The Government is proposing to increase the national speed limit for heavy goods vehicles of more than 7.5 tonnes on single carriageways from 40mph to 50mph.
The announcement was made, following a public consultation, in a written statement to Parliament by Baroness Kramer, transport minister. A change in the law will be put to Parliament during the next few months, with implementation scheduled for early 2015.
The amended speed limit will cover single carriageway roads outside built up areas in England and Wales, unless specific lower local speed limits are in effect.
The Government has also announced the start of a six-week consultation (closing 5 September) to seek views and evidence about increasing the national speed limit for HGVs on dual carriageways from 50 mph to 60 mph, with a view to implementing this at the same time.
Baroness Kramer’s statement says that the change will “modernise an antiquated restriction which is not matched in most other European countries”.
The statement includes the following: “The current speed limit just does not work – it is broken by about three quarters of HGV drivers at any particular time when they are not constrained by other traffic or the road layout. It is implausible that it could readily be made to work without a disproportionate effort.
“This package (of measures) will remove a 20 mph differential between the lorry and car speed limits on single carriageway roads, cutting dangerous overtaking and bringing permitted lorry speeds into line with other large vehicles like coaches and caravans.
“The Government is determined that any potential risks higher speeds bring will be managed effectively. This change will reduce speed differences between different types of traffic which is likely to reduce risks.
“We will be supporting the speed limit increase by promoting the advice we updated last year to highway authorities about local speed limits.
“Local authorities can restrict all traffic to 30, 40 or 50 mph where this is needed because of the use of roads by pedestrians and cyclists, settlements on roads, high air pollution or safety risks.”
The move has been welcomed by Geoff Dunning, from the Road Haulage Association, who said: “This evidence-based decision by ministers, to increase the limit to 50 mph will be strongly welcomed by hauliers and their drivers.
“The current limit is long out of date and the frustration it generates causes unnecessary road safety risks.”
The DfT has also announced that it intends to carry out a “major study about rural road safety”.