LEDs for heavy trucks and commercial vehicles
The proportion of LED lamps used in commercial vehicles is rising and LEDs will largely replace incandescent lamps in a few years.
|LED marker lamp|
Heavy trucks and trailers provide a severe environment for lighting. Unlike lights in a typical car, the lights on a truck or trailer are often mounted on the exterior of the vehicle, so the lights and the wiring connected to them are not protected by the vehicle bodywork.
Heavy trucks can also be a high-vibration environment. One extreme example is the lights mounted on the rear of a dump truck. These lights not only undergo vibration as the truck travels on and off the road, but they also experience large shocks as loads are dropped into the truck, or as the tailgate slams closed after a load is dumped. The author was told by one dump truck driver that the bulbs in the lights on the back of his truck had to be replaced every few weeks.
In addition, heavy trucks are often on the road for many more miles and much more time than a typical passenger car. It is not uncommon for a truck to travel 100,000 miles or more in a year, and many of them leave their lights on whenever the truck is operating.
Maintenance costs also have an impact on lighting for heavy trucks. When a light bulb burns out and must be replaced, the cost to the vehicle fleet is much more than just the cost of the bulb. The truck must be taken out of service, losing money that could be made on the road, and a maintenance technician must be paid for the time and equipment needed to replace the bulb.
Advantages of LED lights
LED lights can eliminate or alleviate many of the above-mentioned problems. The extremely long life of LEDs means that stops to replace burned-out bulbs are nearly eliminated. Being solid-state devices, LEDs are insensitive to shock and vibration.
|Side turn lamp|
One vulnerable part of the lighting system is the interface between the wiring harness and the lamp. If the wiring harness does not provide a good seal to the lamp, the terminals can corrode, causing it to stop functioning long before the LEDs have reached the end of their life. A properly designed lamp and harness system, like Grote Industries’ male pin lamps and UBS harness system, can eliminate this vulnerability. A study on long-term severe environment testing has shown that such a system can last 81% longer than the typical competing systems.
Another advantage of LED lamps that is very important to the trucking industry is their low power demand. Not only do trucks require a lot of electrical power, but they also need to transport that power over long distances. Large wires are required to keep electrical power losses to a minimum, especially when two or three trailers are being pulled by a single truck. With the addition of ABS braking systems a few years ago, this power demand increased. LED lamps typically use one fifth to one tenth of the power of incandescent lamps.
The market for LED truck lighting
When Grote Industries introduced the first LED marker lamp for the trucking industry in 1990, it was difficult to convince industry professionals that LED lamps were worth the extra money they cost. As those lamps began to be installed and used, however, their greater durability and long-term cost savings became apparent.
|LED dome lamp|
Currently, the only vehicle lighting functions that cannot be provided by LEDs are the forward lighting functions such as headlamps and fog lamps. As LEDs continue to improve, even the forward lights will be replaced by LED lamps, with a few specialized lamps appearing this year, and more generally used lamps coming out by the end of the decade.
Along with the increase in the number of lamps available with LEDs there has also been an increase in the number of LED lamps purchased by the trucking industry. A large part of this sales growth has come through the intervention of large trucking fleets. Once these fleets realized how much maintenance costs could be reduced by using LED lights, they began specifying LED lights on all the trucks and trailers they ordered. Individual owner-operators also began installing LED lights because of their modern, up-scale appearance.
While the number of incandescent lamps sold still exceeds that of LED lamps, the proportion of LED lamps continues to increase. In a few years, incandescent lamps on a truck will be as uncommon as record players and typewriters.