A week-long campaign by lorry drivers to increase speed limits for HGVs is set to cause chaos on Scottish roads.
Over 6,500 lorry drivers in the UK – including 1,100 in Scotland – are staging a “40mph week” to highlight their bid to change the law to enable trucks to drive at 50mph on A-class single carriageways.
Inverness-based trucker Conor McKenna, 28, who is spearheading the protest, claims the current legislation was leading to dangerous overtaking manoeuvres by other motorists.
Currently, lorries over 7.5 tonnes have to drive 20mph slower than cars on single carriageways, such as the notorious A9 Inverness to Perth road and the A96 stretch between Aberdeen and Inverness.
Launching the campaign in the Highland capital, Mr McKenna said: “Lorry drivers regularly break the law in a bid to keep traffic moving on our roads.
“When we stick to 40mph cars overtake at ridiculous angles. It’s all day, every day, and the A9 is horrendous. It means we’re always nervous when we’re driving.
“We want to change the law because we think it would benefit everybody. People would be less frustrated and stores would get faster deliveries.
“Nobody wants to be stuck at 40mph. It’s dangerous. That’s when you get all the dodgy overtaking.
“The impact of the protest will hit journey times on major roads, particularly the A9 and A96. It will cause some delays and hit delivery times.”
The “40mph week” will see HGV drivers sticking strictly to the required speed limits.
Mr McKenna, a driver for Dingwall firm DPS Haulage, added: “I’ve got nine points on my licence in the past few months because I’ve been driving above the speed limit because of the tailback behind me.
It’s perfectly safe for these lorries to drive at 50mph. The brakes nowadays could stop the lorries on a sixpence.
“We want to highlight the problem by sticking to the current limit for a whole week. This will obviously cause some disruption.
“But while this may cause some annoyance, we hope the public understands our reasons and support us in our cause.”
Drivers have been told to pull over whenever they can to let cars past.
Thousands of drivers have signed up to Mr McKenna’s Facebook Page supporting a change in law.
The UK Government is currently carrying out a consultation on proposed changes which would affect about 280,000 vehicles. It will run until 1 February.
Scottish roads minister Stephen Hammond has said that less congestion and quicker journeys would help business.
But Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive of road safety charity Brake, said there was clear evidence of a direct link between traffic speed and road accidents.
The campaign to change the limit is being supported by Highlands MSPs David Thompson, of the SNP, and Labour’s David Stewart.
Mr Stewart said: “I regularly travel on the A9 and see some horrific situations caused by crazy overtaking, much of the time by vehicles travelling behind lorries.
“I feel sorry for lorry drivers having to be constrained by Government legislation.
“It is ridiculous to keep a 40mph limit. These drivers cover huge distances every year and are very professional and experienced. These lorries are very modern and they should be allowed to legally travel at a realistic speed.”
Sustainable transport lobby group Sustrans are against the idea of increasing the speed limit for lorries.
A spokesperson said: “The most vulnerable people on the road are cyclists, people on motorbikes and pedestrians. HGVs on A-roads often pass through towns and villages, where people might be walking or cycling.
“The faster a lorry is travelling the longer it will take to stop, because of the braking distance and the drivers having less reaction time.
“The lorry drivers are obviously making the point that their vehicles are safer nowadays and we can see their point about dangerous overtaking. But we would say it’s up to car drivers to not overtake recklessly.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “We fully expect all road users to travel not just within the legal speed limit at all times, but at the speed most appropriate for the road conditions.”
For cars and motorcycles, the national speed limit is 60mph on single carriageway roads and 70 mph on dual carriageway roads and motorways.
For HGVs over 7.5 tonnes the national speed limit is 40 mph on single carriageway roads, 50 mph on dual carriageways and 60 mph on motorways - for goods vehicles under 7.5 tonnes the national speed limit is 50 mph on single carriageways, 60mph on dual carriageways and 70mph on motorways.