Returning from a trade show this weekend, my partner and I were passed by the passenger version of our Nissan Navara, who, because of vehicle classification, is able to drive at a higher speed on dual carriage ways then we in our “Commercial” version of the same vehicle can. This inevitably triggered a conversation about how few seem to know, or pay attention to, the different motoring laws that apply to commercial vehicle.

It has been a standing joke for many years about the “White Van Man” being the fastest vehivles on the road, but I have often wondered how many of them actually thought that they were abiding to the UK motoring laws while they went about their daily business, and how many of their bosses actually would have agreed with them.

Most people I have spoken to know the rules for cars and even know that heavy goods vehicles and vehicles that are towing have lower maximum speeds few seemed aware that commercial vehicles like vans and pickups have their own limits as shown in the table below (taken from the direct gov website) ?

Table of national speed limits

Type of vehicle Built-up areas Single carriage-ways Dual carriage-ways Motorways
mph (km/h) mph (km/h) mph (km/h) mph (km/h)
Cars & motorcycles
(including car-derived vans up to 2 tonnes maximum laden weight)
30 (48) 60 (96) 70 (112) 70 (112)
Cars towing caravans or trailers
(including car-derived vans and motorcycles)
30 (48) 50 (80) 60 (96) 60 (96)
Buses, coaches and minibuses
(under 12 metres in overall length)
30 (48) 50 (80) 60 (96) 70 (112)
Goods vehicles
(under 7.5 tonnes maximum laden weight)
30 (48) 50 (80) 60 (96) 70 (112) If articulated, or towing a trailer, limit is 60 mph (96 km/h)
Goods vehicles
(above 7.5 tonnes maximum laden weight)
30 (48) 40 (64) 50 (80) 60 (96)

These limits apply unless otherwise indicated (for example a 20mph limit near schools and some other roads or a 40mph / 50mph / 60mph limit may be indicated by roadside or overhead signs).

You can see from the above table that car-derived vans are treated the same as cars, meaning the following makes of van for example, are all treated as car-derived and can drive at the same speed as a car.

  • Ford Fiesta van
  • Vauxhall Astra van
  • Fiat Punto van
  • Peugot 207 van
  • Renault Clio van

However, the table specifies a weight limit, in addition to being car-derived, of being less than 2 tonnes when loaded. This means that the typical transit type of van should, by law – drive at a slower speed on both single carriage ways and dual carriage ways, but unless they are towing can drive at 70mph on a motorway.

Few people realise that this also applies to vehicles like pick-ups as they are not derived from cars and certainly can weigh more than 2 tonnes when they are loaded (for example our Nissan Navara has a maximum gross weight of 3.2 tonnes).

If you are a small business that needs to make deliveries or pick up bulky stock, then the chances are you own either a van or a pick-up and being unaware of the lower speed limits could cost you dearly not just financially, but with points on your licence.

To add to the confusion, in August 2013 new legislation was passed that means that certain actions that had previously been seen as a nuisance, or just bad driving, but weren’t illegal now attract a fixed fine penalty on the spot without having to go to court. The fines can range from £60 to £100 and the offences now include:

  • Tailgating – Driving too close to the car in front in an effort to make them move out of the way.
  • Driving in the middle lane of the motorway

It still includes the actions that were previously eligible for a fine, but the fine amount has been raised, the offences include:

  • Speeding
  • Motorway offences such as reversing, or driving on the hard shoulder
  • Ignoring traffic directions by jumping red lights or ignoring road signs such as the “road closed” signs
  • Neglect of pedestrians – for example stopping over a zebra crossing
  • Motorcycle offences – for example carrying more than the allowed number of passengers for your vehicle (motorcycles without side-cars can only carry one additional person)
  • Failing to wear your seatbelt
  • Many more are also included as can be seen at the site

If you find yourself on the wrong side of motoring law, then it is advisable to seek professional advice from a qualified motoring solicitor who can advise you of your rights and help you should your case end up going to court.