Increasing speed limits has negligible impact on traffic

Published 27 June 2019

There has been a negligible change in the average speed of traffic on UK roads since speed limits were increased for lorries in 2015.

At the time, ministers said the 20mph speed difference between cars and lorries led to hold-ups and dangerous overtaking. It also said the plans could save the haulage industry £11 million a year.

But a fresh report by the Department for Transport (DfT) reveals that the average HGV speed on single carriageways is now 45.6mph - compared to 44.1mph before the speed limit changes. Average lorry speeds on dual carriageways increased by just 0.4mph to 52.4mph.

The change in speeds for cars is even smaller, with the average speed of light traffic on single and dual carriageways increasing by just 0.2mph. The report also reveals that there has been no significant change in the number of crashes involving HGVs.

"Increasing the speed limit for lorries has helped companies save time and money."

But the DfT points to the reduction in the number of speeding lorry drivers as evidence of the success of the law change. Ahead of the introduction of new speed limits, a shocking 85 per cent of lorry drivers ignored the speed limits on single carriageway roads.

This fell to 17 per cent after the speed limits were increased.

The DfT says that the marginal increase in average speeds for lorries has saved businesses millions of pounds a year. It claims that increase of just 1mph would free up 650,000 driver hours and save hauliers more than £10 million a year.

"I am pleased to see the improvement in safety while helping to unlock the UK’s potential – encouraging growth and enhancing productivity," said roads minister Michael Ellis.

"Increasing the speed limit for lorries has helped companies save time and money, enabling them to re-invest this in their business and buying newer and greener vehicles. This move has also potentially improved road safety as it appears to have reduced the risks some drivers take when overtaking slow-moving vehicles."


Alasdair Wylie    on 1 July 2019

An interesting article but I must correct you on speed limits. On english roads, and I assume Wales and Northern Ireland, the speed limit for some commercials is 50mph. In Scotland, the speed limit for these vehicles is still 40mph, except for the A9 between Dunblane and Inverness where it is also 50mph on single carriageway sections. I understand this limit is still experimental as there were far too many accidents with, primarily cars, trying to overtake in silly places through frustration, on this 130 mile section.

Howard Millichap    on 1 July 2019

Until something is done about the 40mph mobile chicane drivers out there, holding everything up, traffic speeds will stay exactly the same.

DrTeeth    on 1 July 2019

No matter how high the speed limit, some dweeb will still not travel at that speed in good conditions, causing holdups and frustration.

cbr1100xx    on 1 July 2019

I drive & ride quite a lot in Scotland and even when the A9 was 40mph for HGV's I never found them to be much of a problem, it was the nerds in their (curse of Scotland) camper vans who because of their lack of ability to drive them prevent the HGV's from doing even 40mph.
The hire company's who rent these things out should be made to ensure that the people who hire them have to prove they can drive them and also reverse them.
The A9 has sign after sign stating Allow overtaking, frustration causes accidents. Does this concern the Camper Van nerds, not on your life, I have spent miles on the A9 overtaking slow moving traffic on a motorcycle only to get to the front and find three or four curse's of Scotland holding miles of traffic up.

   on 1 July 2019

I wonder if a new law could be passed to enable lorries overtaking each other at 1/2 a mile an hour, or 3 miles to pass. If lorries coul have a 5 mph boost for 90 seconds or 2 minutes to clear the slower vehicle, this would increase the time the second lane was free. The boost could only be used say once every five minutes. There are many occasions I have followed 2 wagons side by side for 15 minutes on two Lane dual carriage ways.
A bit like drag reaction in formula 1.

conman    on 1 July 2019

There should be a new law which states that if a vehicle is driving in the centre lanes and can be safely overtaken on the inside lane ( without exceeding the speed limit) the driver of the slower moving car (in the centre lanes) should be prosecuted as driving without consideration for other road users, Fine £250 and 2 points. That should get rid of the centre lane huggers. if only we had any Police to enforce it.

Plodding Along    on 1 July 2019

HGV drivers are without a doubt the worst and most danherous drivers on UK roads. I regularly drive from Manchester to Bristol on the M6 and M5.
In the lengthy 50mph zones I generally do 52 in the insode but the majority of HGVs overtake me doing what must be 56 or 57. If they cannot overtake they sit inches off my back bumper intimidating me to go faster. They sit behind each other literally inches apart. Do they seriously, as supposedly professional drivers, not realise how dangerous their behaviour is to everyone else?

I noticed in Australia in January that on 4 lane motorways HGVs were resteicted to the 1st 2 lanes. We need that rule here. When a truck in the 2nd lane is overtaking a truck in the 1st lane there is often a truck overtaking him in the 3rd lane leaving all faster moving vehicles to just one lane. Very dangerous!
We need to get most teucks off the roads and onto trains, there are far too many of them out there slowing everyone else down and causing fatalities by their negligent driving. Discuss.

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