UK speed limits go metric on 1 January

UKMA issued the following news release at 18:05 on 28 December:

news release … newsrelease … news release … news release … news release …

For immediate release

UK speed limits go metric on 1 January

LONDON, 28 December 2007,

From 2008, the practical speed limits for goods vehicles and buses on UK motorways will become 90 km/h and 100 km/h respectively. This equates to approximately 56 mph and 62 mph. This is because of new speed limiter regulations which commence in January.

From 1 January 2008, all goods vehicles and buses, registered since 2005, and many older vehicles, will be required to be fitted with speed limiters, in addition to those that have been required to do so for some years, such as goods vehicles that travel internationally.

This means that the official motorway speed limits of 60 mph and 70 mph for these vehicles, as shown in the Highway Code, will effectively be superseded; though some older goods vehicles will remain unaffected by the change. According to a leaflet issued by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA)

“It is likely, once all the changes to vehicles requiring road speed limiters have taken place (after 1 January 2008), the national motorway speed limit for goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes and buses will be lowered.

Restricting all vehicles in these classes to the same speed limit will reduce any competitive advantage of older vehicles (which are not required to have speed limiters).”

Although many foreign goods vehicles display a plate on the rear of the vehicle giving their speed limit in kilometres per hour, these plates will be optional for UK vehicles. VOSA recommends that where they are used they should be in miles per hour, thus conflicting with foreign vehicles.

Robin Paice, Chairman of the UK Metric Association, which campaigns for a complete changeover to the metric system, said:

“This muddle demonstrates yet again that the insistence of the Department for Transport (DfT) on clinging to out-dated imperial units for road signs and speed limits is becoming increasingly untenable in today’s modern world.”


The UK is one of only two major countries that have yet to make the switchover to metric units for road signs (the other being the USA). The Republic of Ireland was the most recent country to do so in 2005. The DfT is resisting the change, citing incredibly high cost estimates, even though Ireland has shown that the change can be made economically.

For further information on why switching to metric road signs and speed limits is in the UK’s best interest, read UKMA’s publication
“Metric Signs Ahead”, Paice, ISBN : 978-0-9552351-0-8.


Notes for editors:

(a) The UK Metric Association (UKMA) is an independent, non-party political, single issue organisation which advocates the full adoption of the international metric system (“Systeme International” – SI) for all official, trade, legal, contractual and other purposes in the United Kingdom as soon as practicable. UKMA is financed entirely by membership subscriptions and personal donations.

(b) Further extensive background information can be found generally on UKMA’s website at

(c) A free downloadable electronic version of “Metric signs ahead” is available to bona fide journalists. Contact

(d) The Chairman of UKMA is available for interviews in Portsmouth or by telephone.

(e) Please note that the correct symbol for “kilometres per hour” is “km/h” (as on vehicle instrument panels) – not the little understood “kph”.

Author: UK Metric Association

Campaigning for a single, rational system of measurement

8 thoughts on “UK speed limits go metric on 1 January”

  1. I seem to recall a joke speaking of the UK switching to driving on the other side of the road, suggesting that we did so in stages with certain vehicle types switching over on different days.

    They say that truth is stranger than fiction… and it really is a joke that some vehicles have effectively switched to metric speed limits when others still use imperial.

    As for the VOSA recommendation that the speed limit sticker on British vehicles be in mph is ludicrous, confusing and potentially dangerous given that the vast majority of vehicles on British roads already display this information in km/h. We will find, however, that much like the issue of height and width limit signs it will be the foreign driver who will be blamed for incidents rather than the mad insistence on using measures on our signs that even many of our own drivers don’t really understand!


  2. The formal legislation is “The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use)(Amendment) (No 2) Regulation 2004 and can be found at

    On of the bits of tidying up in this piece of legislation is to replace the text “56 mph” in an earlier piece of legislation with the text “90 km/h”. All speeds in the 2004 legislation are given in km/h.


  3. I notice that the publication date of the VOSA leaflet appears to be mid-2004.

    Is there any way for UKMA to find out if the “likely” change to speed limits for the specified goods vehicles and buses mentioned in the pamphlet will still take place and how it will be implemented (including the specific speed limits to be posted since the maximums for the limiters are rational metric speed limits but the equivalent Imperial values are not).

    I’m particularly interested in how the signage will be changed (if that happens). It could provide a clue as to how DfT should (or perhaps should not!) implement a plan for converting road signs to metric in anticipation of an M-Day for UK road signs.


  4. I saw my first truck this morning with the sticker “62 mph” on the back. So a circle with a number in it on the rear of a truck no longer means speed limit in km/h. You now need to get close enough to see the units underneath. Let us hope that when these trucks start hitting the European mainland, other countries start complaining about the UK’s cavalier attitude to units of measure, and push for some kind of sanity. (Better still, let us hope that the UK government soon sees fit to bring our roads out of the 18th century.)


  5. British Gas have been putting similar stickers on their vans for some time – I have a photo of one parked outside my house last March, inside the red circle it reads “LIMITED TO 70 MPH” although from a distance you would only see the “70”. These vans would be unlikely to leave the UK though.


  6. Surely, speed limits should be quoted in the base unit for velocity, i. e. metres per second. How does a person at the side of the road judge a speed of, say, 90 km/h or even 56 mph?


  7. LOL we still use MILES, drive mph, and love it! I’m typing in 2015 and your Napoleonic cause didn’t gain an INCH.

    Rule Britannia

    (Editor. Daniel, note that in 1812 Napoleon ended the use of the metric system for everyday uses in France. It was not restored to its position as the country’s primary measurement system until 1840, twenty years after his death.)


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