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Lighting the Way

CALGARY, Alta. - As the cost of Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting continues to decrease, more fleets and owner/operators are beginning to realize shelling out a few more bucks on lighting now can pay dividends down the road.


CALGARY, Alta. – As the cost of Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting continues to decrease, more fleets and owner/operators are beginning to realize shelling out a few more bucks on lighting now can pay dividends down the road.

There was a time when LED lights were so expensive and sought-after that some truckers were deterred from buying them due to the risk of theft. But as the cost of LED lighting plummets, operators are now realizing LED lights don’t just look good, they actually pay for themselves over time.

In other words, you don’t have to be a show’n’shiner to reap the benefits of LED lighting.

“LED lighting is more widely accepted as being not only viable, but a better option than incandescent (lighting) from a total maintenance reduction point of view, from an ease of use point of view and from a safety point of view,” says Mark Paul, marketing and brand development manager with Grote Industries (www.grote.com). “It used to take a lot of convincing (to sell LEDs) but now that the technology has improved, that price point’s been driven down and price is no longer the biggest consideration.”

Peterson Manufacturing (www.pmlights.com) is another manufacturer of LED lights. The company claims an LED has a life expectancy of 100,000 hours which is six times that of an average incandescent bulb. The lights also tend to be more durable as they resist road vibration and shock much more effectively than incandescents, the company says.

And due to the increased longevity of LED lamps, the lights can pay for themselves over time, now that the initial cost isn’t as prohibitive as it once was.

“If an analysis were to be done with the number of repair and maintenance costs associated with replacing incandescents, LED in the long run is more efficient and therefore more cost-efficient,” says Paul.

He suggests there will come a time when LEDs completely dominate the trucking industry and incandescent bulbs eventually become obsolete.

Another reason for this is the safety benefits of LED lighting. Brad Van Riper, vice-president of research and development for Truck-Lite (www.truck-lite.com) says LED lights provide better visibility in inclement weather due to their monochromatic light output.

“LEDs are a very rich red,” Van Riper points out, which makes them easier for other motorists to see, particularly in fog, rain or snow.

In addition, the instantaneous illumination provided by LEDs can provide increased stopping distances for vehicles following an LED-equipped truck and trailer.

“The bloom time of LEDs is about three milliseconds versus 200 milliseconds for incandescents,” Van Riper says. (“Bloom time” is the length of time it takes the light to reach 90 per cent of its illumination from when the light – such as a brake light – is activated.)

A couple of hundred milliseconds may not seem like a lot, but consider a study conducted by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute which backed up Van Riper’s claim. The study showed LED lamps that responded two-tenths of a second faster than incandescent lamps could provide a vehicle travelling at 65 mph with a reduced stopping distance of 16 feet. That could be the difference between getting safely stopped in the event of an emergency braking situation or plowing into the back of the vehicle in front of you.

Peterson Manufacturing also points out LED lights “consume significantly less power than incandescent lights. The amp draw of an LED can be as low as one-tenth that of an incandescent light. The lower amp draw means more power for other critical electrical needs.”

Truck-Lite’s Van Riper says an Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) is just one example of a safety system that competes with lighting for the same power.

“Studies have been done that show if you’re going to have a trailer ABS system, it’s a really good idea to have LED lights so when you do have an ABS event you have enough power to drive that ABS system,” Van Riper says.

Grote’s Paul agrees.

“With vehicles today and all the safety bells and whistles and all the functionality they have, power is a major consideration obviously, so the more we can improve the efficiency of the power draw the better off the vehicle will be,” he says.

Another safety benefit of LEDs is the fact multi-diode lights will still be visible if a couple of the bulbs burn out. This buys the driver time to get back to the shop to have the light replaced without having a completely dead light on his or her vehicle.

While the maintenance and safety benefits of LED lighting are pretty straight-forward, there may be environmental benefits as well. Because of the lower power draw of LED lights, Van Riper suggests the technology may have a role to play in the ongoing idle-reduction movement. For instance, by replacing interior lights with LEDs, less energy is consumed.

The trucking industry has pioneered the use of LED lighting, which is now becoming popular in other industries as well. Owners of everything from pimped-up Honda Civics to Harley Davidson’s are now equipping their vehicles with LED lights for aesthetic reasons, points out Paul.

It’s just another example of the trucking industry leading the way when it comes to new technology.


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