It seems utopian now, but prior to the introduction of the 70mph speed limit in 1965, Englands few motorways were technically unrestricted roads.
Its easy to forget that the 70mph motorway limit is only one of several road speed limits in the UK, many of which vary according to different vehicles.
This was brought into focus by our recent test ofMitsubishis L200 Barbarian Black.
Spurred on by a reader question as to whether the L200 and other pickups have to conform to commercial vehicle speed limits, carwow did some digging – and we were a little surprised by what we found.
Typical UK speed limits
Youll probably be familiar with the UKs typical limits.
In built-up areas, theres generally a blanket 30mph limit applied. Its a speed limit thats remained officially in force since 1930, and the Highway Code suggests that if youre driving on a road with streetlights, you should assume the 30mph limit still applies.
30mph limits will usually be denoted by a sign at the start of the restriction, but not by repeater signs – so those streetlights are your only real clue. In contrast, a 40mph limit in built-up areas will usually have repeater signs. Some residential areas and areas near schools may have a 20mph limit – though its worth noting that sometimes, even 20mph may be excessive in these areas.
Next up is the National Speed Limit. Whether youre driving a Ford or a Ferrari, the single-carriageway speed limit is 60mph. This also applies to two-way roads with an overtaking lane in one direction.
Finally, theres the dual-carriageway and motorway limit of 70mph. We all stick to that one, right?…
Vans AND pick-ups
Heres where the confusion might arise. If youve just bought a shiny new Mitsubishi L200, Nissan Navara, Toyota Hilux or other double-cab pickup, youd best pay attention.
The typical 60mph single-carriageway and 70mph dual-carriageway limits do not apply to double-cab pickups. Instead, these vehicles, like their commercial panel van cousins, are restricted to no more than 50mph on single-carriageway roads, and 60mph on dual-carriageways. The 70mph motorway limit still applies.
Theres some confusion as to whether double-cab vehicles are exempt from these lower limits through the governments dual-purpose law, but carwow can confirm this isnt the case. We spoke to Mitsubishi after testing the L200 Barbarian Black, and they returned this statement:
The L200 would only be treated as a passenger car or dual-purpose vehicle if its total laden weight is under 2 tonnes. As our double cab will exceed that weight with a load, it is treated as an LGV (light goods vehicle).
As all dual-cab pickups on the market today have broadly similar weight capacities, this law will apply to any of the L200s rivals. They may often be marketed to car buyers, but as we pointed out in our review – these are still commercial vehicles at heart.
As a good rule of thumb – if the vehicle youre buying is being taxed as a light goods vehicle, its safest to assume that itll be restricted to light goods vehicle speed limits too. You have been warned
Other speed limits
Its not just pickups that are restricted to lower limits. If youre towing a trailer or with any vehicle, youll face the same speed limits as LGVs, plus a lower restriction of 60mph on the motorway.
Large or heavy goods vehicles over 7.5 tonnes conform to even lower limits. That includes only 40mph on single-carriageway roads – so next time youre stuck behind a truck doing 40mph, blame the law and not the driver – 50mph on dual-carriageways, and 60mph on motorways. In reality, the 60mph limit is academic since trucks are legally, electronically restricted to 56mph in the EU.
Of course, legal limits aside, you should always use an element of common sense to pick your speed for a given road.
carwow doesnt condone speeding, but well acknowledge that on a perfectly wide and empty stretch of motorway, 80mph is neither excessive nor dangerous. However, doing the same speed when its busy and raining isnt just illegal, its incredibly stupid too.
Likewise, a 20mph limit might seem slow at midnight, but doing the same at 3-4pm when the pavements are full of school kids, and it may still be too fast for you to react should a child run out into the road.
In essence, you should always drive for the conditions – but do keep an eye on those limit signs, and make sure you know the limits for whatever vehicle youre driving