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Fuel Card Blog Updates: Increasing motorway speed limits is bad news for business

So, the obvious topic of conversation would be Tuesday’s news that the House of Commons is to grant discussion time to the issue of fuel duty and the Government’s response to the e-petition, but I think we’ve heard enough about that this week.

Rather we’re going to focus (i.e. have a rant) on something else that’s hit the news – new doubts raised over 80mph limit plan changes following the M5 crash.

The Government is planning to raise the motorway speed limit from 70mph claiming the increase would be good for business. “Increasing the speed limit on motorways from 70 to 80 miles per hour for cars, light vans and motorcycles could provide hundreds of millions of pounds of benefits for the economy and I will put forward formal proposals for making these changes later this year”, says Transport Secretary Philip Hammond.

Erm, how can someone driving their vehicle faster be any good for business unless you own a fuel station? Driving at 80mph could use up to 20 percent more fuel than at 70mph – for businesses already struggling with high fuel costs, this isn’t going to help one iota.

Current guidelines suggest that speed limits should be enforced at ten percent over the limit plus two miles per hour. This means that in a 70mph limit, drivers are unlikely to be prosecuted for speeding unless travelling at 79mph or faster. If the speed limit was raised to 80mph and guidelines remained the same, it would be enforced at 90mph, 20mph above the current speed limit.

Goods vehicles exceeding 7.5 tonne maximum gross weight are currently restricted to 60mph on motorways, but recent plans suggested this may be reduced to 56mph. Increasing the gap between speeds travelled on the motorway is more likely to result in higher fuel bills, as drivers will be forced to adopt defensive driving techniques which can not only be dangerous, but actually increase fuel consumption by as much as 40 percent.

Increasing the speed limit of other vehicles will make it more difficult for trucks to overtake each other, forcing them to adopt a ‘stop-start’ style of driving in which truck drivers have to accelerate hard to overtake a vehicle, then brake suddenly to fall back in line with the slower-moving traffic. With nearly 50 percent of the energy needed to power a vehicle going into acceleration, this will result in the truck using far more fuel than is necessary, which will cost fleet businesses more.
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