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Keeping the lights on through proper maintenance

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Keeping the lights on through proper maintenance

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Jason Morgan is the editor of Fleet Equipment. He has more than 14 years of B2B journalism experience covering the likes of trucking and construction equipment, real estate, movies and craft beer industries.

Rolling down the road, truck and trailer lighting serves as a beacon of safety, lighting the way and providing tractor and load visibility to other road warriors, commercial and passenger alike. Today’s lighting solutions shine brighter and longer than ever. The incandescent lighting systems of yesteryear have given way to light emitting diode (LED) products that tout improved efficiency, reliable durability and the ability to protect your fleet from CSA violations, provided that your systems are properly spec’d.

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LED is not new technology. These lights have been around since they were first introduced in the late 1980s. While more expensive than incandescent products, LEDs still had a reputation for efficiency and reliability—and they’ve only gotten better as the products have evolved—rightfully earning them a place as the new standard.

On new equipment, John Grote, Grote Industries vice president of sales and marketing, reports that, on the trailer side, 95% of fleets are ordering 100% LED lights. On the tractor side, that number is around 50%.

Brad Van Riper, Truck-Lite senior vice president and chief technology officer, shares its company data that suggests that for signal and marking devices, which include the clearance marker, side marker, mid-turns and rear combination on trailers and trucks—LED penetration is around 75%.

“I am not aware of any fleet that isn’t specifying LED lights on their equipment,” relays Dennis Damman, national fleet sales manager with Phillips Industries. “Of course, fleets that have equipment over 10 years old—i.e. tankers, chassis, flats, heavy haul—have a mix of LED and incandescent lights in their fleets. However, most use LEDs as their replacement choice as older incandescent lights burn out.”

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A big benefit driving LED adoption is increased B50 life that dwarfs incandescent ratings and practically guarantees that the LED will last the life of the trailer, provided the system is properly spec’d and maintained, Van Riper explains:

“An incandescent marker light, for example, is rated at 5,000 hours B50 life. To get that 5,000-hour rating, 50% of the bulbs have to pass the 5,000-hour. LEDs are rated at 100,000 hours, which is 11 years of steady burning. You could probably guess the utilization of a trailer is probably in the 40% range, so 60% of the time it’s just sitting. By now, we expect that lighting on trailers for sure should be able to be fit once and forgotten with LED.”

One of the latest LED trends, according to Damman, is to use the upper marker and clearance lights on the trailer as multifunction lights. In addition to being standard running lights, you can also use them as high brake and high turn signal. “When you see a trailer with this feature you notice it right away,” he says. “The other area of interest is fully-encased LED acrylic lights that offer a significant improvement in durability and are more impact resistant than sonic weld style lights.”

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Additionally, integrated LED lamps are becoming popular in medium-duty and vocational applications. Peterson Manufacturing, for example, recently released its LumenX S/T/T light featuring an integrated back-up lamp, dubbed the “Cyclops.” Instead of cutting an extra hole for the backup light, fleet managers can get away with just one with an integrated light, explains Tim Gilbert, corporate director of heavy-duty sales with Peterson Manufacturing.

Grote Industries’s integrated backup lamp family helps eliminate extra lights on trailers. For a vehicle that requires backup, you’d have to typically put four to six lamps on. With an integrated lamp, fleet managers can eliminate two of them.

On the front of the tractor, LED headlamps are gaining acceptance in the market. Truck-Lite has seen adoption of its LED custom headlamps by the likes of Freightliner and Navistar, and Volvo has become the latest OEM to offer the headlamps as an option. According to Van Riper, seeing is believing when it comes to LED headlamps.

“The beam pattern is something that drivers like to see. You have more reach with the beam and it is wider,” he explains. “Drivers who have done tests for their fleets are saying that they don’t want to drive behind halogen headlamps.”

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