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The latest lighting advancements for last-mile delivery vehicles

David Sickels is the Senior Editor of Fleet Equipment. He has a history of working in the media, marketing and automotive industries in both print and online.

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It’s easy for fleets and, at times, even the drivers themselves to take for granted the variety and complexity of lighting necessary to deliver goods for that final mile. Interior lights, headlights, perimeter lights, taillights, brake lights – none is less important than another, and all are necessary every day for the last-mile delivery driver.

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Adequate lighting is obviously vital to the success of a fleet no matter what the application, but the dependence for last-mile delivery drivers is even greater, as they depend on both interior and exterior lighting to work quickly and avoid surprises throughout the day.

“Without adequate lighting, those working in, on and around delivery vehicles are quite literally in the dark,” says Marcus Hester, vice president of sales and marketing for Optronics International. “Fleets wouldn’t expect the folks in their back office to work in dim or lowlight conditions, so why should they expect it of their folks in the field?

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“Workers trying to swiftly perform multiple tasks in dark and low-light conditions can become disoriented, and transitioning from light to dark conditions can require time for ocular adjustment. Delivery folks rushing to meet schedules may be met with a host of otherwise unseen obstacles. Literally shedding light on the subject can make a world of difference.”

When it comes to lighting that allows the driver to see the road, sidewalk or interior of the vehicle, LED lights are all the rage in 2021. These lamps, which last longer, are more durable and shine brighter than filament-style bulbs all without producing as much heat, also generally don’t put much strain on the vehicle’s electrical system.

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“The move toward vehicle electrification is on the rise, and LED lighting lends itself perfectly to these applications,” says Paul Sniegocki, chief technology officer for Clarience Technologies. “Additionally, LED security lighting, work and auxiliary lighting, and headlamps are all improving in terms of both performance and accessibility, which is important for last-mile fleets to consider when specifying lighting options.”

In the not-so-distant past, LEDs were less commonly used in “projection applications,” such as headlights. This was partly because LED headlights run cooler, so they haven’t always been a good choice for vehicles driving in regions that experience regular snow and ice. However, recent technological advancements, like Truck-Lite’s heated headlights and taillights, help solve this problem, Sniegocki says.

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Kristen Goodson, vice president of product management for Peterson Manufacturing, says German photonics company Osram is leading an industry alliance researching smart LED headlights, known as uAFS LED headlights. The primary benefit to last-mile fleets, she says, will be automatically lighting the side of the road and sidewalks in urban, neighborhood areas, which should reduce surprises at night for delivery drivers.

“Last-mile trucks stop frequently in densely populated areas, usually in the street. People living in those areas are constantly backing out of driveways and racing off because they are late, and you want your delivery truck to be seen,” Goodson says. “In the meantime, work lights that light up the side of the vehicle when stopped make the area safer for drivers and people around the vehicle. Based on discussions with fleets, drivers get injured tripping on the curb or on something on the sidewalk occasionally, and side lighting would help that problem.”

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Warning lights, which are more about being seen than providing sight, are also evolving. Optronics’ Hester says recent developments have allowed the company to combine capabilities like stop, tail, turn and backup functions into one light.

One of the latest evolutions in warning lights for the commercial vehicle market comes from Grote Industries in the form of the company’s new Auxiliary Strobe & Stop Lamp. Last year the company received an FMCSA waiver which adds the new category of lamps to the commercial vehicle market, giving fleets the ability to equip their trailers and van body trucks with supplemental brake warning lights for added safety from rear-end collisions. The brake-activated lamp flashes amber five times in four seconds followed by a solid-red burn.

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“Final-mile deliveries often occur in high-traffic areas or low-light conditions, making them more susceptible to automobile accidents, almost a quarter of which involve rear-end collisions,” says John Grote, global vice president of sales and marketing for Grote Industries. “Thanks to the attention-getting capability of Grote’s Auxiliary Strobe & Stop Lamp, fleets using this type of warning light have experienced reductions in rear-end collisions of more than 33%.”

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