Written statement to Parliament

National speed limits for heavy goods vehicles: Baroness Kramer, 24 July 2014

National speed limit for heavy goods vehicles of more than 7.5 tonnes on single carriageways increased from 40 mph to 50 mph.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Baroness Kramer

My Honourable Friend, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, (Claire Perry), has today (24 July 2014) announced that the government is proposing, following a public consultation, to increase the national speed limit for heavy goods vehicles of more than 7.5 tonnes on single carriageways from 40 mph to 50 mph.

This change will be implemented via a change in the law to be put to Parliament during the next few months, with implementation scheduled for early 2015. The existing 40 mph limit continues to apply until the change has been put into effect. The amended speed limit will cover single carriageway roads outside built up areas in England and Wales, unless specific lower local speed limits are in effect.

The government is also announcing:

The change to the national speed limit on single carriageway roads will modernise an antiquated restriction, which is not matched in most other European countries, including some of the other leaders alongside the UK for road safety (eg the Netherlands and Norway). The current speed limit just does not work – it is broken by about three quarters of HGV drivers at any particular time when they are not constrained by other traffic or the road layout. It is implausible that it could readily be made to work without a disproportionate effort.

This package allows our roads to be used better and more effectively. It will reduce delays and congestion, particularly on busy single carriageway A roads. It will remove a 20 mph differential between the lorry and car speed limits on single carriageway roads, cutting dangerous overtaking and bringing permitted lorry speeds into line with other large vehicles like coaches and caravans. Assessed benefits to business are £11.8 million per year.

The government is determined that any potential risks higher speeds bring will be managed effectively. This change will reduce speed differences between different types of traffic which is likely to reduce risks. The government is also bringing forward associated measures so we continue to improve safety.

For example the change to the HGV speed limit will allow us to set up tougher procedures and sanctions for lorry drivers caught exceeding the new speed limits. It will also reinforce the credibility and importance of other safety-critical laws with similar sanctions, including the prohibition on hand held mobile phones and the 30 mph limit in towns and cities.

This change is founded on a longstanding trend of improving road safety, which we have committed to build on. So we will be introducing a new offence of driving with a drug in the body over specified limits and tightening up drink drive enforcement early next year. Last year we increased by two thirds the fixed penalties for many traffic offences and we are consulting on changes to improve enforcement against tired HGV drivers, including those based abroad.

We will be supporting the speed limit increase by promoting the advice we updated last year to highway authorities about local speed limits. Local authorities can restrict all traffic to 30, 40 or 50 mph where this is needed because of the use of roads by pedestrians and cyclists, settlements on roads, high air pollution or safety risks. Finally all drivers, but particularly the professional drivers of HGVs, need to be aware that the speed limit is a maximum not a guideline.

The Department for Transport is publishing the summary of single carriageway HGV speed limit consultation responses, the consultation document for dual carriageways and impact assessments for both measures.

Copies of these documents will be placed in the libraries of both Houses.

Published 24 July 2014