Home
Government accused of putting lives at risk after raising HGV speed limit on rural roads

A government decision announced last week to raise the speed limit for lorries on single carriageway rural roads from 40 miles an hour to 50 miles an hour has been criticised by the opposition and by cycling organisations – and even the Government’s own impact assessment suggests casualties could rise by between 10 and 20 per cent.

Announcing the change in the speed limit, which is due to come into force next year, transport minister Claire Perry insisted that the higher speed limit would “cut dangerous overtaking by motorists seeking to pass slower-moving lorries in front of them", reports The Guardian.

But an impact assessment carried out by the Department for Transport (DfT) says that the higher speed limit for HGVs would lead to two or three additional fatal road traffic incidents a year and between four and nine serious ones.

Turning to whether the change would reduce the amount of dangerous overtaking, the authors said it could be a benefit but they were unable to put a figure on it "because we do not have sufficient confidence that it would occur," adding, "while overtaking manoeuvres may become less likely, they would also be performed at higher speeds and so could become more dangerous".

The assessment added that three quarters of lorry drivers are thought to break the speed limit regularly when driving on roads without speed cameras.

The DfT insisted it had examined the issue in detail before deciding to increase the speed limit, with a spokesman saying: "Road safety is a key priority and we studied both the potential for increased risk and for improved safety due to less risky overtaking before making our decision.

“We are determined to improve safety – for instance, by encouraging local authorities to lower speed limits on roads where needed, better procedures to deal with HGV drivers who drive tired, and bringing in a new offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving."

But shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh accused the government of putting the lives of vulnerable road users at risk.

She said: "The government has pledged to review the safety of rural roads, but these higher speed limits will make them much less safe for pedestrians and cyclists. Ministers need to bring forward evidence before pushing ahead with these potentially dangerous speed increases."

Responding to a government claim that the new speed limit would save the haulage sector some £11 million a year, she added: "The main impact on the freight industry is that the government has failed to tackle the strategic road network, cancelling projects to improve roads and cutting building and maintenance budgets."

British Cycling described the move as “staggering,” while Penny Knight, head of the cycling team at the law firm Leigh Day, criticised the government for putting financial interests over people’s safety.

“It is extraordinary that the cost savings to the haulage industry are being cited as the reasons for making our roads more unsafe for all road users, not just cyclists,” she said. “Any cost savings to an industry are not worth the deaths that will result from this legislation."

Referring to the Commonwealth Games, she added: “The timing of this announcement couldn’t be worse, just when we celebrate cycling as one of our key sporting events as a nation, the Government ensures that the roads on which many of our champions train are made more unsafe."

Chris Peck, policy co-ordinator at national cyclist’s organisation CTC, pointed out that the roads where lorries will soon be permitted to travel faster than they can at the moment are the very ones that already account for a high proportion of cycling casualties.

He said: "The risk of cycling on rural single-carriageway roads is over 20 times greater than on minor urban roads, and several cyclists are killed each year – hit behind by lorries on these roads – a risk which will only increase as lorries are allowed to go faster.

“CTC believes that lorries should only be allowed to drive at higher speeds on properly engineered major roads, where adequate parallel cycling facilities exist," he added.

It also seems likely that increasing the HGV speed limits on these roads will increase the number of lorries using them, a factor that does not seem to have been accounted for in the DfT's calculations.

Drivers using GPS navigation will be more likely to be directed down single-carriageway roads by algorithms designed to shorten journey time if those roads become nominally faster.

News of the change to the speed limit was however welcomed by the Road Haulage Association (RHA) which said: "This evidence-based decision by ministers 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."

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

54 comments

Avatar
bikebot [2119 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

It would make a lot more sense to lower the national speed limit for all other motor vehicles from 60 to 50 on single carriageways.

Avatar
Paul_C [512 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
bikebot wrote:

It would make a lot more sense to lower the national speed limit for all other motor vehicles from 60 to 50 on single carriageways.

even 50 is still too fast for these rural roads.

Here's an existing 50 mph rural road...

http://goo.gl/maps/dyK2z

I consider 50 mph to still be too fast for it... If HGV's are allowed to do 50 MPH along here, they'll start using it as a rat run to get to the M5...

Avatar
Sevenfold [70 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Based on the Government's own 2011 figures

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fil...

the cost of a fatal RTC is £1686532 & a serious RTC is £189519. Using the 'worst-case' higher numbers (3 fatal, 9 serious) & assuming only a single person (cyclist or pedestrian) is impacted by the incident, the cost is £6765267. Add say 5% for inflation for 3 years (2011 - 2014), & we are at in excess of £7 million. Saving to the road haulage industry, (a fine, upstanding bunch based on the recent evidence that a significant proportion of vehicles are not roadworthy) is £11m, cost to the nation £7.1m...

Avatar
Andrewwd [40 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
Sevenfold wrote:

Based on the Government's own 2011 figures

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fil...

the cost of a fatal RTC is £1686532 & a serious RTC is £189519. Using the 'worst-case' higher numbers (3 fatal, 9 serious) & assuming only a single person (cyclist or pedestrian) is impacted by the incident, the cost is £6765267. Add say 5% for inflation for 3 years (2011 - 2014), & we are at in excess of £7 million. Saving to the road haulage industry, (a fine, upstanding bunch based on the recent evidence that a significant proportion of vehicles are not roadworthy) is £11m, cost to the nation £7.1m...

Add to this the cost of increased road damage... latest figures show that the subsidy for HGVs using UK roads is a staggering £5 billion (!) http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/new-research-britain%E2%80%99s-lorries...

"Road damage from the heaviest lorries is estimated to be 150,000 times higher than for a typical car"

That £11m doesnt look like such a saving after all.

Avatar
sfichele [140 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Outrageous decision, pointless and stupid. The dubious £11 million benefit to the hauliers is a tiny, tiny amount of money for a market that is worth billions. And as #Sevenfold points out, when mitigated against the cost of serious "accidents", it's virtually nothing.

If this change really does divert more lorries onto smaller roads, that meaningless saving will be dwarfed by the additional surface damage to done to those roads.

Avatar
GrahamSt [167 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

First find me a lorry that sticks to the 40 limit when there are no cameras about.

Avatar
arowland [165 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
Paul_C wrote:
bikebot wrote:

It would make a lot more sense to lower the national speed limit for all other motor vehicles from 60 to 50 on single carriageways.

even 50 is still too fast for these rural roads.

Here's an existing 50 mph rural road...

http://goo.gl/maps/dyK2z

I consider 50 mph to still be too fast for it... If HGV's are allowed to do 50 MPH along here, they'll start using it as a rat run to get to the M5...

|Is it just me or is Google going bananas with its blurring out? When I clicked the link I got a close-up of the road sign with A4019 blurred out; when I clicked backwards a step, the road sign is clear (that's how I know what it said) but the 50 mph sign is blurred. What does it think it is? A face? A number plate? Why doesn't it blur out all speed signs?

Avatar
dp24 [204 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Yet another government decision that has been taken whilst choosing to ignore inconvenient facts, even when put forward by their own civil servants.

Avatar
kraut [146 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Not to mention increased fuel costs...

Avatar
Ramuz [309 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

If you hadn't already realised it this government only cares about car drivers and hauliers as transport solutions. And if you aren't already politically active, you need to get volunteering for the political parties that do care about safe and sustainable transport.

Avatar
sean1 [177 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

More bonkers legislation from this anti-cycling, pro-car, government.

The law change is based on no evidence what so ever that it will reduce "dangerous overtaking" manouvers.

It will lead to more serious accidents, and not just for cyclists. If lorries already flout the 40mph rule, then they will also flout the 50mph rule and end up doing close to 60mph on narrow country roads.

Inevitably the number of very serious collisions is going to go up.

Once again the haulage lobby "wins" for no real gain, either economic or safety.

So incredibly stupid, what is Claire Perry thinking??

If lorries regularly speed, how about a crack down on speeding?

Avatar
jacknorell [972 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
seanbolton wrote:

So incredibly stupid, what is Claire Perry thinking??

She's not.

The change is just moronic all-round and these sorts of decisions need to be taken out of the hands of parliament/government.

Avatar
Suffolk Cycling [65 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

What a short-sighted decision

Avatar
IanW1968 [330 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

UK politicians are no more than lackeys for lobby groups, this lot that are in at the moment especially so.

I wonder how much individuals with financial interests in the transport industry contribute to the conservative party coffers?

Avatar
IanW1968 [330 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

A little bit of goggling reveals the conservatives recently hosted a bash at which the usual billionaire arms, oil and finance magnates paid thousands to sit near government ministers.

The transport minister even had his own table of transport industry leaders who paid upwards of £12000 each to the conservative party to attend the event.

http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2014/07/01/access-all-ministers-bil...

People on bicycles were not represented.

Avatar
levermonkey [682 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Legal Speed Limit - What the Law says is the maximum speed for the road in question.
Real Speed Limit - What motorists think is acceptable for the road in question. Often "How far can I push it before getting a tug from the police.

There is a huge difference between what the 'legal' speed limit is and what the 'real' speed limit is perceived to be by motorists.
As a rough estimate the 'real' speed limit tends to be 'legal' speed plus 10. For example legal 30mph = real 40mph, legal 70mph = real 80mph.

The problem is not so much the fact that the speed limit is being increased but the fact that a high percentage of motorists regard any speed limit as a goal rather than a maximum in good conditions.

Avatar
Rich71 [52 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

'But an impact assessment carried out by the Department for Transport (DfT) says that the higher speed limit for HGVs would lead to two or three additional fatal road traffic incidents a year and between four and nine serious ones.'

Why let the facts get in the way of profit mongering and whoreing themselves for their mates in big business?

If its good enough for Owen Fucking Paterson its good enough for every other dirty corrupt government dept
Fuck all this shit,theres no point bothering anymore,its a waste of fucking time,might aswell ride in front of the next fucking HGV and get it over with
its all fucked

Avatar
sean1 [177 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Even more hilarious, Claire Perry lists "cycling with my family" as one of her pastimes.

http://claireperry.org.uk/about-me/claire%27s-biography

Ex banker with no transport knowledge now in charge of UK Transport policy. Depressing....

Avatar
Alistair92 [1 post] 3 years ago
0 likes

The vast majority of HGVs are travelling faster than 40mph on these roads already most going to the restricters 56mph. So I really don't think this would make any difference at all. My biggest concern with this is car drivers would use this as an excuse to overtake even fast than they do now ie 70+ Mph. I honestly feel more nervous about the cars driving past me at what ever speed they like as apose to the HGVs which are only really going 56mph.

Avatar
northstar [1107 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Which is what they seem to want.

Avatar
madindehead [38 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
bikebot wrote:

It would make a lot more sense to lower the national speed limit for all other motor vehicles from 60 to 50 on single carriageways.

My parents have a friend who used to be a road engineer. He even said that most rural roads are not built to be driven at 60 mph.

Lowering the speed to 50 mph on twisting rural roads would a lot more sense. However, this is the government. If they don't listen to their own impact surveys from their own department's there is no hope!

Avatar
jacknorell [972 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

What matter are a few smashed up bodies when an industry can save pennies?

British politicians are in the main venal, shortsighted, and kept in corporate pockets.

Avatar
banzicyclist2 [299 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Crazy government in the pocket of the motoring lobby! 50 mph is going to kill a lot of people.

60 mph on the motorways I can understand, but speeds need to be kept at a safe level for everyone on single carriage way roads.

I despair of the government with their mixed messages, road safety this, and everyone needs to be more active that, then they come up with this sort of thing. Makes no sense to me!  40

Avatar
IanW1968 [330 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

This is not a government.

Its a bunch of chancers like Grant Shapps funded by the likes of Ashcroft and his Belize based companies to get in power.

To be clear, their not politicians corrupted by power, the only reason they exist as politicians is to do the bidding of their paymasters.

Avatar
oldstrath [856 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
Ramuz wrote:

If you hadn't already realised it this government only cares about car drivers and hauliers as transport solutions. And if you aren't already politically active, you need to get volunteering for the political parties that do care about safe and sustainable transport.

Given that the Green Party, at least in Scotland, are obsessed by electric cars, can you tell me which party you have in mind, because I cannot see one?

Avatar
adriank999 [77 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

I use to drive for a living some many years ago when the roads were regularly policed and truck drivers stuck to 40mph with the result that there would be long queues. The number of near misses I saw from frustrated motorists trying to overtake was incredible. For every road the safest speed is the 85th percentile but more often speed limits are adjusted for political reasons not based on the science. For cyclists to ask for all rural roads to be reduced to 40mph is very selfish and impractical, it would be much better to educate drivers but then in reality 85 percent of drivers are average to good and the odd 15% are idiots who will never be educated. I guess that there isn’t much difference to being hit at 40 or 60, the result would be very similar.

Avatar
oldstrath [856 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
adriank999 wrote:

I use to drive for a living some many years ago when the roads were regularly policed and truck drivers stuck to 40mph with the result that there would be long queues. The number of near misses I saw from frustrated motorists trying to overtake was incredible. For every road the safest speed is the 85th percentile but more often speed limits are adjusted for political reasons not based on the science. For cyclists to ask for all rural roads to be reduced to 40mph is very selfish and impractical, it would be much better to educate drivers but then in reality 85 percent of drivers are average to good and the odd 15% are idiots who will never be educated. I guess that there isn’t much difference to being hit at 40 or 60, the result would be very similar.

Your argument appears to be, essentially, that because cars are driven by selfish impatient gits who hate the idea of waiting 10 seconds, the speed limits should be increased until these cretins can go at the maximum possible speed. And if a few cyclists get killed that's just a shame, we should not be so selfish as to value continuing to live over their precious time.

Surely a better idea would be to reduce the ability of cars to go quickly - it cannot be that hard to do.

Avatar
HarrogateSpa [495 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
Quote:

I guess that there isn’t much difference to being hit at 40 or 60, the result would be very similar.

I suggest there is a big difference between 40 and 60. First, travelling at 40, you have much more time to avoid a collision in the first place, and second, the difference in impact in a crash is significant.

Avatar
Matt eaton [741 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
adriank999 wrote:

I use to drive for a living some many years ago when the roads were regularly policed and truck drivers stuck to 40mph with the result that there would be long queues. The number of near misses I saw from frustrated motorists trying to overtake was incredible. For every road the safest speed is the 85th percentile but more often speed limits are adjusted for political reasons not based on the science. For cyclists to ask for all rural roads to be reduced to 40mph is very selfish and impractical, it would be much better to educate drivers but then in reality 85 percent of drivers are average to good and the odd 15% are idiots who will never be educated. I guess that there isn’t much difference to being hit at 40 or 60, the result would be very similar.

Actually the more time I spend on these sort of roads, both on the bike and in the car, the more I tend to think that 40mph is a sensible limit. I don't perceive that my journey times would be much longer in the car and for any extensive journey I would inevitably be using motorways or dual-caridgeways for the bulk of it anyway (OK, maybe this is not applicable in some areas). For cyclists there is no doubt that the speed differential between even a fast rider and a car is vast and I'm confident deturs many from taking to two wheels. A 40mph limit would also detur dangerous overtaking of lorries, which seems to be the key argument in favour of letting lorries go faster.

Finally, take the cycle lobyists' request for 40mph limits with a pinch of salt. It's fair to say that they are hoping for a compromise, perhaps splitting the difference at 50mph. If they were asking for 50mph the compomise would be 55mph and this level of change would not be considered worth implimenting.

Avatar
adriank999 [77 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

My point was that not all roads are the same, when you move out of the urban environment onto country lanes they are often national speed limit when the proper speed for some of these roads should be nearer 20 mph whilst some B roads are quite capable of 60 mph or more. As to deaths, unfortunately as soon as traffic moves accidents happen, so what we end up with is compromise between death rates and traffic movement. Speed limits and speed cameras are usually a cop out from engineering roads properly to be safe. Unfortunately on many roads there just isn’t enough room for a cyclist and two lanes of traffic so again we have a compromise. Round here we have inexplicable speed limits, some should be increased and some decreased but the logic of application defies understanding.

I came back from Wales recently and they have a shared use path alongside one of the dual carriageways, the cycle lane was barely 18 inches wide, that shows you the competence of traffic engineers.

As to reducing speed limits why not bring back the man with the red flag and reduce the country to a standstill?

Personally I don’t mind a car overtaking me at 50 mph if he leaves a good separation but I get pissed off with the driver in the 20 mph zone squeezing past with little more than elbow room. Speed limits are not the answer, lots of traffic trained police are, but they have been all but eliminated in favour of cameras that cannot catch dangerous and drunk drivers.

Pages