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I live on the A2 trunk road as it goes through Greenwich. Well, not actually on it, that would hurt. But I live close enough to hear lots of traffic, and amongst the police sirens (this is south-east London, after all), the 2-stroke scooters and the bass-bins kicking out music I don’t like very much, some of the noisier vehicles are the lorries.

But it could have been worse, if it wasn’t for the work of British transport scientists, which leads me to today’s story: the Quiet Heavy Vehicle (QHV).

Quiet Heavy Vehicle, 1970s (credit: Science Museum)

The QHV was the fruit of a Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) project in the 1970s to design an articulated lorry that kept the noise down. As they said in their reports, “noise from road traffic is a serious source of nuisance … the most difficult type of vehicle to silence is the heavy articulated lorry.” The problem was that the engines had to be really powerful and needed lots of cooling, which left little room for acoustic insulation and exhaust silencing.

The result was a five-year project with lorry-makers Foden and engine-makers Rolls-Royce to design a new generation of quiet artics. It was a considerable success, reducing noise by 10 decibels and prompting further work to drive lorry noise down.

I had a great day out last week at the TRL’s headquarters near Reading. They’ve a history stretching back to 1933, and they’ve generously given the Science Museum loads of stuff over the years, including the QHV. But we’ve lots of older lorries and vans in our collections too, including this cute 1931 Foden flat-bed…

Foden F1 lorry, 1931 (credit: Science Museum / Science & Society)
Foden F1 lorry, 1931 (credit: Science Museum / Science & Society)