For trucking, advances in LED technology have led to steadily increasing product efficiency, longer lifetimes, higher brightness levels and decreasing costs. They have also made it possible to apply white LEDs to a wider range of applications.

Of the high-powered white LED lighting solutions, Truck-Lite's Brad Van Riper, senior vp of R&D and chief technology officer, says a lot of money is going into LED technical development, and “the benefits to the transportation market are better quality and performance of white LEDs. We're seeing significant improvements in lumen output from the available devices.”

In January 2007, Truck-Lite introduced a white LED work lamp (Model 81) that Van Riper says is finding its way into many truck applications. The Model 81 lamp is designed to work in a 12V environment but will function at full brightness from 8.5V to 16V, drawing just 1.2 amps versus a comparable incandescent at 2.93 amp draw.

“Another recent improvement was made to our Model 80 white LED interior lamp that's used inside refrigerated trailers,” Van Riper reports. The next-generation Super 80 model, he notes, consumes just one-third the current draw of its predecessor and provides more light output at a lower cost.

“For fleets that have quoted LED products in the past and found them to be a little on the expensive side,” says Van Riper, “we would urge them to take a new look. LEDs really offer a lot of safety and reliability benefits, and they are getting closer in price to incandescent lighting solutions every day.”

Grote Industries' vp-sales and marketing, Dominic Grote, says LED performance “is becoming more prevalent in all different types of applications now with the technology available to make them brighter.” In October 2007, Grote launched a new high-output white LED work light for the heavy-duty on/off highway marketplace.

The Trilliant LED WhiteLight, notes Grote, has a lower amp draw and is brighter than either high-intensity discharge lighting or halogen lights. The Trilliant work lamp provides bright LED WhiteLight for more than 35,000 hours of operation compared to 2,000 hours for HIDs and 500 for halogens, Grote reports.

Ergonomic lighting is another new frontier for Grote Industries. Fleets can expect to see warmer white LED lights using advanced optics and spectral technology to deliver bright, but not harsh, illumination, such as for trailer interiors. “We've also developed innovative LED WhiteLight colors … that are not only warm, but bright,” Grote points out.

Also on the horizon is LED forward lighting. Grote says that like the work lamps released last year, headlamps are another application of white LEDs that have become feasible as a result of technology improvements.

Talking about how far LED technology has come over the past 20 years, Travis Hopkey, director of marketing of Phillips Industries, says that early on “it was tough to convince a fleet that LED lighting was worth the extra cost. “As technological advances drove costs down, more and more fleets adopted LED lighting,” he notes.

LEDs, he states, will continue to shape tractor-trailer lighting. The industry has already benefited from advancing technology and increased lumen output that has meant fewer LEDs are now needed to meet federal light output regulations. Fewer diodes translate into better reliability and lower cost, he reports.

One of the minor drawbacks of LEDs, Hopkey points out, is their lack of directional ability compared with fluorescent and incandescent lamps. “Because of this, considerable lens optics are needed to expand or reflect the light outward,” he says. “Newer technology is being developed now that will help overcome this hurdle and allow LEDs to be more visible within the entire output footprint. This will also cut down the number of LEDs required in a lamp to meet federal lighting regulations and will help drive costs down as well.”

During the past year, Phillips introduced several new products to the truck market, including a brighter version of the Permalite LED trailer dome lamp that provides whiter, longer-lasting light and less than 40% of the current draw of incandescent alternatives. The lamp's design makes it suitable for both refrigerated and dry van applications.

A second product, the Permalite LED high-output dome lamp, also provides 50% more light output than previous Permalite LED models, with only 14% more amp draw than the standard trailer dome lamp.