Policy paper

2010 to 2015 government policy: freight

Updated 8 May 2015

This is a copy of a document that stated a policy of the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. The previous URL of this page was https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/providing-effective-regulation-of-freight-transport. Current policies can be found at the GOV.UK policies list.


An efficient freight transportation system helps support the UK economy. Getting goods from one place to another at a reasonable cost and with the minimum impact on the environment and communities is essential.

We’re working with the freight industry to help them cut costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Effective and proportionate regulation will also ensure goods are moved safely and securely across the UK and abroad.


Transporting dangerous goods

Most goods don’t pose a danger to anyone transporting them, or to the public or the environment. However, some goods can pose a risk and are classified by the UN as dangerous. When transporting dangerous goods, we need to minimise the risk of an incident. To do this, the government:

Freight grants

We’re encouraging companies to choose to transport freight by rail or water rather than road by awarding freight grants to reduce the cost of using rail or water transport.

Vehicle speeds, drivers’ hours and tachographs

We’re responsible for regulating freight transport and for the implementation of EU regulations and directives relating to drivers’ hours and tachographs.

In July 2014 we announced an increase in speed limits for HGVs over 7.5 tonnes on single carriageway roads in England and Wales. At the same time we launched a consultation examining the case for a speed limit increase for the same class of vehicle on dual carriageways in England and Wales.

Following the consultation, in November 2014, we announced an increase in speed limits for HGVs over 7.5 tonnes on dual carriageways roads. Both these increases came into force 6 April 2015.

Heavy goods vehicle road user levy

To make sure both foreign and UK hauliers make a contribution when using UK roads, the government has introduced a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) road user levy to charge all lorries weighing 12 tonnes or more to use the UK road network.

Trialling longer semi-trailers

In January 2012 we began trialling longer HGV semi-trailers to see if their use reduces greenhouse gas emissions and makes accidents less likely.

Use of temporary snow ploughs

We’ve published guidance for local authorities and companies on how to adapt vehicles for use as temporary snow ploughs.


We make our research available to the freight industry so that we can improve in areas such as load, consolidation and lorry size.

Low Emission HGV Task Force

The Low Emission, Fuel Efficient HGV Task Force was established under the 2011 Logistics growth review to identify and promote measures to reduce emissions from HGVs. In March 2014 the task force published recommendations on the use of methane and biomethane in HGVs.

Trialling low carbon trucks

We started the low carbon truck trial in 2012 following the Logistics growth review to encourage and help UK road haulage operators to buy and use low carbon heavy goods vehicles.


In May 2010, we said we needed a modern transport infrastructure to boost the economy, and improve well-being and the quality of life, as part of the coalition agreement.

We announced our plans to make HGV road-user charging a fairer system for UK hauliers as part of the coalition agreement. In January 2011 we started consulting with UK hauliers about the charging scheme.

Following the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001, the UK has worked with the UN to develop and implement enhanced security arrangements for the international and domestic transport of dangerous goods.

To shape this policy, we used economic and statistical analysis, appraisal, evaluation, modelling and research.

Bills and legislation

The safe and secure carriage of dangerous goods by road and rail in the UK is governed by:

National legislation needs to comply with international legislation:

This is subject to agreed exemptions from the requirements relating to the transport of dangerous goods by road and rail:

The transport of dangerous goods by air is governed by the Air Navigation (Dangerous Goods) Regulations 2002 - and complies with ICAO’s technical instructions.

The transport of dangerous goods by sea is governed by the Merchant Shipping (Dangerous Goods and Marine Pollutant) Regulations 1997 and the Merchant Shipping (Vessel Traffic Monitoring and Reporting Requirements) Regulations 2004, both applying the latest revisions to the IMDG Code.

The Office for Nuclear Regulation is responsible for policy and for enforcing the security of carriage of radioactive material (class 7). This includes civil nuclear material as defined by the Nuclear Industries Security Regulations 2003 (NISR).

Appendix 1: freight grants

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

The department supports the shift away from road to rail and water transport through the Mode Shift Revenue Support (MSRS) and Waterborne Freight Grant (WFG) schemes.

Budget for the operating grants is £18.63 million for 2013 to 2014 and a similar amount is anticipated for 2014 to 2015.

Find out more about freight grants.

Appendix 2: developing an evidence-based freight policy

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

To ensure that transport systems are effective, transport decisions and policies made by government are informed by economic and statistical analysis, appraisal, evaluation, modelling, and research.

To provide the best evidence base for planning transport policies and schemes, mathematical models are used to analyse complex transport patterns.

Research reports


Further information

Appendix 3: secure carriage of dangerous goods by road and rail

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document. For the most up-to-date information see the Transport dangerous goods collection page.

In response to the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001, the UN adopted recommendations to make sure dangerous goods are carried as securely as possible.

These recommendations are contained in chapters 1.10 of the European Agreement Concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR) and in the Regulations concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Rail (RID).

The international security provisions of ADR and RID apply in the UK through Regulation 5 of the Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations (CDG) 2009. Regulations 7 and 8 contain additional security provisions that apply in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales). Please see our detailed security requirements section for further information

The Department for Transport has an expert stakeholder group called the Industry Advisory Group to develop and monitor the implementation of these security requirements and the guidance that supports them.

These security regulations are part of wider efforts to help the freight industry protect itself against a range of threats including theft, deliberate sabotage and acts of terrorism.

The Department for Transport is responsible for the enforcement of the secure carriage of dangerous goods requirements (excluding class 7 radioactive materials).

Dangerous good security enquiries

You can contact the Department for Transport if you have a question about government policy and regulations for the secure carriage of dangerous goods: dangerousgoods@dft.gsi.gov.uk or 020 7944 2271.

Appendix 4: safe carriage of dangerous goods

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document. For the most up-to-date information see the Transport dangerous goods collection page.

Dangerous goods are assigned different classes ranging from 1 to 9. These cover goods from the highly dangerous, such as explosives, flammables and fuming acids, to everyday products such as paints, solvents and pesticides.

When transported, these goods need to be packaged correctly to comply with international and national regulations for each transport mode, to ensure they are carried safely. Since 2007 the VCA Dangerous Goods Office has been responsible for the certification of dangerous goods packaging within the UK.

In response to the events in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011, advice was drafted relating to Fukushima on the safe carriage of dangerous goods by sea.

The following guidance supports the regulations for the carriage of dangerous goods:

We also have the powers to grant authorisations for transport operations not complying with regulatory provisions under certain circumstances. These are:

The enforcement for the safe carriage of dangerous goods is undertaken by several authorities (excluding Class 7 radioactive materials) depending on the mode of transport:

Dangerous goods enquiries

You can contact the Department for Transport if you have a question about government policy and regulations for the safe carriage of dangerous goods: dangerousgoods@dft.gsi.gov.uk or 020 7944 2271.

ADR/RID technical enquiries

You can contact the Vehicle Certification Agency Dangerous Goods Office if you have a technical question about how the carriage of dangerous goods requirements contained in ADR or RID may affect you: dgenquiries@vca.gov.uk or 01372 226 111

Appendix 5: trialling longer HGV semi-trailers

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document. For the most up-to-date information see the longer semi-trailer trial.

The Department for Transport (DfT) started a trial of longer semi-trailers (LSTs) for longer articulated goods vehicles in January 2012, with a total allocation available of 1,800.

The trial involves longer semi-trailers of 14.6 metres and 15.65 metres in length (17.5 metres and 18.55 metres total vehicle lengths respectively). Longer semi-trailers should provide significant economic and environmental benefits to the UK. The operational trial is a real opportunity for industry to show the benefits these trailers can bring to the UK. The trial is expected to save over 3,000 tonnes of CO2 over 10 years. The overall benefits are estimated at £33 million over 10 years.

The longer semi-trailers must operate within the UK’s existing domestic weight limit (44 tonnes for vehicles of 6 axles). Participation in the trial is on a voluntary basis and at the participants’ own risk. DfT doesn’t provide any guarantee that the use of the longer semi-trailers will continue to be permitted beyond the end of the trial period. The trial is scheduled to run for a maximum of 10 years, to help enable participants to recover the costs of their investment in the longer semi-trailers. Further information about the trial features in the following pages:

Data requirements and trial evaluation

DfT’s trial of longer semi-trailers is a research project which has been established to evaluate and understand the use of these vehicles. The usage and performance of all of the longer semi-trailers in the trial is being monitored and evaluated by DfT’s contractors, Risk Solutions. When operators apply for longer semi-trailers, they are agreeing to take part in this research project and are making a commitment to collect data on their use of the trailers and submit it regularly to Risk Solutions throughout the trial. The following page explains the data requirements in more detail:

The Department appointed Risk Solutions in 2011, experts in strategic risk management, to independently monitor the trial. Risk Solutions are monitoring, among other things, the impact of the longer semi-trailers on carbon emissions, lorry miles and accident rates. They are producing regular reports.

Risk Solutions will be able to answer enquiries from trial participants related to the data collection aspects of the trial. Any enquiries not related to the data collection or analysis should be addressed to the Department for Transport.

Please email all general trial queries to freight@dft.gsi.gov.uk and all data queries to hvsttrial@risksol.co.uk

Issue of VSOs for longer semi-trailers

Operators using longer semi-trailers will need to apply to the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) for Vehicle Special Orders (VSOs) which legally allows the operation in commercial service of the longer semi-trailers.

It is the operator’s responsibility to ensure that they obtain a VSO covering all of the longer semi-trailers that they use on the road. VCA will inform DfT when it issues a VSO to an operator.

Any longer semi-trailers operating without a VSO are operating illegally and may, for example, invalidate any insurance policies covering their use. While it is not a legal requirement, operators may find it helpful to make sure that a copy of the VSO covering the longer semi-trailer is carried in the cab whenever that semi-trailer is in use.

In order to obtain a VSO, operators must have signed the undertaking to the effect that they will:

  • present the longer semi-trailers to Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency for annual roadworthiness testing
  • provide data to Risk Solutions for the purposes of monitoring the trial
  • ensure that drivers are appropriately trained
  • inform the Department for Transport immediately if a longer semi-trailer is involved in a serious accident

The secondary market

Once they have obtained the longer semi-trailers, operators will be free to purchase the vehicles from each other (the allocation quota moving with the vehicle). The new operator would have to apply for the necessary VSO.

However, operators must notify the department with their intention to purchase a longer semi-trailer from another operator to ensure that they meet the allocation criteria, as outlined in our guidance document.

The allocation itself has no monetary value and must not be bought or sold. Only the vehicle can be bought or sold.

Northern Ireland and Europe

The trial applies only to roads in Great Britain. Operators who wish to go over to Northern Ireland in their longer semi-trailers must contact the Department of the Environment Northern Ireland (DOENI) to obtain an additional VSO at vehicle.standards@doeni.gov.uk.

The longer semi-trailers do not comply with standards in force in other European member states so cannot be used for international traffic in mainland Europe.

Moving vehicles between sites for trial or demonstration purposes

The Road Vehicle (Authorisation of Special Types) (General) Order 2003 permits longer trailers to be used on public roads for ‘tests and trials’ purposes, without needing a VSO.

No prior authorisation from the department is required as long as the use is in accordance with the requirements and conditions set out in the order. Section 38 covers requirements as to length. One of the conditions is that the vehicle is un-laden. Another is that the police should be given 2 clear working days’ notice.

For those companies who hold an ‘O’ licence, the ESDAL (electronic service delivery for abnormal loads) system provides a web-based notification facility.

Manufacturers who do not themselves hold an ‘O’ licence should contact their local police force’s abnormal loads officer, who should be able to advise on the notification procedure.

Schedule 11, Part 2 of the order gives a more precise definition of what is meant by tests or trials. It defines this term as including the use of vehicles or trailers for demonstration purposes. However, only a court can provide a definitive view of whether a particular activity fits the terminology used in the legislation, so if manufacturers are in doubt they should seek legal advice.

Background information