The Department for Transport has opened a consultation on proposals to raise the speed limit on single carriageway roads for lorries over 7.5 tonnes from the current 40 mph to 45 or 50 mph.
Writing in the Foreword to the consultation, Roads Minister Stephen Hammond said
The consultation argues that haulage firms obeying the law are 'penalised' and that because, according to DfT data, 70% of these lorries already break the speed limit, 'those that currently travel above the maximum speed limit have a competitive advantage'. It also suggests that HGVs adhering to the 40 mph limit create queues of traffic which cause drivers to make unsafe overtaking manoeuvres as a result of frustration.
Raising HGV speed limits on single carriageway roads could lead to quicker journeys and lower costs for the sector, aiding economic growth as well as reducing frustration for the many drivers who find themselves stuck behind slower-moving lorries on busy roads unable to overtake.
The effects on road safety have not yet been assessed, say the DfT, although the document does acknowledge that 'there may be more serious collisions due to increased speeds'. The consultation is released just one week after the Roads Minister stressed the importance of making the roads as safe as possible for cyclists, and just days after Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and his coach Shane Sutton were injured in separate incidents.
Cycling Embassy chair Jim Davis said
I am appalled to see that, even after everything that has happened this year, with the dreadful plight of Mary Bowers and the subsequent brilliant campaign from The Times amplifying the desire for safer streets where vehicles and people interact, the DfT manages to disregard the safety of those wishing to get around on foot or by bicycle. And on single carriageway roads where people are more likely to be.
I am also appalled that they take an interest in raising this sort of speed limit nationally for the supposed good of the nation and yet 20 mph limits in residential areas have to be fought for region by region, street by street.
The consultation is open until the 1st of February 2013 - you can respond here.