The DfT’s first-year evaluation was welcomed by the RHA, which reported research into the HGV speed limits on the rise for Britain and Wales which came into play during 2015.
These changes have led to updates on the speed limits on various roads including single carriageways which now have an updated speed limit of 50 mph for any vehicle over 7.5 tonnes, which was 40 mph beforehand. The limit while on Dual carriageways was raised from 50mph to 60mph at the time of reassessment.
DfT’s results during research found that professional drivers are very aware of the changes. However, those among the public were mostly unaware of any updates to the limit changes. Which implied there was a heavy lack of communication to inform drivers other than those with HGVs, many with cars or motorcycles who had no knowledge of any updates.
Whether the increase of the speed limit has caused accidents is impossible to confirm with only a year’s data. Further research in the following years will prove whether further awareness needs to be raised for the updated speed limit meaning the public will also be aware of the changes.
In an interview, RHA director of policy Jack Semple told reporters: “The study still has some time to run, and early data needs to be treated with caution
"However early results have not identified negative road safety impacts. Indeed the research so far confirms the industry view that modestly raising the speed limit would both improve road safety and operating efficiency.”
“There have also been clear benefits in terms of increased compliance and a reduction on the pressure on drivers and operators to stay within what were unrealistic speed limits. In addition we can reasonably assume a reduced frustration for car drivers caused by HGVs moving at unreasonably slow speeds,” he stated.
The key findings for the first year (2015):
During the research all lorry drivers questioned were aware of the changes to limits on single carriageways, but not everyone was aware of the change to dual carriageways.
Meanwhile, a quarter of drivers with other vehicles did know about the change to limits. There was a clear sign of low levels of awareness for residential areas living opposite roads that were impacted by the changes. Meaning there was an increased risk of accidents occurring in these areas with less drivers and residents aware of the changes than in any other area of the roads.
Early data when analysing traffic revealed that on average HGVs over 7.5 tonnes had increased speeds by over 1mph over the course of 2014 and 2015 while on single carriageway roads. The increase during various traffic flow conditions while on dual carriageways increased by less than 0.5 mph.
Initial analysis of safety statistics during 2005 up until 2015 revealed just over 17% of accidents reported across England and Wales took place on single and dual carriageways. With many unaware of the updated speed limits many are concerned about the chances of this statistic increasing even further. Major communication between the government and drivers is needed to assure all drivers are aware of any changes to speed limits across the UK.
7.6% of all collisions occurring on single or dual carriageway roads were said to involve HGVs up until the updated limits were introduced. However, there already was a reduced amount of collisions on these roads occurring that somehow involved HGV drivers meaning the limits may not have made any change to the amount of accidents taking place whatsoever.
After the updated limits were in place there was strong evidence of the amount of HGV accidents on both types of roads being reduced, estimated to be 10%-36% as stated by DfT, this doesn’t mean the reduced level of accidents is linked to the updated speed limits.
It’s important to make sure you are aware of any updated laws or limits on UK roads, the more who are aware the safer journeys will be for drivers. At the same time the government needs to assure that the public will be made aware of any changes to the roads rather than leaving drivers to figure it out for themselves.
Without being informed they will stick to the limit they know and expect other vehicles to do the same. Which is what can lead to more severe accidents as a vehicle such as a HGV with a now increased limit may approach much faster than they can anticipate with the outdated limit for HGVs in mind. If you know any drivers who may not be aware of any updated speed limits be sure to share anything you know with them, which makes UK roads much safer for everyone.