Speed limiters: Are they worth it?

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The Cobra technician fitted the speed limiter in less than an hour. The unit is no bigger than an iPhone and can be set at whatever speed is required. There is no cutting into wiring systems and everything is tucked away under the dash where the driver can’t tamper with it.

While many fleets opt to set a 70mph limit (some even choose 80mph, claiming it allows drivers breathing space to overtake), those whose vans do more urban mileage often choose a lower limit, sometimes as low as 56mph. We opted for 56mph to see just how the savings ratchet up compared to travelling at (not over) the motorway speed limit.

The route

Then it was off on two laps of the parkway circuit round our home city of Peterborough followed by a few round-town miles and then a 110-mile haul down the A1M, A14, on to the M11, M25 and finally the A127 to Southend – and back again.

This route gave us an ideal mix of urban, semi-urban and motorway and, with two drivers, we split the journey.

Then the limiter was removed and we did the same trip, only at normal motorway speeds. A glance at the comparison table below reveals the truth. With the speed limiter on, we achieved 43.91mpg – an amazing feat in itself as this van has an official combined mpg figure of 36.2mpg – but with no speed limiter and driving normally, the figure plummeted to just 32.01mpg.

Roughly translated, this means we used 37% more fuel without the speed limiter – which cost an extra £14.07 on this trip alone.

On the time front, the long haul from Peterborough to Southend took a mere 20 minutes extra (two hours 20mins, compared to two hours) with the speed limiter fitted – equivalent to a 17% increase.

For fleets concerned about packing in daily deliveries, this might be too much; but from a fuel saving perspective, the figures speak for themselves.

The results
Miles travelled Fuel used (litres) MPG
With limiter 260 26.93 43.91
With limiter removed 260 36.98 32.01

The Fleet Van verdict

Admittedly governing a panel van down to 56mph is an extreme thing to do, but the fuel savings shown here prove beyond doubt that every fleet operator should be assessing whether or not speed limiters should be fitted to their vans.

The fact that the two testers here both enjoyed the experience after a short while should put paid to any fears about driver acceptance.

Our advice would be to start with a 70mph limit on all vans.

If this doesn’t produce the fuel savings and safety improvements you expect, then try knocking them down bit by bit until your goals are achieved. Once they are fitted, it’s a simple matter to change the speed.

Journeys will take a little longer admittedly but often this problem can be overcome by looking at your journeys and re-arranging them in a smarter order.

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  • lesley Welsh - 04/09/2014 09:30

    Interesting article and relevant to our company. We definitely need to look further into this

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  • Walter - 06/12/2014 13:19

    If a tracker is installed then the company is aware if the driver is speeding. If for example he has an accident due to speeding, are the directors and the company legally liable ?

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  • Mike Jedfermann - 05/09/2015 00:46

    enlightening article we found by accident. Very helpful and we will certainly be looking at it in more depth. Thanks for it.

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  • Arron - 03/06/2020 15:24

    So, you went out and fit a speed limiter to your private vehicle afterwards? That was a very simple test, and would benefit from several different limiter levels tested. I myself bought a newer van recently and to my horror discovered it had a 70MPH limiter in operation, and no warning labels anywhere. I ended up stuck on the outside of a vehicle with people right up behind me, the only option was to slow down and pull in behind the 4x4 pulling the caravan that I was trying to pass. Yes, no doubt that 56MPH limit will save a lot of fuel, you only have to read the manufacturers MPG ratings on your vehicle to see that. I personally tend to cruise in the mid 60's when travelling distance but when there is a down hill run I let the vehicle speed pick up to a bit over 70, this allows you to carry a little extra speed up the next hill and not have to use the accelerator as quickly. Doing this technique of undulating your speed with the hills makes quite a difference in fuel consumption. The limiter stopped me from doing this technique as I found it was actually limiting the vehicle to 68MPH (by GPS) even down a steep hill. The upshot of the vehicle having the speed limiter is that it has a very low mileage, which might be down to the fact that people may have avoided using the vehicle unless they needed to. I would generally be happy to drive with a limiter even on my own vehicle but I would choose 75MPH just to allow that bit of flexibility that stops you from being at the mercy of other idiots on the road. Having to watch your van mirrors all the time, just to see who is coming up fast on the inside or outside is very wearing, and being the slowest thing on the motorway is a dangerous position to be in.

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