LED lighting is a lot less expensive today than when it was first introduced to the trucking industry almost 20 years ago. In an exceptionally tough economy, that's good news for fleets of all sizes, which can cash in on the long-term savings of LEDs from greater product longevity, reduced maintenance costs and less vehicle downtime.
Tim Gilbert, Peterson Manufacturing's director of heavy-duty fleet OEM sales, says the company has been working closely with fleets to identify the root causes of their maintenance problems with lighting. “The biggest problem appears to be high maintenance costs associated with failed incandescent lamps due to things like road vibration and corrosion. With a higher spec'd lighting and harness system, however, those types of problems can be deterred and maintenance costs reduced.”
Fortunately, Gilbert adds, the price of LED lamps has come down a lot in recent years. “As LEDs grow in popularity, volume goes up and that helps drive the cost down,” he states. For many OEMs, in fact, LED lighting is now offered as standard equipment on new trucks. “When you consider the headaches of being taken out of service during a roadside inspection because a light's out and the subsequent downtime and costs to replace a relatively inexpensive item, it doesn't make sense not to spec LEDs.”
Peterson Manufacturing manufactures both incandescent and LED lighting, as well as wiring harnesses for trailers that are designed to make the best water-tight, corrosion-free connection possible. One of the company's newer products on the market is a ¾-in. diameter, PC-rated lamp that is also nondirectional in design for easier installation, Gilbert notes. Available in both red and amber versions, the 177 Series of Piranha LED marker lamps offers a low-profile design, operating range of 8-16V, and is hardwired against corrosion and lamp failure. “We'll also be launching some new tail lights and a wiring system that will help fleets reduce maintenance costs even further.”
Truck-Lite has also introduced a number of LED products over the past year. Brad Van Riper, senior vp and chief technology officer for the lighting manufacturer, says his company has focused on expanding LED products in the OEM and aftermarket based on fleet customer demands.
“In a tough economy, the money fleets spend on lighting and safety is at a premium. Investing heavily in LED technology is part of the key to an efficient use of their maintenance dollars,” Van Riper notes. “If a fleet can stop repeat purchases of consumable lighting, like incandescents, and make a light a permanent fixture on the vehicle, then that fleet will ultimately lower its operating costs.”
LED lights are typically rated at 100,000 hours, or 11 years of steady burning, says Van Riper, noting that they eliminate the fragile filament found in incandescent lamps, which is the No. 1 reason for their failure. With LEDs, “overall lighting costs are significantly less now that the light source is no longer the weak link.”
Some recent product introductions from Truck-Lite include a solid-state amber warning light that provides greater visibility for maintenance service and utility vehicles, and the Super 44 six-diode backup lamp, which provides the same amount of light with fewer diodes to offer fleets a significant cost savings. A white LED work light that can be used for a multitude of applications where the user needs white light is also available. “There's also been a growing demand for white LED interior lighting for both trucks and trailers because power consumption is lower and reliability higher,” Van Riper reports.
In the first quarter of this year, Truck-Lite will be launching its first 12V LED headlamp designed specifically for medium and heavy trucks. It's fashioned after the company's 7-in. round, white LED headlamp that's used on thousands of military vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Travis Hopkey, Phillips Industries' marketing manager, says the durability of LED lamps is also an important factor in reducing downtime and failed inspections. “If a fleet has one incident where an incandescent lamp fails and causes them to receive a ticket, the cost difference between that lamp and an LED is just about made up,” Hopkey states.
Another benefit of LED lamps is that they typically dim out over time versus going out suddenly when a filament breaks. Safety is provided through LED tail lights' ability to light up instantly when the brake pedal is pressed, giving following drivers quicker notification of a stop. That can mean the difference between stopping safely and having a rear-end collision, Hopkey points out.
“Since an LED lamp pulls approximately one-tenth of the power of an incandescent lamp,” he adds, “more lamps can be installed on a tractor or trailer. In addition, more systems can be added to a trailer, such as trailer tracking and weigh systems, since LEDs minimize the burden these additional devices can put on the electrical system.”
Last year Phillips Industries introduced a Permalite LED high-output dome lamp that draws just 1.07 amps at 12V. It's capable of working in a wide range of temperatures from -40 to 140 deg. F, has a 175-deg. light spread, and is designed to provide consistent light output across the entire voltage range, meaning lamps at the back of the trailer are as bright as those in the front.
According to Page Large, national fleet sales manager for Grote Industries, virtually any fleet considering a conversion to longer-lasting LEDs can make the move. “For example, the new Grote Select High Value lamp — a three-diode STT available in 4-in. round or oval styles — incorporates the latest LED technology yet is very competitively priced. It looks like an incandescent when it's off, reducing the threat of theft.”
In most cases, Large reports, it makes economic sense for a fleet, at the minimum, to outfit equipment with full exterior LED lighting packages. Besides having an impact on safety and reducing downtime and maintenance costs, LEDs reduce amp draw, so fatigue to the vehicle's overall electrical/charging system is ultimately reduced.
Interior LED lighting, like Grote's new LED WhiteLight line is also cost-effective when used on equipment such as food and beverage delivery, dairy fleets and other refrigerated vehicles because of its reduced power consumption requirements and large range of temperature tolerances.
Grote has also recently introduced a surface-mount white LED dome lamp that is motion-activated. “The S100 LED WhiteLight features built-in infrared motion activation. The sensor is calibrated to recognize the heat signature unique to humans, and when it detects movement by a person within five meters, it will immediately turn on. The lamp remains on as long as movement continues,” Large explains.
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