September 18, 2019 at 11:51 AM
Speed limits in the UK aren't universally applied - they vary depending on the vehicle you're driving. The numbers on speed limit signs always apply to cars (because they make up the majority of traffic on UK roads), but not all vehicles can follow those posted limits.
With speeding fines set at a maximum of £2,500 and a potential disqualification from driving for up to 56 days, it's important to know the specific speed limits for the vehicle you're driving.
Below is a table of speed limits for vehicles you're likely to drive with a standard driving licence.
|Type Of Vehicle
|Built-Up Areas (mph)
|Single Carriageways (mph)
|Dual Carriageways (mph)
|Cars, motorcycles, car-derived vans and dual-purpose vehicles
|Goods vehicles (not more than 7.5 tonnes maximum laden weight)
|Motorhomes or motor caravans (not more than 3.05 tonnes maximum unladen weight)
|Motorhomes or motor caravans (more than 3.05 tonnes maximum unladen weight)
|Buses, coaches and minibuses (not more than 12 metres overall length)
Most vans must follow the speed limits for goods vehicles based on their weight. As outlined in the table above, the basic rule of thumb when you're driving a panel van with a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) up to 3.5 tonnes is:
Technically, these speed restrictions apply to all vans with a GVW up to 7.5 tonnes; however, you need to have the B+E classification on your licence to be able to drive vehicles over 3.5 tonnes.
These limits are obviously subject to further restrictions. For example, local councils can set their speed limits in certain areas which could include a 20mph zone in a built-up area near a school or a 40mph limit on a single carriageway with sharp bends.
As 'smart motorways' get implemented across the UK, variable speed limits are becoming an increasingly common occurrence. By monitoring traffic flow and developing situations, variable speed limits can make adjustments to reduce congestion.
For example, a lower temporary speed limit can be introduced to slow down traffic and ease congestion further up the motorway. Similarly, if there are roadworks or there's a stranded vehicle, a variable speed limit can be imposed to increase safety.
Fixed speed limits are used on majority of UK roads - they are normally identified by a number (e.g. 30) within a red circle. Alternatively, the national speed limit sign - a grey circular sign with a single black diagonal stripe through it - has a varied speed limit depending on the vehicle you're driving and the road you're driving on.
For cars, the national speed limit sign means a maximum speed of 60mph on single carriageway roads and 70mph on dual carriageways and motorways. For vans, the same sign imposes a limit of 50mph on a single carriageway, 60mph on a dual carriageway and 70mph on motorways.
In the UK, speed limiters are only legally required to be fitted to goods vehicles with a maximum laden weight of more than 3.5 tonnes, as well as vehicles with more than eight passenger seats (e.g. buses, coaches and limousines).
However, under European regulations, all light commercial vehicles between 3.5 tonnes and 7.5 tonnes must be restricted to 56mph electronically.
There are exceptions to the basic rule for van speed limits: car-derived vans and dual-purpose vehicles. The speed limits for these commercial vehicles are the same as cars.
As the name suggests, a car-derived van is a small van that is based on a car - for example, the Vauxhall Corsavan or the Ford Fiesta van. The technical definition of a car-derived van (or CDV) is:
'A goods vehicle which is constructed or adapted as a derivative of a passenger vehicle and which has a maximum laden weight not exceeding 2.0 tonnes'.
In order to be able to legally drive at the same speed limits as a car, the V5C registration document for the vehicle must list the body type as a CDV and the Gross Vehicle Weight must be no more than 2.0 tonnes (you can find this information by looking at the weight plate which is usually found on the door sills or under the bonnet).
A dual-purpose vehicle is one that can carry passengers as well as cargo. The UK road traffic regulations define a dual-purpose vehicle as:
'A vehicle constructed or adapted for the carriage of both passengers and of goods and designed to weigh no more than 2,040kg when unladen'.
To qualify as a dual-purpose vehicle, it must have:
This means that most double-cab pick-up trucks count as dual-purpose vehicles and can be driven at the same speed limits as a car. Similarly, crew and kombi vans can qualify for dual-purpose status.
It's important to know the vehicle's unladen weight - some high-spec pick-ups and larger vans will be more than 2,040kg, making them subject to the same rules as most other vans.
In the UK, there are only two campervans sold from new: the Volkswagen California and the Mercedes V Class Marco Polo. The California is classed as a 'motor caravan', whereas the Marco Polo has an 'MPV' vehicle class.
Both of these models are legally allowed to drive as fast as a car. If you buy a converted campervan, you need to check that the V5C has been changed to 'motor caravan' otherwise you'll be restricted to the same speeds as the van it's based on.
Regardless of whether your van, pick-up truck or car is legally allowed to do 70mph on dual carriageways and motorways, the speed limit for any vehicle towing a trailer or caravan is 60mph.
Similarly, the speed limit on single carriageway roads when towing is reduced by 10mph to 50mph for all vehicles.
In 2017, more than two million speeding tickets were issued in England and Wales, according to figures collated by the Home Office. Majority of drivers caught speeding will receive a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) of a £100 fine and three points on their licence.
NOTE: Drivers can avoid the points by opting for a speed awareness course - instead of paying the fine, you pay to attend the course which is also slightly cheaper. However, the course will only be offered if you haven't been convicted of any other speeding offences in the past three years.
For people that are perceived to have committed more than a 'minor offence', the punishment can be more severe. In this instance, you may be prosecuted in court leading to a significantly higher fine, more points on your licence or even a driving suspension or disqualification.
If you're summoned to court, you will be put into one of the following categories:
|Legal Speed Limit (mph)
|Recorded Speed (mph)
|Recorded Speed (mph)
|Recorded Speed (mph)
|41 and above
|51 and above
|66 and above
|76 and above
|91 and above
|101 and above
|Points / Disqualification
|4-6 points OR disqualify 7-28 days
|6 points OR disqualify 7-56 days
|50% of relevant weekly income*
|100% of relevant weekly income*
|150% of relevant weekly income*
*This is what you can expect but the magistrate can fine you anywhere within a range of 25% on either side of that figure, meaning serious offenders could face a fine of 175% their weekly income. This fine, however, is capped at £1,000, rising to £2,500 if you are caught on a motorway.
The National Police Chief's Council (NPCC) does recommend giving drivers a so-called '10% plus 2' leeway to help police officers to exercise discretion. For example, using these guidelines, you could potentially be let off if you were caught doing 35mph in a 30mph speed limit.
However, it's important to remember this is only a recommendation, not the law. Typically, a speed camera is manually set to trigger at a certain speed - it's unconfirmed whether they are set 10% above the limit.
If a police officer using a mobile speed camera catches you speeding, it's up to them to decide whether to penalise you if you're over the speed limit in any way. After all, if you're doing 31mph in a 30mph speed limit, you're breaking the law.
The best way to avoid getting hit with a speeding fine is simple: don't speed.