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HGV Speed Limits

Volume 586: debated on Thursday 23 October 2014

12. What research he has conducted into the effect on the number of deaths and serious injuries of increasing HGV speed limits. (905615)

The Department for Transport commissioned the Transport Research Laboratory specifically to assess the possible effects of raising the national speed limit for heavy goods vehicles and bringing them in line with those set for other large vehicles, such as coaches and cars towing caravans. In addition, the Department conducted analysis related to the national speed limit changes using its internal well established and peer-reviewed national transport model and also considered a substantial body of existing research into the various effects of speed changes on road safety.

I am grateful to the Minister for her response, but many of us are very concerned about this proposal. The plan is to raise HGV speed limits on single carriageways when the Minister’s own impact assessment makes it clear that that is likely to increase deaths and serious injuries on our roads. I know that the Minister sometimes comes up with very good ideas, but this is daft and dangerous. I urge her to reconsider in the light of the new evidence.

No decision is taken by me—I speak as a keen cyclist and someone with young children who are out on the roads—and my Department without careful consideration of the impact on road safety. Those speed limits have been in operation since 1960, since when technology in our road traffic and HGV fleet has advanced dramatically, and deaths and injuries caused by HGVs have declined substantially. We have assessed the deaths that might occur from the change, but we have also assessed the impact of not needing to overtake platooning lorries driving far below speed limits that already apply to other large vehicles such as coaches and caravans. I suggest that the hon. Lady speaks to hauliers in her constituency, such as Williams Haulage, which deliver vital services for the country. They are investing in safe-truck technology and they really welcome the changes.

The country faces a national shortage of 40,000 qualified HGV drivers, which is acting as a brake on national economic growth. Will my hon. Friend agree to meet me and Knights of Old, a distinguished lorry operator in my constituency, and the Road Haulage Association, to see how the Government might fund a package of vocational driver training and recruitment?

I am always reluctant to make funding commitments for the Government, but it would be a pleasure to meet my hon. Friend and his constituents. This is a vital industry for Britain and a core part of economic growth, so it would be a pleasure to listen to representation about how we might improve the skills of drivers.