A guide to speed limits for commercial vehicles in the UK

It’s news to nobody that every driver on the road must adhere to speed limits. Ranging from as low as 20mph in some highly urban and residential areas, up to the national speed limit of 60mph and the UK dual-carriageway or motorway limit of 70mph, anyone with a driver’s licence will be familiar with what is and isn’t legal when it comes to getting from A to B on Britain’s roads.


However, things are a little more complex where light commercial vehicles (LCVs) such as vans are concerned. Not only are these sometimes subject to different speed limits compared with cars, but what constitutes an LCV in this context can depend on a few factors.



Are UK van speed limits different from cars?

Yes, speed limits for vans generally differ from cars on UK roads, but it does depend on a few things.


As a standard, the national speed limit in the UK allowed on any given road is 10mph slower for a LCV than it is for a car. The exception to this is in towns and cities, where the 20mph and 30mph speed limits that apply to cars equally apply to vans and other commercial vehicles, such as pick-ups. At the other end of the spectrum, vans can also run up to the same speed as cars on the national motorway network, at 70mph.


The following table shows you how these limits look in comparison to the limits set for cars:  


The four speed limits in the UK for cars and vans





Built-up area


30mph (some zones 20mph)


30mph (some zones 20mph)


National limit (single-carriageways)






National limit (dual-carriageways)













*drops to 60mph if articulated or towing a trailer



What is considered to be van in regard to speed limits?

This is where things can get a little complex. The definition of a van or LCV in the eyes of road speeding laws can differ from how manufacturers describe their own vehicles, and indeed how and what you may use your vehicle for.


Car-derived vans

The first thing to note is that almost all car-derived vans (CDVs) are considered to be cars for the purpose of speed limits.


To check whether the van you use is a CDV, keep an eye out for the CDV listing on the vehicle’s V5C registration form. All vehicles that share their infrastructure with a passenger model but are redesigned internally for cargo rather than passengers and have a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of less than two tonnes should fall within this classification.


Some larger van models can full under the CDV listing, so it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the V5C of any commercial vehicle you may use before getting behind the wheel.


Dual-purpose vans

Another area of exemption is dual-purpose vans. These are vehicles such as campervans, kombi vans and double-cabs that while having the accommodating dimensions and payload of a van, also prioritise a dual purpose such as carrying passengers and offering living space.


Dual-purpose vans should have four-wheel drive or a rigid roof with at least one additional row of passenger seats behind the driver. The only rule to be aware of is that dual-purpose vans must have a GVW below 2040kg. One thing to also note is that some campervans may have been converted from vans which were not originally intended for this purpose and thus may not receive this exemption. To be sure, look for the ‘motor caravan’ description on the vehicle’s V5C registration document.


So what constitutes a van in terms of UK van speed limits?

If you drive a small, medium or large model of van and it doesn’t fall into either of the exemptions mentioned above, the vehicle should be subject to van speed limits provided it doesn’t weigh more than 3.5 tonnes. This should be the case for most LCVs whether you drive an agile Vauxhall Vivaro or a roomy Mercedes-Benz Sprinter – the same limits apply.


Pick-ups can be a tricky area. If they have rear passenger seats, they may be exempt from the more stringent van speed limits as dual-purpose vehicles. Otherwise, your best reference will be the vehicle logbook.



What are the penalties for being caught speeding in a van?

The penalties for being caught speeding a van are in fact stricter than those if you were to be caught doing so in a car. That’s because the sheer size and weight of most vans on the road mean that breaking limits in these vehicles leads to accidents that are even more dangerous and deadly. Recent changes to the highway code, particularly with the ‘hierarchy of road users’,  also highlights this safety concern.


If you are caught breaking speed limits in UK in a van, you may receive penalty points on you licence. You’re also likely to receive a fine – as much as 175% of your weekly salary or £2,500 – and the most serious cases may even result in you being disqualified from driving.



How can I ensure drivers across my business adhere to speed limits in the UK?

If you use vans for commercial purposes, it’s only natural that speeding is a concern for your business’s finances and reputation. Thankfully, there are things you can do to ensure that fleet drivers stay within the law. Options include:


  • Telematics – telematics technology, when installed in your fleet vehicles, provides a record of your drivers’ actions out on the road. Not only can this alert you to any driving offences, but its presence may deter your company’s drivers from bending the rules.
  • Driver Risk Management – this solution can be used by businesses to assess their drivers’ history, analyse their level of risk and identify any problem areas. If necessary, drivers can be provided with training and e-learning modules Northgate Safe Driver is the simple solution for fleets to ensure compliance and train drivers on the latest safe driving practice.  
  • Cruise control – many of the latest van models come with nifty auto-drive features such as cruise control. When activated, technology like this can aide the driver in maintaining a consistent speed that’s within legal limits.
  • Speed limiters – technology can be installed within commercial vehicles that assists drivers in moderating their speed There are two main types of limiters. Adjustable and intelligent. Adjustable is set by the driver and intelligent uses a camera to adjust based on road signs.



How can Northgate help?

Northgate provides fleets with solutions to meet their compliance and safety obligations – whether that’s for Northgate vehicles or other vehicles on your fleet.


Northgate Safe Driver provides all the tools you need to reduce risk to your business, from training courses to risk assessments and compliance checks. Our team can help you build a package that meets your specific needs.


Northgate Telematics can provide you with real-time knowledge of your drivers’ whereabouts and driving styles. With the optional camera add-on available with our Control+ package, video footage can be captured and alerts setup for harsh-driving events, giving you extra insights on any potential risks to your drivers and business.  


If you’re looking to grow your fleet of vehicles and acquire new vans for your business to use, Northgate Vehicle Hire is here to help. If you’re looking for van rental near me or vehicle hire near me, our flexible contracts ensure your business has the tools it needs without having to worry about being stuck with a depreciating asset you have no use for further down the line. Simply use our online vehicle finder and browse your favourite models and desired specifications today.


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