Maintenance bay: The view ahead

MANAGER: Art Vallely

TITLE: Executive vice president-operations

FLEET: Penske Truck Leasing, Reading, PA

OPERATION: Truck leasing firm with a fleet of over 215,000 medium- and heavy-duty vehicles

Problem: When you manage a fleet of nearly a quarter of a million vehicles, the cost of every single part gets exponentially magnified, especially when it comes to maintaining those components.

Take headlights, for example. The halogen bulbs powering about 95% of the headlamps on commercial trucks nowadays last a long time, typically 1,200 hours for the low beams and 320 hours for the high beams. Then again, commercial vehicles work a lot of long hours these days, so headlight bulbs are items that will need replacing during the first ownership period.

Don’t forget, too, the impact of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, which will ding a truck and its driver 18 points for a burned-out headlamp—a higher penalty than if a vehicle’s brakes are out of adjustment (12 points).

So, when it comes to headlamp maintenance, the stakes certainly aren’t small—in terms of both dollars and regulatory penalties.

And for Penske Truck Leasing (PTL), with its large fleet, these concerns rang true. The question was how to take care of them.

Solution: Penske Truck Leasing started looking at replacing the traditional halogen bulb headlights on its trucks with light emitting diode (LED) headlamps developed by Truck-Lite. “We’ve field-tested these new lights [and] they provide greater nighttime visibility compared with traditional headlights, enhancing safety for commercial truck drivers operating our equipment,” explains Art Vallely, PTL’s executive vice president-operations. “The high durability of these lights also provide a significant cost savings from a maintenance standpoint.”

Brad Van Riper, senior vice president-chief technology officer for Truck-Lite, notes that LEDs offer an average lifespan of about 20,000 hours and, more importantly, suffer from less “lumen depreciation” over that time period. Typically, he explained, halogen bulb light output usually declines about 25% over its lifespan, compared to 5% for an LED.

Truck-Lite also developed the Diamond Shell 2.0, a new chemical coating for the outer shell of its LED headlamps, to better resist abrasions from road debris as well as chemical degradation from exposure to deicing chemicals and cleaning solutions found in truck washes.

Van Riper notes that Truck-Lite initially developed its new LED headlamps for military use, thus boosting the focus on durability, visibility, safety and low lifecycle cost. “The military uses a metric called readiness level when gauging the capability of its equipment, especially trucks and Humvees,” Van Riper says. “We found that LED headlamps serviced in the Iraqi and Afghan theater of operations since 2007 helped boost vehicle readiness for the military.”

Another benefit is the low amperage draw by LEDs on a vehicle’s electrical system, along with the ability to maintain maximum light output despite variances in voltage from the truck’s electrical system. It’s those kinds of improvements PTL hopes to see as it begins retrofitting 5,000 of its 2012 and 2013 Class 8 tractors currently serving in its commercial truck rental fleet with LED headlights. Vallely says that this retrofitting will take place over the next 12 months.

Penske plans to make LED headlights part of its core standard specifications for all the tractors in its commercial truck rental fleet going forward.

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