Disagreement over whether HGV speed limit rise will improve road safety

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The Freight Transport Association (FTA) says that the change to the speed limit for HGVs will improve road safety for all road users.

It supports the HGV national speed limit on single carriageway roads being increased from 40mph to 50mph, which came into force yesterday (Monday, April 6).

The Department for Transport (DfT) revealed in July 2014 that the change to the national speed limit on single carriageways in England and Wales would come into force this spring. 

FTA supported the decision to change the speed limit for HGVs, stating that it would mean an improvement in road safety as the differential between HGVs and other road users would be reduced.

The Association added that the changes would allow single carriageway roads in the UK to be used more effectively and safely.

Malcolm Bingham, FTA’s head of road network management policy, said: “This is a move to improve safety for all on single carriageway roads where the 20mph speed differential between cars and trucks can lead to hasty overtaking manoeuvres that sadly often result in casualties. 

“FTA believes that it will benefit industry as it will allow operators to use the additional speed, where it is safe to do so, and gain running cost benefits."

However, the road safety charity Brake described the move as “short sighted”. Gary Rae, campaigns manager for Brake, the road safety charity, said: "We are disappointed that the government has gone against the advice of road safety groups on this issue.

“The decision to increase HGV speed limits is short-sighted and runs against work to more effectively manage traffic speeds and reduce casualties on our roads.

“The relationship between speed and casualties is a proven one, so allowing the largest vehicles on our roads to reach higher speeds risks more deaths, serious injuries, and additional cost to the taxpayer.

"The Government itself has admitted that this move will likely have no economic or road safety benefit. It is a move designed to legitimise the dangerous behaviour of those who already break the speed limit while putting the safety of the law-abiding majority second.

“It sets a dangerous precedent that if traffic laws are persistently flouted; the government would rather change them than enforce them."

The old speed limit was introduced in the 1960s, since when lorry technology has advanced considerably.  The FTA says the change will modernise an antiquated restriction, which is not matched in most other European countries.

Meanwhile, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has warned that driver awareness will be the key if the policy is to deliver safer roads.

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the IAM, said: "There is wide spread ignorance about current speed limits leading to frustration and road rage as platoons build up behind lorries being  driven legally. The new limits should reduce stress and ease bad overtaking. This has been proven in the first few months of higher limits on the A9 in Scotland."

The amended speed limit covers single carriageway roads outside built up areas in England and Wales, unless specific lower local speed limits are in effect.

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