Whether or not a truck buyer likes the looks of the new fewer-diode LED lamps entering the market, at least the customer now has a choice. Since the diodes in light emitting diode (LED) lamps account for 75% of their cost, the ability to purchase lights with reduced numbers of LEDs in them is a major cost-savings advantage for fleets.
Truck-Lite says that what makes it possible for LED manufacturers to offer these new products is an improvement in LED technology that has enabled the output of individual diodes to be increased, so that even with fewer numbers of them they still meet all NHTSA and SAE requirements.
Most fleets are aware of the advantages of LED lamps over incandescent lighting. The average life of an LED lamp — which is not susceptible to shock and vibration since its electronics are completely sealed — is 100,000 hours. LEDs also consume less power. The total current draw of an average trailer equipped with LEDs, for example, is 85% less than one using conventional lighting.
The major issue up until recently was simply the huge cost difference between the two. Truck-Lite notes that LED lamps first introduced to the market in the late-1980s cost over $100 versus approximately $10 for their incandescent counterparts. Today, with more fleets specifying LED-equipped vehicles and LED technology itself improving, the cost for an LED lamp has come down to somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 to $30.
Grote notes the higher output LEDs has not only enabled manufacturers to reduce the numbers of diodes used in their red and amber lights, but has also made possible white LED technology, allowing for the use of LEDs in even more applications, including backup lights and license lamps. With the recent introduction of white LED technology, Truck-Lite says a fleet can now outfit an entire vehicle with LED lamps, minus the headlights.
Last spring Grote unveiled its first white LED license lamp. Grote says solid-state LED license lamps are a particularly beneficial application of the technology; since the license lamp's position on the truck exposes it to salt, chemicals and other road debris, incandescent lights are typically the most frequently replaced lamp on a truck cab or trailer.
Taking advantage of current technology that allows for ultra-bright diodes, Peterson Mfg. has introduced two new 7-diode LED stop/turn/tail (S/T/T) lights, which are now its most economical models. The first 7-diode LED light is paired with a round lens featuring a series of concentric circles to maximize optical brilliance and clarity. The second model, the 420-3, is an oval LED S/T/T light that Peterson says meets FMVSS 108 requirements in any 360-degree position. Truck-Lite's Super 66 six-in. oval LED S/T/T lamp uses just one diode. It's the first of a series of single-diode safety lamps now in various stages of development.
Grote, Truck-Lite and Peterson have all come out with new strobing LEDs within the last year. Peterson says a key advantage of its LED strobing lights is that they require no remote power supply, compared to conventional gaseous-discharge strobing devices that require noisy remote power units and complex cabling. Grote says its new oval four-in. round LED auxiliary strobe lamps last substantially longer than strobe tubes and are less likely to break. Truck-Lite notes the versatility of its newly introduced Model 60 strobing LED lamp, which offers fleets a choice in strobe frequency and viewing angles.
Another recent addition to Peterson's line of LED lamps is the model 168 Slim-Line clearance/side marker light. The new two-diode mini LED, the company says, is less than three inches wide and is available in both amber and red versions. Truck-Lite, meanwhile, has introduced the first LED side-turn signal lamp that exceeds DOT and SAE standards for both turn signal and side marker lamps. Previously LED side turn lamps could qualify only as legal side markers, not side turn signals, under SAE J2039. Grote is due to release its first fully compliant combination LED side-turn lamp in the next few months.
Grote says the next frontier is in wiring harnesses. Before LEDs, the weakest link in a truck lighting system was the filaments found in incandescent lamps. With LEDs eliminating that failure point, fleets are starting to look at the entire system, wanting to be sure their 10-yr. lights are not being connected to an inferior harness system. Grote's research has found that the design of the interface between the light and harness is critical to the life of the system. Its Ultra Blue Seal system uses a connector that's made of a soft rubber material that flexes during vibration to reduce stress.
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Grote Industries 320
Peterson Manufacturing 321