While the raising of the national speed limit for HGVs has been broadly welcomed, the road safety charity Brake says the move “legitimises the dangerous behaviour of those who break the speed limit”.
On 6 April the national speed limit in England and Wales for HGVs increased from 50mph to 60mph on dual carriageways, and from 40mph to 50mph on single carriageways.
The Freight Transport Association (FTA), which lobbied for the change, says it will “improve road safety for all road users” and allow single carriageway roads 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.”
The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) says the higher limits should “reduce stress and bad overtaking”.
Neil Greig, the IAM’s director of policy and research, said: "Driver awareness is the key if this policy is to deliver safer roads. There is widespread 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 Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) said the move will “reduce the speed differential between heavy and light vehicles, with a consequent reduction in delays, frustration and the need to overtake”.
Brian Gregory, ABD chairman, said: “It is the spread of speeds, rather than average speed, that is linked to accident frequency."
The driver education group TTC says the increases “can make a positive contribution and make roads safer”.
Alan Prosser, TTC Group’s head of driver education, said: “Common collisions on our roads involve overtaking manoeuvres and the rear-end shunt. This speed limit rise will lead to a more even traffic flow, less stop starts, and better fuel efficiency.”
In stark contrast, Brake the road safety charity, reiterated its concern and called the decision “short sighted”.
Gary Rae, Brake’s campaigns manager, said: “The Government has gone against the advice of road safety groups on this issue. The decision runs against work to more effectively manage traffic speeds and reduce casualties on our roads.
“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.”