The importance of lighting technology for both light and heavy vehicles has taken on more significance in the past few years, due to the desires of both operators and owners for products that offer enhanced safety, ease of repair, and lower cost of ownership.
One key example of this is the rapidly expanding interest in light emitting diode (LED) technology to replace traditional incandescent lamps in trailer stop/tail/turn and clearance/marker applications. Increasingly, truck and trailer OEMs and fleets are choosing LEDs to enhance the longevity of the lighting system and improve response time, resulting in improved road safety.
Helping to spearhead the adoption of this relatively new technology on heavy vehicles is Troy, Mich.-based Federal-Mogul Lighting Products. The company recently formed a strategic alliance with LED market leader Dialight Corp. to market the DiodeLite line of LED heavy-duty vehicle exterior lighting products worldwide. Dialight is a New Jersey-based operating unit of U.K.-based Roxboro Group PLC.
A key reason behind implementing LEDs as a replacement for traditional incandescent lighting is because incandescent bulbs historically have been measured as one of the highest frequency repair items on heavy-duty trucks and trailers.
In addition, LED lighting contributes significantly to safety on the road. It lets the driver in a trailing vehicle know immediately that brakes are being applied, and it conserves power for other key safety features, such as antilock braking systems (ABS), which are now government-mandated on new trailers.
From this mandate arose concerns about the electrical system's ability to maintain sufficient voltage for the ABS system to function properly when all the lights on a vehicle are functioning. This isn't an issue with LED. By retrofitting all of the stop/tail/turn and clearance/marker lights to LED lamps, the current draw will typically drop to under 3 amps, a near 85% decrease.
The LED is a small, non-incandescent, epoxy-encapsulated light source (a semiconductor) that emits light through the generation of heat. Compared to traditional incandescent lamps (which take about 1/4th of a second for the filament to heat sufficiently and emit light), LEDs illuminate almost instantaneously.
According to a recent University of Michigan transportation study, this translates to more than 25 additional feet of notification to following vehicles at highway speeds, a significant braking advantage in avoiding a rear end collision. LEDs eliminates the major failure mode of incandescent bulbs in commercial applications - filaments that break due to shock and vibration.
Federal-Mogul expects continued LED acceptance in the heavy vehicle market, with the light-duty segment to soon follow. LED lamps are currently OEM-installed or retrofitted on commercial vehicles because of the longevity, safety, maintenance and long-term cost advantages over conventional incandescent lamps. Over the next few years we expect to see additional applications in light-vehicle signal lamps.
The return-on-investment numbers are very attractive for LEDs when you calculate the annual cost of maintaining traditional incandescent lighting systems, added to the cost of vehicle downtime, as compared to the initial cost of LED lights. In many cases, the financial payback is achieved in less than a year.