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Guide to speed limit rules for vans in the UK

Photo by Ksenia Kudelkina on Unsplash


Are you aware of the speed limits for vans? Many van drivers are surprised to learn that commercial vehicles are subject to different speed limits than cars. Unfortunately, they often only become aware of this when they receive a fine through the post.

It’s essential to know that the speed limit signs you see on UK roads only apply rigidly to cars and for vans, these limits are often lower. Violating these limits can result in significant fines, points added to your license, and even a driving ban. 

To ensure you stay on the right side of the law, read our guide to UK speed limits for commercial vans. We’ll clarify what speed limits vans should follow and how they vary from those for cars, and identify the types of light commercial vehicles that must adhere to van speed limits.

Van speed limits in built-up areas, single and dual carriageways and motorways

The general rule of thumb is that the speed limit for a van is the same as for a car if the speed limit is up to 50mph. However, above that, the maximum speed limit for a van is typically 10mph less than for a car. 

  • Built-up areas (towns and cities): limit of 30mph. This is the same as the limit for a car.
  • Single carriageway with the National Speed Limit sign: limit of 50mph – 10mph less than for a car.
  • Dual carriageway: limit of 60mph – 10mph lower than the speed limit for cars.
  • Motorway: speed limit of 70mph – the same as cars. 

These limits may be adjusted further based on additional local restrictions indicated by posted speed limit signs. Consequently, you may see dual carriageways with 40mph limits, 20mph speed limit zones in urban areas, and other variations.

Moreover, many motorways now have variable speed limits. On ‘smart’ motorways, speed limit changes are frequently monitored and enforced through speed cameras.

How are UK van speed limits different to car speed limits?

Below are tables outlining the speed limits for vans in the UK, in comparison to other types of vehicles. All speeds are measured in miles per hour (mph).

Vehicle typeBuilt-up areasSingle
 carriageways
Dual
carriageways
Motorways
cars, motorcycles, car-derived vans, dual-purpose vehicles including qualifying pickup trucks30607070
vans and other commercial vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes maximum laden weight30506070
and and other vehicles with 3.5-7.5 tonnes maximum laden weight305056*56*
motorhomes, motor caravans, campervans up to 3.05 tonnes maximum unladen weight30607070
motorhomes, motor caravans, campervans above 3.05 tonnes maximum unladen weight30506070
* Essentially, all goods vehicles weighing up to 7.5 tonnes adhere to identical speed limits on dual carriageways and motorways. However, those with a maximum laden weight exceeding 3.5 tonnes (3.5t or 3,500kg) are electronically restricted to 56mph per European regulations. It is important to note that this restriction remains applicable in the UK post-Brexit. Additionally, operators of these heavier vehicles must hold a Category C1 driving license.

What speed limits apply to 3.5t vans on different types of roads?

All vans and light goods vehicles up to a maximum laden mass of 3.5 tonnes are subject to the same speed limits, except for car-derived vans and dual-purpose vehicles.

  • Built-up areas: 30 mph
  • Single carriageways: 50 mph
  • Dual carriageways: 60 mph
  • Motorways: 70 mph

Determining the maximum laden weight of a commercial vehicle

Most larger vans fall under the 3.5-tonne category, although there are variations with higher or lower maximum laden mass ratings. Meanwhile, small vans and medium vans typically have lower maximum laden mass ratings than 3.5 tonnes. For example, the Transit Custom can go up to 3.4 tonnes, which is considered exceptionally high.

To determine the exact maximum laden mass of your van, refer to the weight plate. This plate is usually located under the bonnet. Your owner’s handbook will provide specific instructions for locating it on your vehicle.

Speed limits for car-derived vans and dual-purpose vehicles

Only car-derived vans and dual purpose vehicles are permitted to travel at the same speed as cars:

  • In built-up areas, the speed limit is 30 mph.
  • On single carriageways, the speed limit is 60 mph.
  • On dual carriageways, the speed limit is 70 mph.
  • On motorways, the speed limit is 70 mph.

What is a car-derived van?

Identifying car-derived vans in the UK is relatively straightforward. They essentially resemble passenger cars with the rear windows covered, rear seats removed, and the rear area converted for cargo purposes.

Generally, car-derived vans are derived from small cars, given that they have a maximum laden mass limitation of 2.0 tonnes. Well-known examples include the Ford Fiesta Van and the Vauxhall Corsavan, and new options such as the Renault Zoe Van and the Dacia Duster Commercial are also available.

All of these vehicles retain the original bodywork and silhouette of the passenger cars they are derived from. If a vehicle has undergone more significant alterations to its bodywork beyond just covering the rear side windows, it is unlikely to be classified as a car-derived van. Therefore, it is important to note that only vehicles labelled as ‘CDV’ in the logbook are legally permitted to travel at the same speed as cars.

What is a dual-purpose vehicle?

According to UK road traffic regulations, a dual-purpose vehicle is defined as a vehicle that is constructed or adapted to transport both passengers and goods. It should have a maximum weight of 2,040kg when not carrying any load (unladen weight). It is important to note that unladen weight refers to the weight of the vehicle in road-going conditions. Furthermore, it excludes any fuel.

Additionally, the van you’re driving is a dual purpose vehicle if it meets one of two criteria. It must either have four-wheel drive or a rigid roof, along with at least one row of passenger seats behind the driver, including side and rear windows. Moreover, there must be a correct ratio of passenger space to load area.

The government provides a full definition on its official legislative website for a detailed and complete understanding of the requirements for dual-purpose vehicles.

A wide range of vehicles fall into the dual-purpose vehicle category. This includes pickup trucks, commercial 4x4s, kombi, and double-cab vans.

Do pickup trucks adhere to speed limit rules for vans or cars? 

Many pickups, particularly the popular double-cab models equipped with four proper doors and five seats, are classified as dual-purpose vehicles and are allowed to travel at car speeds.

However, it is crucial to consider the unladen weight. Certain high-spec pickups’ weight may exceed 2,040kg, disqualifying them as dual-purpose vehicles and limiting their speed to that of vans. For instance, Toyota advises Hilux pickup owners to adhere to van speed limits, and most Ford Rangers are also too heavy to match car speeds. On the other hand, the Isuzu D-Max is light enough to meet the criteria of a dual-purpose vehicle across all configurations.

Please note that single-cab pickup trucks, which feature only two doors and lack a second row of seats, and those without four-wheel drive are not categorised as dual-purpose vehicles and must stick to speed limits for vans.

Speed limits for vans with double cab and kombi vans

The speed limit regulations for vans that are designed to transport both passengers and goods can be somewhat unclear. Vans such as kombi (or combi) vans, double-cab vans, and crew vans feature a second row of seats behind the driver. These vans may be eligible for dual-purpose status, similar to pickups, but only if they meet specific requirements.

To qualify, these vans must have side windows and rear windows (although not all crew vans come with them as standard). They must also maintain the correct ratio of passenger space to load area. In addition, the unladen weight must be below 2,040kg (2.04 tonnes). It may be useful to check for the term ‘window van’ on the V5C logbook. However, it is only relevant if the van satisfies all other requirements.

Van driving on a road

Dos and don’ts to avoid getting caught speeding in a van

How can you prevent getting a speeding ticket and stay safe on the roads?  Here are some valuable tips to consider:

Stay alert – be vigilant for alterations in speed limits and understand the permissible speeds for your van on different types of roads.

Utilise cruise control – employ cruise control to maintain a steady speed and prevent gradual acceleration, especially beneficial on routes monitored by average speed cameras.

Use a speed limiter – consider having a speed limiter fitted in your van. Speed limiter allows you to adjust the speed without surpassing the designated limit. It also facilitates automatic deceleration when removing pressure from the accelerator, a functionality not provided by cruise control.

Avoid relying on sat-navs – be cautious in relying solely on satellite-navigation devices for speed limit information. This is because their displays are often outdated and may not accurately reflect the current limits, particularly for commercial vehicles.

Be cautious of dashboard displays – exercise caution with dashboard displays that read road signs, as they can occasionally misinterpret information. Consequently, this may lead to errors in displaying the correct speed limits.

Beware of ‘intelligent’ adaptive cruise control – exercise caution when using adaptive cruise control systems in new vans that adjust the speed based on road signs detected by onboard cameras, as they may inaccurately interpret signs and result in unintentional acceleration.

Van speed limits UK FAQs

When towing a trailer with your van or pickup, the speed limit remains the same as cars towing trailers, with one exception. On the motorway, the speed limit is reduced to 60mph instead of the regular 70mph.

This speed limit also applies to articulated vehicles that are towing a trailer.

In the UK’s Highway Code, a dual carriageway has a central barrier between the lanes and typically has two lanes in each direction, although this may vary. In addition, dual carriageways have green road signs. While cars can travel at 70mph, the speed limit on a dual carriageway for vans is 60mph.

In addition to a central barrier, motorways also have a hard shoulder (although newer ‘smart motorways’ are replacing this with refuge areas) and numbered entrance and exit junctions. They are designed for fast and safe travel, which is why pedestrians, cyclists, tractors, and slow-moving vehicles are not allowed on them. Motorways also have blue road signs and a maximum speed limit of 70mph for both vans and cars (60mph for vans towing a trailer).

Variable speed limits that apply to many motorways (and some dual carriageways) are indicated on overhead gantries featuring digital signs. A white number in a red circle means that the speed limit is legally restricted to that amount at that point in time. Moreover, it remains in effect until a different speed or the national speed limit sign is shown. The national speed limit sign indicates the resumption of the usual maximum speed limit.

The national speed limit signifies the highest speed permitted on various types of roads. While speed limit signs in built-up areas are typically numbered (20, 30, 40, or 50 in a red circle), county roads, dual carriageways, and motorways usually display the national speed limit sign instead.

The national speed limit sign is presented as a white circle with a black diagonal line from the top right to the bottom left. However, it can be quite confusing, as it represents different speed limits on different roads. For example, on a country lane, it indicates a maximum speed of 60mph for cars and 50mph for vans. On a dual carriageway, it signifies 70mph for cars and 60mph for vans. Meanwhile, on a motorway, it allows 70mph for both cars and vans.

Maximum laden mass is a term used interchangeably with maximum authorised mass (MAM), revenue weight, and gross vehicle weight (GVW). It refers to the total allowable weight of a vehicle. Maximum laden mass includes everything on board, such as people and cargo.

When it comes to speeding offences, most are typically handled through a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN). However, if you end up going to court for speeding, you may face a fine of up to 175% of your weekly salary. This applies to both cars and commercial vehicles like vans and pickups.

The maximum fine is capped at £2,500 on motorways and £1,000 on less significant roads. The actual amount of the fine is divided into three bands, determined by how much over the speed limit you were caught.

For Band A offences, the court has the authority to impose a fine ranging from 25% to 75% of your weekly salary. In addition, you will receive three penalty points on your driving record.

For Band B, the penalty range is from 75% to 125% of your weekly salary, along with four to six penalty points or a driving disqualification lasting from seven to 28 days.

For Band C, the penalty range is from 125% to 175% of your weekly salary, in addition to receiving six penalty points or a driving ban lasting from seven to 56 days. However, the guidelines also specify that if an offender is driving significantly over the speed limit, the court should consider a disqualification lasting more than 56 days. This means there’s no specific limit for this scenario.

Speed limit (mph) Band A: Recorded Speed (mph) Band B: Recorded Speed (mph) Band C: Recorded Speed (mph)
20 21-30 31-40 41+
30 31-40 41-50 51+
40 41-55 56-65 66+
50 51-65 66-75 76+
60 61-80 81-90 91+
70 71-90 91-100 101+

 

According to the guidelines unveiled by the UK Sentencing Council, the type of vehicle is explicitly factored in when determining fines and penalties. In this context, speeding in a van or other goods vehicle is deemed more severe due to the increased potential danger resulting from the vehicle’s size and weight.

Other factors that can exacerbate the seriousness of a speeding offence include weather conditions, the presence of passengers, and the location where the offence occurs. Fines for speeding in areas such as near a school, in heavy traffic, or in areas with high pedestrian activity are typically harsher.

Van speed limits in the UK

Speed is a major contributing factor in most road accidents. Due to the size and weight of commercial vans, driving faster than the speed limit may result in more severe and potentially fatal accidents. That’s why being caught speeding in your van may result in harsher penalties compared to speeding in a car. Furthermore, accumulating fines and points can raise your van insurance premiums. Consequently, rushing between jobs may be costing you more than just a few minutes of your time.

Knowing the speed limit for your vehicle is crucial. So, regardless of whether you are driving a small van such as a Citroen Berlingo, a medium van like a Ford Transit Custom, or a large van like a Peugeot Boxer, it’s important to remember that the speed limit on country roads is 50mph, not 60mph and the speed limit on dual carriageways is 60mph, not 70mph. On motorways, the speed limit for vans is 70mph, the same as for cars.

Save driving!

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