Road Safety News

Broad support for higher HGV limits

Tuesday 7th April 2015

While the raising of the national speed limit for HGVs has been broadly welcomed, the road safety charity Brake says the move “legitimises the dangerous behaviour of those who break the speed limit”.

On 6 April the national speed limit in England and Wales for HGVs increased from 50mph to 60mph on dual carriageways, and from 40mph to 50mph on single carriageways.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA), which lobbied for the change, says it will “improve road safety for all road users” and allow single carriageway roads to be used “more effectively and safely”.

Malcolm Bingham, FTA’s head of road network management policy, said: “This is a move to improve safety for all on single carriageway roads where the 20mph speed differential between cars and trucks can lead to hasty overtaking manoeuvres that sadly often result in casualties.

“FTA believes that it will benefit industry as it will allow operators to use the additional speed, where it is safe to do so, and gain running cost benefits.”

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) says the higher limits should “reduce stress and bad overtaking”.

Neil Greig, the IAM’s director of policy and research, said: "Driver awareness is the key if this policy is to deliver safer roads. There is widespread ignorance about current speed limits, leading to frustration and road rage as platoons build up behind lorries being driven legally.

“The new limits should reduce stress and ease bad overtaking. This has been proven in the first few months of higher limits on the A9 in Scotland."

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) said the move will “reduce the speed differential between heavy and light vehicles, with a consequent reduction in delays, frustration and the need to overtake”. 

Brian Gregory, ABD chairman, said: “It is the spread of speeds, rather than average speed, that is linked to accident frequency."

The driver education group TTC says the increases “can make a positive contribution and make roads safer”.

Alan Prosser, TTC Group’s head of driver education, said: “Common collisions on our roads involve overtaking manoeuvres and the rear-end shunt. This speed limit rise will lead to a more even traffic flow, less stop starts, and better fuel efficiency.”

In stark contrast, Brake the road safety charity, reiterated its concern and called the decision “short sighted”.

Gary Rae, Brake’s campaigns manager, said: “The Government has gone against the advice of road safety groups on this issue. The decision runs against work to more effectively manage traffic speeds and reduce casualties on our roads.

“It is a move designed to legitimise the dangerous behaviour of those who already break the speed limit while putting the safety of the law-abiding majority second. It sets a dangerous precedent that if traffic laws are persistently flouted, the Government would rather change them than enforce them.”



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I was travelling on a 50 mph road near home the other day and coming towards me on a quiet part of the road was a convoy of vehicles, some 10 in all. It was obvious that the lead vehicle, a HGV, was travelling slower than the maximum limit and this was before 50 became the new limit so I presume that he would be doing 40 mph.

Behind him were 9 other vehicles, 7 being cars one light van and one motorcycle. From the front vehicle to the last vehicle I estimated the total distance as being 3 lamp posts or 3 x 120ft therefore a complete distance of 360ft or just over 100 mtrs. Not much space In between them. I could imagine that many of those drivers, even though they may not necessarily be in a hurry to get anywhere, were becoming frustrated at the considered slow progress that they were making. That can become a dangerous situation when one or two drivers might consider an overtake that ends wrong.

That's the sort of problem that one was faced with when the old speed limit was in force. Now with a 50 mph limit I am hoping that drivers will realise that there is little need to overtake and again hopefully, like I do, pull back and give space to the vehicle in front. This will promote a difference in behaviour of being passive and relaxed rather than aggressive and uptight.
Bob Craven Lancs. .. Space is Safe campaigner

Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

Idris puts it very well when he says when HGVs travel at higher speeds, especially on single carriageway roads, fewer drivers will see the need to overtake or will feel frustrated and less prepared to take risks. If the speed differential is less there will be less need to overtake and less frustration about being delayed by a slower vehicle. Many countries have minimum speeds on their motorways and even the UK bans slow vehicles like tractors from motorways. It is all about reducing the differential, thus reducing the perceived need to overtake.
Robert Bolt, St Albans

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Sorry if I have astonished you. My comment was based upon the fact that with the max speed of an HGV being less than a car then the latter would in fact, at some time, be inclined to overtake. However, your assertion that drivers will patiently tuck in behind HGVs is a novel one and I guess could result in the very scenario that you then go on to suggest when a long line of vehicles develops behind an HGV.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (2) | Disagree (1)

You said it yourself Idris "..unforseen problems.." so why risk it? Overtaking in normal driving situations in normal traffic flow is not usually necessary or of any benefit.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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This change is not going to make much difference at all, the car, motorbike riders and drivers will still try and overtake if they so wish on a single carriageway and on a dual carriageway as if any one has not worked out the limits are still lower than car and motorbike limits!

In fact I can see an influx of these goods vehicles overtaking each other as companies limit the speed they travel at so they can become cost effective.

A crazy change, however time will tell.

By the way don't tar all ADi's with the same brush, many teach really good techniques including how to overtake safely.
Anthony, Cardiff

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Not for the first time, Rod's analysis astonishes me. The point is, Rod, that when HGVs travel at higher speeds, especially on single carriageway roads, fewer drivers will see the need to overtake or will feel frustrated and less prepared to take risks.

Hugh - overtaking safely is a necessary skill that needs to be taught and acquired through experience. It involves judging distances, speeds,acceleration and braking ability, assessment of the road ahead including available options in the event of unforeseen problems. Not infrequently I find myself at the tail end of a queue of 10 or 20 vehicles No 2 in which is someone who is driving as you claim to do, entirely satisfied with the speed choice of the driver in front, never needing to "make progress" (as police drivers were taught years ago) never needing to arrive on time or catch a train, and all too frequently failing to leave a gap in front to allow others to overtake in two short stages instead of one long one. And usually oblivious to the length of the queue behind them. They should be prosecuted for driving without due consideration and are undoubtedly responsible for many accidents that would not otherwise have happened.
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (6) | Disagree (5)

Try doing the arithmetic from the truck operator's point of view: Wages and number of vehicles needed go down while number of deliveries in any given period go up, broadly in line with average truck speeds, while fuel consumption changes only marginally if at all. It's a no-brainer in economic terms.

I agree with all the organisations quoted, other than Brake - reducing speed differential between HGVs and other vehicles is bound to reduce accidents related to overtaking, tailgating, long queues behind them, especially on single carriageway roads.
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (3) | Disagree (4)

On a single c/way road, I honestly can't remember when, or even if, I have ever overtaken anything - HGV or not - whose speed was within what would be the normal speed band for that particular road and the prevailing circumstances anyway.

Drivers should ask themselves if they really need to overtake at all - bearing in mind the risk. Unfortunately, to some, it's as if constantly trying to overtake is somehow the whole point of driving. The highway is not the place for competitiveness.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (17) | Disagree (1)

Overtaking is a poorly understood art form that is rarely taught and when it is taught it's not taught very well which is a shame considering how lethal it can be.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

Agree (16) | Disagree (1)

I am not sure that I see the benefit in terms of making overtaking easier.

I note that several people have commented that this "reduction in speed differential" will be safer. However, on a practical basis, when you come up behind a truck travelling slower than yourself then you initially slow down to the speed of the truck and hence any "speed differential" is eliminated.

With the new higher limit on trucks then when you do need to overtake then you will have 20% less room (distance) to do so with the same overtaking time and with a lower acceleration ability than if the truck had been travelling slower.

When you do pull in after overtaking then your terminal velocity will be higher than with the lower limits. Hence any collision with an oncoming car due to misjudging this will be at a higher speed.

Am happy to hear other points of view and be corrected!
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (10) | Disagree (10)

Having driven HGVs I can say that the speed differential does make some people take risks and put themselves and others at risk. HGV drivers are reminded like people on caravan driving courses to keep watch on the build up of following traffic and find a place to pull in to allow them to pass. Unfortunately there seem to be less of these sites so car drivers do take chances. Drivers need to calculate the speed differential to work out the overtaking time and distance which is not taught by ADIs. In fact some police traffic officers running better driving courses could not do this. Maybe we need to have something added into theses courses or will that give drivers the belief that they can calculate correctly and therefore take more chances?
Peter Westminster

Agree (10) | Disagree (2)

Posted speed limits are the maximum speed permitted on that road, they are not a target and they are not compulsory.

I realise you are probably referring to speed differentials but it is important to remember that many road users in other vehicles and other modes of transport will not be travelling at or anywhere close to the posted speed limit either.

There are further factors involved – one of which is fuel economy. Many commercial vehicles are limited to their optimum speed for fuel efficiency and raising their national speed limit will not change that. Operators will calculate what is most effective for their operations – slightly quicker delivery and turnaround times v. fuel costs and make their decisions accordingly.
Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB

Agree (19) | Disagree (6)

Whilst the national speed limits have been increased, an increasing number of hauliers, especially supermarkets, display notices on the backs of their trucks saying they are limited to speeds below the national speed limits. Such limitation is totally against the spirit of the new raised limits and could cause accidents.
Robert Bolt, St Albans

Agree (9) | Disagree (13)