The first major changes to UK speed limits for a generation came into force on 6th April 2015 with increases in the limits for heavy goods vehicles on UK highways, roads and motorways. Increasing the speed HGVs can travel by 10mph on both single and dual carriageway roads is a pretty significant event that has caused fair level of emotion among both those who are for and those against the move.
So, why did they increase?
Essentially the reason for the increase, as stated by the Department of Transport, was due to the notion that the old speed limits (of 4mph on single carriage and 50 mph on dual carriageways) was no longer fit for purpose for our modern transportation needs, with one of the more interesting observations being that upwards of 75% of drivers were failing to stay within these limits on clear roads.
The move was also brought into play as a means of bringing UK roads more into line with European counterparts who’ve had higher HGV limits in force for a years.
As you might imagine, this change in policy was welcomed and endorsed by the Freight Transport Agency (FTA) who have taken the view that such an increase in the limits marks a progressive move that will lead to improvements not only for the industry but for road users in general.
Again, as you might also imagine, not everyone agrees.
Indeed, such an emotive move therefore begs the question:
What will the impact be for road users?
Well, there’s no real, definitive answer to this ponderable with those for and against airing opinions on what a variety of likely implications.
The overwhelming issue when it comes to vehicle speeds, and in particular heavy goods and other large road vehicles, is of course, road safety. Indeed, the increase of the limits has been a matter of great concern and trouble to road safety charities such as Brake who take the view that any increase has the potential to lead to a greater number of accidents. Furthermore, by increasing the speeds, they feel that the accidents that may arise are increasingly likely to lead to greater casualties.
However, this view is countered by those in favour of the new, higher speed limits. The FTA’s position on the matter, for instance, is that by bringing the speed limits of all road vehicles closer together there is less likelihood of dangerous overtaking manoeuvres by cars, particularly on single carriage roads, moves themselves that can, and indeed have, caused serious accidents.
This is a view shared by the Department of Transport when implementing the new limits; citing also the massive changes in performance of modern HGVs in comparison to when the law was originally created.
It should also be noted that, alongside the implantation of the new limits, the Department also mentioned that these limits and general road safety laws (such as mobile phone use) will be much more rigorously policed in the future.
Another area in which there is the potential for impact is in the matter of road congestion. One of the big bug bears of many a road user is the issue of getting stuck behind a slower moving vehicle or vehicles. By increasing the speed limits the argument is that this will reduce that issue, allowing for traffic to run that bit more smoothly due to less need for faster vehicles to brake or indeed look to overtake.
Finally, the FTA have also welcomed the fact that by increasing speeds on the roads – something that will be particularly impactful on quiet roads (such as night-time driving) – will improve overall productivity of the industry which will be a boost to UK based companies. This productivity will come about from greater efficiencies gained by vehicles driving at optimum speeds when it is safe to do so and also through potentially quicker turn around times. And, in an industry with such tight margins, that is something which can be of significant value.