Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by The Freight Transport Association (RTS 139)



  The FTA welcomes this opportunity to submit evidence to the Committee for its inquiry into Road Traffic Speed.

  The Freight Transport Association represents the transport interests of over 11,000 British businesses, ranging from small family firms to multi-national blue chip companies using all modes of transport; road, rail, air and sea. A road network that is safe, reliable and predictable is very important in sustaining efficient supply chains for industry, it is vital for competitiveness and business communications. FTA members operate over 200,000 heavy goods vehicles.

  FTA's evidence focuses on goods vehicle road users.


  FTA believes that influencing driver behaviour is a crucial element of speed management. Driver behaviour in relation to speed and speed limits and the critical importance of the appropriate speed within the legal maximum, feature prominently in FTA's management and driver training services. It is an integral feature of FTA's "Well Driven" scheme embracing both HGVs and light vans and FTA's best practice on Urban Friendly Deliveries underlines the importance of safe and courteous driving, particularly on urban roads.


  A careful balance needs to be struck between safety on the one hand and reliability and overall journey time on the other, to ensure the competitiveness of business and the economy as a whole. Reduction in speed limits prolong journey times and increase costs. The propensity of reduced speed limits (often caused by congested roads at peak hours) is a critical consideration in relation to business travel and particularly goods vehicle journeys. There is a good correlation between efficiency and reliability of the road network (expressed in average speeds, journey times and reliability of journey times) and the number of vehicles and journeys, hence total vehicle-kilometres incurred by industry in meeting the economy's requirements for freight movement. Put simply lower speeds = less efficient road network = increased vehicle-kilometres and vice versa. But the implications extend beyond increased costs for industry. Increased vehicle-kilometres could be counter-productive in road safety terms. Hence the need for recognition that adverse consequences in terms of increased costs and increased accidents could arise from reductions in speed limits.


  The proposed introduction of the requirement under EU legislation to extend the fitment of speed limiters to vehicles over 3.5 tonnes will have a significant effect on journey times and driver behaviour. The proposed introduction date is January 2004, from which all new vehicles would be fitted with limiters set at 90 kph (56 mph). All existing vehicles registered on or after 1st January 2001 would require speed limiters to be fitted by 1st January 2005.

  In practice this means that vehicles between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes would be limited to speed that is 14 mph below the current limit and vehicles between 7.5 and 12 tonnes would be limited to a speed 4 mph below the current limit. FTA is particularly concerned about the impact of the reduction in speed for those vehicles in the 3.5 to 7.5 tonnes range.

  A direct result of these lower limits will be significant bunching and congestion on major two lane dual carriageways such as A14 and A1, and on motorways where the outer lane of three or more lanes can be used by vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes. This will have a significant commercial impact as well as the likely antagonistic effect on car driver behaviour which could impact on road safety.


  The speed limit on rural single carriageway roads is 40 mph. The Speed Policy Review Discussion Paper in 1999 said that between 60 and 70 per cent of HGVs exceeded this limit. This reflects the speed at which drivers choose to travel in free flowing traffic when their behaviour is not influenced by congestion, enforcement or other road conditions. These examples of excess speed do not appear to have any detrimental affects on the accident rates involving such vehicles on single carriageway roads.

  It is important to remember that HGVs are restricted to lower speed limits than cars on single carriageway roads. This 20 mph differential often impacts on the behaviour of car drivers and can lead to risk taking manoeuvres to overtake HGVs.


  In considering illegal and inappropriate road speed in relation to heavy goods vehicles, it is important to look at accident involvement rates.

  Heavy goods vehicles have the lowest accident involvement rate and light goods vehicles the second lowest accident involvement rate among all vehicle classes. (Transport Statistics Great Britain: 2000—Road accident casualties by road user type and severity 1989-1999). This record shows a good road safety record in comparative terms, but is no cause for complacency and FTA will support all practical policies to achieve a further reduction in goods vehicle accident involvement rates.


  FTA recognises that road re-design and traffic calming measures are used as a means of reducing speed in urban areas, small towns and villages, however, such measures can cause significant problems to commercial vehicles. Road humps cause damage to the suspension of commercial vehicles, increase noise in the locality and increase pollution as a result of the vehicle braking and accelerating. Pinch points also cause increased pollution from vehicle braking and acceleration and, where pinch points are located in close proximity in a zig-zag configuration, major traffic disruption can occur because articulated vehicles are unable to move through the zig-zag without driving into the path of on-coming traffic. Such traffic calming schemes that are aimed at tackling road speed should be carefully considered, bearing in mind the types of traffic (heavy goods vehicles, local authority service vehicles and emergency vehicles) using the road.


  FTA recognises that it is necessary to deter speeding through increasing the risk of getting caught. Enforcement resources and measures should be focused at locations where the problems of non-compliance and associated accidents are greatest. We have serious reservations about arguments in favour of blanket zero tolerance enforcement policies.


  In considering this evidence, the committee should recognise the speed related issues impacting on goods vehicles, in particular:

    —  Influencing driver behaviour is a crucial element of speed management policy. It features prominently in FTA management driver training and best practice initiatives.

    —  There is a correlation between road network efficiency (of which journey speed and reliability are key criteria) and goods vehicle-kilometres and accidents.

    —  The extension of speed limiter technology to vehicles between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes will have both a commercial impact and detrimental effect on road safety.

    —  Speed limits on single carriageway rural roads is 20 mph lower than that for car drivers, which can impact on car driver behaviour.

    —  Goods vehicles have the lowest accident involvement rates among all classes of vehicle—but all practical measures to achieve further improvements should be considered.

    —  The use of road re-design and traffic calming measures as a means of traffic speed constraint should be considered carefully bearing in mind the detrimental effect for commercial vehicles.

    —  Enforcement should be targeted to ensure best use of resources and optimum results in terms of compliance and accident reduction.

January 2002

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