Batmobile which would cause it to explode if it exceeded a certain speed. An early, if controversial, version of ISA.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

Leaving aside all the other valid points made by various people, would it not be a lovely idea if people knew how to drive? I often come upon queues of vehicles headed by an LGV adhering to the 40 limit. If I have no desire to overtake, then I leave a large gap between my vehicle and the one in front of me; this allows others to make progress if they wish to do so. Most drivers get close the vehicle in front, despite having neither the desire, nor ability to overtake, and thus make it much more difficult for others. Leaving gaps does not mean that one drives more slowly, it just means more time to react, and has the side effect of helping others. Sadly, most drivers hold a licence, but do not know how to drive safely and effectivley.
David, Suffolk

Agree (12) | Disagree (0)

I am not sure the 40mph speed limit has caused more 'asleep at the wheel' than the 54mph speed limit more recently introduced. Lorries have for a very long time been restricted to 40mph on single carriageways, and before that 30mph. Boiling with rage and frustration is an indication of ignorance and the expectation that 'getting past' will achieve shorter journey time.

As to lorries being slower than most other traffic, I drive in a manner which considers vehicle wear and tear along with fuel economy, and am frequently out accelerated by 40ton articulated lorries, and on motorways through restricted speed limit areas, it is they who are always closest in the rear view mirror, and they who are more inclined to change lane with little regard to others.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (7) | Disagree (3)


My reference to the 20mph limit that preceded the 40mph limit was for the sake of Eric who seemed to be implying that the change to 40mph somehow induced sleep in drivers. It was an attempt at irony which I accept may not have been recognised by all.

For the record you should be aware that our campaign for 20mph limits is for residential roads and those where trucks should already be travelling slower due to presence of vulnerable road users. Hardly an intervention which would require more trucks. On the other hand I guess it could have been your attempt at irony!
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (4) | Disagree (1)

Why do 17 readers prefer not to know the net safety effect of 40mph limits? Similarly, does Rod King not understand the economic consequences of limiting lorries to 20mph, including 2 to 3 times as many on the road to deliver the same goods? Has Hugh Jones ever driven for 8 to 10 hours a day - and tried to keep awake, as many lorry drivers do? Thank goodness for Eric and Duncan's sensible points.
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (3) | Disagree (5)

Public awareness of HGV speed limits will hardly be improved by the sensible proposal to increase it to 50mph for lorries on the A9 - for safety reasons.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (4) | Disagree (6)

Trucks will always be slower than cars and bikes so it doesn't really matter what speed they are limited to in order for there to be a build up of frustration in following motorists. The rule is that there are three important speeds, slower than me, faster than me and the same as me. If you come across something going slower than you then you have two choices, stay behind it boiling with rage and frustration or overtake it. Neither of these two situations is optimal for road safety and particularly bad is the situation where the following driver has been behind the truck for a long and frustrating amount of time and so takes the first overtaking opportunity that they think they can get away with. Doing an overtake in an overly aroused state is a really, really bad idea as the overtake is likeley to be poorly planned and executed instead of being safe and efficient.

Same rule applies to drivers following push-bikes or mopeds and scooters which confirms the rule that the most dangerous vehicle on the road is the one at the front of the queue. This is not because the lead vehicle or driver is doing anything wrong, far from it, but because they are the catalyst for any 'nightmare overtaking' attempts.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (15) | Disagree (2)

Oh for those "halcyon days" before 1957 when trucks had a "sleep inducing" 40mph limit imposed.

"Lorries", as they were then called, were excluded from the 1930 and 1934 changes in limits for "Light Motor Vehicles" and hence were subject to a 20mph national limit up to 1957.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (8) | Disagree (6)

Hard to imagine anyone - let alone a lorry driver - fall asleep at the wheel on a single carraigeway road? Their physical characteristics (the road, not the driver) require constant inputs such as steering and speed adjustment, which is virtually absent from long periods on motorways where it is more likely to happen. 40mph is not that far below the typical speeds on single carriageway roads anyway - particularly the older ones.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (15) | Disagree (7)

Not only does this speed differential lead to the risks described in this article, but I believe the instances of lorry drivers falling asleep at the wheel has increased since the 40mph limit was introduced. Does anyone know of any assessment of the net effect of the 40 limit on lorry safety, in terms of collisions and casualties?
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (5) | Disagree (18)