Seven in ten lorries break speed limit on single carriageway roads - so DfT plans to let them go faster

Sustrans condemns proposals saying they conflict with minister's words on improving safety of cyclists and pedestrians

by Simon_MacMichael   November 9, 2012  

Articulated lorry.jpg

The Department for Transport (DfT) has unveiled proposals to increase the speed limit for some lorries on single carriageway roads, where it says seven in ten of them break the existing speed limit. Sustainable transport charity Sustrans has condemned the plans, saying that letting lorries go faster is incompatible with the government’s insistence that it is committed to improving the safety of cyclists and pedestrians.

A statement on the DfT website confirms that it has opened a consultation running until February 1 on allowing HGVs over 7.5 tonnes to go faster on single carriageway roads than the current 40mph limit permits – increasing the speed limit to 45mph or 50mph are the suggested alternatives.

According to the DfT, some 70 per cent of HGVs already travel above the 40mph limit on the roads in question, which is claimed to give their operators an unfair advatage over those that adhere to the speed limit.

Proposals to increase the speed limit for lorries therefore open it up to accusations of viewing it as easier to let all lorries travel faster, rather than taking steps to ensure enforcement of the existing law. the cavalier approach most drivers appear to be taking to the existing speed limit doesn't give confidence that all would adhere to a higher speed limit either.

However, the DfT says that according to the freight industry, the proposals would help stimulate economic growth through shorter journey times, reducing congestion and fuel costs and also making the roads safer by reducing the number of collisions involving vehicles overtaking HGVs.

Road safety minister Stephen Hammond said: “The Government is committed to doing everything it can to improve conditions for economic growth. We are consulting on increasing the single carriage way speed limit for certain HGVs after listening to industry experts who say that this will boost the UK economy and businesses of all sizes.

“While this is likely to lead to more than £30 million a year in benefits for businesses through quicker journeys and reduced congestion, I want to make sure we have carefully considered the evidence of all of the effects on the economy, environment and – of course – road safety before we make a decision. I welcome views from all.”

Jason Torrance, policy director at Sustrans, called on Mr Hammond to reverse his decision with immediate effect.

“Just last week the Road Safety Minister said he would do everything needed to make our roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians,” he pointed out.

“Cycle safety is hitting the headlines as more cyclists and pedestrians are killed or seriously injured - this decision will only make our roads more dangerous for those at the greatest risk.

“Faster-moving lorries will take longer to stop and reduce reaction times for drivers.  The Minister must reverse this decision immediately.”

26 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Are lorries travelling faster than the speed-limit causing more casualties than those obeying it?

If "Yes"; the limit should be being enforced better.
If "No"; the limit is too low and raising it will have no adverse effect.

posted by Mr Will [92 posts]
9th November 2012 - 13:34



posted by seanbolton [169 posts]
9th November 2012 - 14:03

1 Like

or are lorries travelling at higher speeds intimidating other road users?

if yes that means less cyclists and pedestrians

if no then we wouldn't expect to see surveys that say cycling on many roads is perceived as stupid and dangerous

sorry but accidents are only part of the picture - higher speeds by large vehicles means safer roads because other users give up

antigee's picture

posted by antigee [257 posts]
9th November 2012 - 14:03

1 Like

According to media reports 11 out of 10 cyclists jump red lights and murder kittens. By this logic im hoping for the law to be changed so cyclists can now jump lights and kill kittens unmolested.

posted by Some Fella [908 posts]
9th November 2012 - 14:39

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Why can't the drivers gaining an "unfair advantage" by speeding be prosecuted? Aren't all HGV's fitted with tachographs?

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
9th November 2012 - 14:51

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My understanding is that a tachograph will record speed and distance travelled but it has no ability to record location. That means you can't know where the lorry was from the tachograph data, therefore you can't know what the speed limit was. The tachograph only really helps to make sure that the driver sticks to their allowed hours.

posted by sponican [83 posts]
9th November 2012 - 15:13

1 Like

It's probably worth mentioning that you can read the consultation at, and respond to it too. If you don't like the idea of fast lorries on narrow roads then make sure you let them know. The current link in the story is to a press release, rather than directly to the consultation.

posted by sponican [83 posts]
9th November 2012 - 15:20


3 words

posted by a_to_the_j [118 posts]
9th November 2012 - 15:57


Some Fella wrote:
According to media reports 11 out of 10 cyclists jump red lights and murder kittens. By this logic im hoping for the law to be changed so cyclists can now jump lights and kill kittens unmolested.

that really made me laugh!!

Currently going slower than I'd like...

posted by stealth [258 posts]
9th November 2012 - 16:27

1 Like

How many times to you ever follow a lorry at 40mph? The only ones I notice complying are Tesco and Sainsburys.

To be honest as a motorist I'm glad. The roads would be more chocka if all lorries did 40mph.

As a cyclist I'm indifferent. On the whole I find lorries are good at giving enough space and the bow wave of air as they pass gives you a push! Another (legal) 5-10mph isn't going to make much difference.

posted by mbrads72 [158 posts]
9th November 2012 - 16:35

1 Like

mbrads72 wrote:

As a cyclist I'm indifferent. On the whole I find lorries are good at giving enough space and the bow wave of air as they pass gives you a push! Another (legal) 5-10mph isn't going to make much difference.

that conflicts with my experience - do you commute by bike as maybe the time of day makes a difference? as it is I get speeding lorries in a 40 taking risks and coming way too close. I'm no scardy pants cyclist and do a couple of hundred miles a week but the stretch of 40mph road I use is the worst part of my day.

As for the extra 5 or 10 I think its psychological - if the limit is 30 maybe cars will wait behind a bike doing 20 until its safe but if the limit is 50 they get far more frustrated and likely to take a risk.

TheHatter's picture

posted by TheHatter [811 posts]
9th November 2012 - 16:48


The social lesson for road vehicle users is all too obvious, if enough people consistently break the speed limit then the government will up the speed limit. The logical conclusion is that there would then be no speed limits and that safety is the total responsibility of any injured party. Their only recourse to justice would be to sue for damages and lose of income over a life time but not for dangerous driving due to speeding.
This would therefore raise insurance cost to a point were only the rich could afford cars thus cutting the number of cars on the roads. Less cars means road congestion would be sorted and less Vehicle excise and fuel duty received which applying the 45p income tax logic could therefore be done any with.
However, the road would need to be maintained for those that still had cars so other forms of government revenue streams from transportation would have to be implemented. The fairest is a tax that could be applied to all based on usage, obviously road pricing for all road users could be considered but this would perhaps unfairly penalise those with cars. The only commodity that is used by all regardless of mode of transport is Oxygen, therefor a human oxygen usage tax (HOUT) would be fairest.

Sorry for the rant it is Friday and it has been one of those weeks. I'm going to shut up now before some neo- liberal takes me seriously


posted by lushmiester [162 posts]
9th November 2012 - 17:11


As an HGV and PCV driver, qualified transport manager and cyclist for 30 years, I can tell you that HGV drivers do not professional drivers with even at a novice level more training than almost any cyclist ever takes, there are many wide straight single carriageway roads where Mr Impatient BMW Driver and the like are too good amd immortal to sit behind a truck, taking ridiculous risks on a regular basis..... and guess what I never see cyclists on these long straight boring roads in the middle of nowhere.....Perth to Inverness 99 miles, check it out folks, we are not talking your twisty country lane 3 miles from suburbia

posted by alanf1968 [1 posts]
9th November 2012 - 19:14


Clearly the same ludicrous argument could be made by any other law-breakers. What about murderers, bank robbers?

posted by Recumbenteer [156 posts]
9th November 2012 - 20:10


In my view (no doubt unimportant) the existing 40 limit for lorries causes accidents - or at least near misses - as impatient car drivers make ludicrous overtaking manoeuvres as they attempt to get back to hitting 60. Not sure that increasing the limit to 45 would make any difference, but 50 might.

Whether that is good or bad for cyclists is another matter...

posted by shot18 [55 posts]
9th November 2012 - 20:35

1 Like

60mph strikes me as being too fast for single carriageway roads, now that most of the land mass of Britain is covered by dual carriageway road, it doesn't seem necessary.

/I'm not a country bod right now though Plain Face

posted by kie7077 [800 posts]
9th November 2012 - 20:52


When will anyone in a motorized vehicle get to realize, that in the overpopulated island that is the UK, speeding along almost any stretch of road simply means that they reach the next traffic light, roundabout, traffic jam or other restriction faster? Thus compounding that restriction and just having to wait longer.

That's a rhetorical question, of course, because, to quote Einstein; "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

posted by pwake [365 posts]
9th November 2012 - 21:23

1 Like

According to the freight industry, it would reduce congestion. Rubbish, you get increased traffic volume flow at slower speeds. Less accidents as cars won't try to get past. No, they'll try to get past by going a lot faster or taking longer to do it, neither of which will be any safer. The less fuel one doesn't convince me either, as it would mean more accelerating and braking, which isn't the most efficient way to drive. And shorter journey times? Well only if there is nobody else about, which there always is, or see my first point. Pah Angry


Wardy74's picture

posted by Wardy74 [36 posts]
9th November 2012 - 23:10

1 Like

Is there a campaign against - or just to publicise - this Killer's Charter?
And if not, can someone please start one?

posted by Phytoramediant [23 posts]
9th November 2012 - 23:23


Ah now I understand, all those rlj'ers drunk/drugged drivers phone users speeders uninsured unlicenced etc etc... aren't breaking the law they're trying to change it! Big Grin


posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [733 posts]
10th November 2012 - 8:59

1 Like

The Department of Transport Consultation to increase the single road speed limit of lorries over 7.5t from 40mph raises safety issues. One idea that came to me is a similarity with the Tour de France doping speeds, that forced all riders to cheat just to keep up, whether they wanted to or not.

In this situation, drivers of HGV lorries over 7.5t would be forced to go to the new 45 or 50 mph speed limit, simply because everyone else did. If they were driving 'on the limit', they would increase the risk of being involved in an accident themselves. If they chose to drive according to the driving conditions maybe at a lower speed, their rivals would gain an unfair business advantage if they worked freelance, or they would lose their job if employed by someone else. Others would still chose to drive above the speed limit as before, but now at a higher speed.

As well as the protection of other road users, maybe HGV drivers need protection for themselves from market forces...?

posted by Speedy1319 [24 posts]
10th November 2012 - 15:26

1 Like

A lot of folk have obviously never tried driving north up the A9, with l o n g convoys of vehicles stuck behind 40mph restricted HGVs which then leads to frustration and dangerous passing attempts on a road with almost zero straight bits.
The 40mph limit should be raised, because since it was introduced HGV brakes are a lot better so really 50mph is no big deal, and would help a lot wrt congestion, long queues of slow traffic, acidents and deaths on the roads.
It does sound counter intuitive, but I agree with the proposals at least on roads such as the A9 and A82 etc.

Je vie dans l'espoir constant

Strathlubnaig's picture

posted by Strathlubnaig [115 posts]
10th November 2012 - 19:14

1 Like

European law limts HGV's over 7500kg (i.e must "trucks" to 56 mph.

Even this is flouted by drivers either tampering with, or complelty disconnecting the speed limiting device.

Worst offendors are those from across the Irish Sea.

A few years ago, my local police arrested the driver of an Irish artic who was twice over the legal limt for drink, had disconnected the speed limier and tachograph.

He was driving a 40000 kg artic on an A-road and it took them over 5 miles to chase him down in a Vauxhall police car.

posted by Littlesox [89 posts]
10th November 2012 - 19:46

1 Like

60mph strikes me as being too fast for single carriageway roads, now that most of the land mass of Englandshire is covered by dual carriageway road, it doesn't seem necessary.

Fixed your post for you.

Je vie dans l'espoir constant

Strathlubnaig's picture

posted by Strathlubnaig [115 posts]
10th November 2012 - 20:53

1 Like

lushmiester wrote:
(long story)

G, you don't happen to be the same G from the BCF motorbike forum?

Dutchie's picture

posted by Dutchie [66 posts]
11th November 2012 - 0:22

1 Like

All interesting points of view. However, it matters nothing what the speed limit is, if it is not enforced. The spectre (I live in the sticks) of a 40mph articulated truck followed by a line of other vehicles is one often seen. Some of the antics doen for overtaking are quite incredible. Where they trundle along closer to 50, the line is less frantic - so possibly it;s actually safer to go a bit faster. This is counter intuitive, I know, but remember the limit does not apply to under 7.5 tonne trucks (quite big box types, or carrying scaffolding, etc, or "white van", mostly 3.5 tonnes), who in my experience roll along with the cars at national speed limit anyway, and can do just as much damage to bike rider.
Overall, it won't, in my view, make a lot of difference, execpt we may not have the company BMW/Audi/Mondeo (or whatever) rushing between appointments, getting into head on situations including with bike riders!


posted by doc [167 posts]
13th November 2012 - 19:08