Why we support an increased HGV speed limit – John Watts, Senior Editor, Commercial Vehicles – CAP

Posted on 21st November 2012 By Charlotte Haye

There is a great debate in the media about a government consultation on a proposal to increase the speed limit for HGV’s on single carriageway roads from 40mph to 50mph.

As usual, there are arguments and counter arguments. The “pro’s” quote improved journey times for both the trucks and other vehicles, reduced congestion, and a reduced accident rate.

Any car or van driver who has been stuck in a long line of traffic behind an HGV travelling at 40mph will understand the frustration caused. Many will have witnessed high levels of risk taking by drivers attempting to overtake. A side effect of this is increased stress levels for HGV drivers because they know that they can be delaying numerous other vehicles.

There may also be another benefit, this being improved truck fuel economy. Many tractor units are geared to run at their most efficient engine speeds whenever possible. On a typical undulating single carriageway road, running at 40mph can mean frequent down changes as the trucks’ engines rpm drops below the maximum torque band. Every unnecessary gear change wastes fuel, so the longer a truck can remain in top gear, the better the fuel consumption.

The “contra’s” argue that increased speed results in higher accident rates, and greater chance of death or serious injury should a collision occur at a higher speed. Another opposition argument is that increased speed results in increased emissions.

One factor that the opposition seems to have overlooked is the huge increase in HGV braking efficiency that modern trucks provide, especially when considering what technology was available when the 40mph speed limit was introduced in 1963. HGV drivers are professionally trained, and the latest improvement is the introduction of a driver’s Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) that requires constant on-going training to maintain.

Once again this debate has highlighted the public’s general antipathy towards the transport industry, despite that fact that this very industry keeps businesses and homes supplied by delivering goods where and when they are required 24 hours a day, no matter what the weather.

No matter what the transport sector tries to do to raise its image, it seems that in the majority of the public’s eyes trucks are “guilty until proved innocent”. Those of us that earn a living in the industry must surely sympathise with the views of the various trade associations that support the proposals.

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