The European Commission has proposed that the speed of all minibuses and coaches capable of carrying eight or more passengers should be limited to a maximum 100kmh (62mph), 8mph slower than current maximum speed limits for these vehicles.
It would also restrict the speed of commercial vehicles weighing 3.5-7 tonnes (typically slightly above Transit-sized vans, such as two-axle box vans and skip-loader size trucks) to 56mph, some 14mph below current limits.
The European Commission believes that fitting speed limiters would lead to fewer, less severe accidents, reduced emissions and fuel savings, and would save 3 billion Euros across the European Union. But it accepts that political considerations militate against extending the plan to cars and light vans.
Current UK regulations require speed limiters to be fitted to commercial vehicles, minibuses and coaches weighing more than 7.5 tonnes, and the Department of the Transport, Local Government and the Regions has produced a consultation paper on the European proposal.
The proposal would require the fitting of speed limiters to all vehicles registered from January 1, 2004, but would also be retrospective so that by January 1, 2005 limiters would have to be fitted to all vehicles registered from January 1, 2001. Specifically excluded from the proposal are all vehicles used by fire and other emergency services, armed forces and civil defence.
The Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions, said: 'In the UK we do not have clear evidence to show how many accidents have been prevented by fitting top-speed limiters to the heavier vehicles.'
It accepts that in principle speed limiters should deliver environmental gains, and 'reduce the number and severity of accidents.' But it warns that 'implementation of the proposal as it stands could lead to congestion effects, caused by more vehicles being trapped in long overtaking manoeuvres. It would also impose additional costs on operators because of increased journey times.'