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For many years the question of campervan and motorcaravan (and now van with windows) speed limits has been a widely debated and unclear topic, so with the DVLA’s definition change of motorcaravan in 2019 we thought we revisit the speed limit subject again.
After a discussion with the Dept for Transport (DfT), who oversee UK road speed limits, we hope that we can now provide greater clarity on the situation. The DfT have written to us on the subject, but stressed that where we use their text we are to state that it is not legal advice on behalf of the DfT, but is simply the DfT’s view in respect of the relevant legislation.
The DfT pointed us to the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, Schedule 6, which lists vehicle types which are restricted to speeds below the national speed limits:
Within Schedule 6, Item 1, of this legislation, it clearly states that a passenger vehicle, motorcaravan or dual-purpose vehicle not drawing a trailer being a vehicle with an unladen weight exceeding 3·05 tonnes or adapted to carry more than 8 passengers has restricted speed limits, which by default means that at less than 3.05 tonnes unladen (and also including other exceptions such as less than 12m, having no trailer etc), then the national speed limit applies.
If your campervan fulfils the above above then the crucial part comes down to the definition of a motorcaravan. The DfT’s view is that the definition is taken from The Motor Vehicles (Type Approval) (Great Britain) Regulations 1979:
Under Section 2 of this 1979 legislation, titled “Interpretation”, a motorcaravan is defined as followed;
Motorcaravan – means a motor vehicle which is constructed or adapted for the carriage of passengers and their effects and which contains, as permanently installed equipment, the facilities which are reasonably necessary for enabling the vehicle to provide mobile living accommodation for its users.
What is important to understand here is that as far as speed limits are concerned, the view of the DfT is that the above description, from the 1979 legislation, is the determining factor. However, as in many areas of legislation descriptions are not black and white and in this case it is down to an individual’s interpretation of “permanently installed equipment, the facilities which are reasonably necessary for enabling the vehicle to provide mobile living accommodation for its users”. Whether that be by yourself, by a policeman on the side of the road, or by a barrister in court!
Just to confuse, the DVLA have a different definition of a motorcaravan (the classification under Body Type section D5 on your V5C Registration Certificate) which was of course updated in 2019 to include a fixed high top roof, an awning “bar” on both sides, motorcaravan style exterior graphic etc;
However, the reason behind this definition is not to determine speed limits under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, but to allow the police to easily identify and categorise any vehicle on the road – there are numerous DVLA Body Type definitions, motorcaravan is just one of a long list. As we understand it, the DVLA explanation in regard to Body Type definitions, and in particular motorcaravans, is as follows:
The vehicle V5 must display a Body Type descriptor that most accurately reflects how a vehicle appears in traffic, as a vehicle’s Body Type is used to assist the police and other enforcement agencies with an obvious outward description of the vehicle. This policy around Body Types has been in place for many years and is strongly supported by the police as it is used by them to detect and act on crime. There has to be consistency and transparency in the allocation of Body Type descriptors and in the case of a vehicle with an elevating/pop top roof, as the roof will not be raised whilst the vehicle is in motion and/or in traffic, it cannot be considered to be a motorcaravan when selecting a Body Type.
So, in the view of the DfT, in respect of speed limits, it appears that everyone should refer to the The Motor Vehicles (Type Approval) (Great Britain) Regulations 1979 and not to the DVLA Body Type definition.
If you’re happy that your campervan fulfils the description of “permanently installed equipment, the facilities which are reasonably necessary for enabling the vehicle to provide mobile living accommodation for its users”, then the national speed limits apply.
If you’re not sure what the national speed limits are for the UK. You can find them via this link;