In the past year the trucking industry has seen white LEDs really take off. Technology advances have allowed manufacturers to offer products with higher power and brightness for applications like interior truck and trailer illumination, and to make them available to fleets at more affordable prices.
Truck-Lite says the biggest area of growth in LED lighting has, in fact, been in white LEDs. “There's a lot of money going into the technology because it offers so much promise for other markets, like home and industrial lighting applications, as well as trucking,” says Brad Van Riper, vp research & development at Truck-Lite.
For one thing, LEDs are much more efficient than incandescent lamps in terms of lumens per watt, and are actually closer to fluorescent lighting in that respect. In addition, the solid-state construction makes them resistant to shock and vibration; they also produce very small amounts of heat for greater longevity.
The research money that's become available to advance white LED technology has also enabled truck lighting suppliers like Truck-Lite to reduce the number of LEDs in its red and amber lamps, lowering the cost of the finished lamp assembly yet retaining the high output and long-life benefits offered previously.
According to Tuck-Lite, because of the significant improvements in light output that has been made recently with white LEDs, they are now finding their way into more applications. This year, for example, the company introduced a new product called the LED Super Strip-Lite, which uses white LEDs evenly spaced every four inches on a fabricated aluminum channel to light the interior of trailer. The strip lights are available for mounting flat or into corners of vocational trucks or trailers.
Truck-Lite's other new interior lighting product is the Model 80. These white LED lamps are designed to be direct replacements for most popular sizes and shapes of current interior trailer lights. The company says the LED lamps provide a brighter, whiter light that allows a more realistic view of trailer contents, and they don't flicker like fluorescent lights do.
Truck-Lite says it plans to release a whole series of white LED interior lights. “A trailer fully lit with LEDs would make more power available for other devices like trailer ABS,” Van Riper explains. “LEDs require only 25% of the power of an incandescent light for the same application. Combine that 75% reduction in power consumption with the added reliability and performance factors of LEDs, and fleets have a very good product.”
According to Grote Industries, architectural lighting is what's driving white LED technology. The benefit to the transportation industry is that costs will continue to come down as the technology matures.
Grote reports that white LEDs are especially popular in the reefer market because they're more resistant to cold, working at temperatures down to -40°F, compared with -1°F for fluorescent lamps. And during the past year, their intensity and spread has improved. Drivers have better visibility during loading and unloading since the LEDs are not as directional now, meaning they can light up bigger areas in the trailer for improved safety.
Improvements to LEDs have also enabled Grote to get a lot more light out of a smaller sized lamp than it could a year ago. Mike Grote, business development manager, says, “This month we've officially launched a white LED dome lamp for truck body, trailer and sleeper cabin applications that's the same size as its predecessor, but instead of having 120 LEDs that produce 200 lumens, the replacement product has just 18 diodes and is capable of providing a light output that's four to five times brighter.”
Grote is also replacing a steel, recessed rectangular dome lamp it first introduced to the market in the '60s with an LED version it plans to unveil next month. The lamp, which is used in applications like airport shuttle vans, will be brighter than the original incandescent one yet will generate less heat because of its LED design.
Later this summer, Grote will also be introducing a first-of-its-kind combination incandescent/LED side-turn lamp. Grote explains that it's the marker lamp (minor filament) that tends to burn out more quickly, rather than the turn-signal lamp (major filament), which is only used periodically when making turns. For improved longevity, the new hybrid lamp will feature an LED marker lamp, combined with an incandescent turn-signal lamp to reduce initial installation costs. When the turn-signal lamp burns out it can be easily replaced from outside the vehicle without dismantling the lamp assembly.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CIRCLE NUMBER ON REPLY CARD:
Grote Industries 310
Peterson Manufacturing 311