Efforts to help fleet operators better understand federal lighting requirements-including installation and troubleshooting of lighting and wiring for heavy-duty tractors, trucks and trailers-were evident this year. The National Truck Equipment Assn, (NTEA), for example, recently converted its U.S. Federal Lighting Guide Wall Chart to an online guide that users will find easy to navigate at NTEA.com. FMVSS requirements are covered for tractors, trailers and all types of vocational trucks. Any lamp or reflector on the truck or body may be selected for full details.

In addition, Truck-Lite just published a new Lighting User's Guide that covers a variety of important topics: Basics of Electricity, Why Lights Fail and How to Prevent It, Federal Regulations, and New Advancements in Lighting Technology. The manual contains 66 pages of lighting and electrical know-how compiled by industry experts.

During the summer, Grote Industries released a second volume in its Know How series of programmed instructional training guides. Volume II focuses on correct installation and troubleshooting methods. It's designed to give users a hands-on view of the basics of vehicle electrical systems, including special maintenance requirements for vehicle safety and lighting systems on medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

Grote says that as far as lighting trends go, more lights continue to be designed into LEDs through the use of complex reflector technology adapted from headlamp applications. The company introduced two new LED products this year that use complex reflector technology: an LED license lamp and a trailer side turn lamp. Grote also has developed an LED rear box lamp and a retrofit kit that enables fleets to easily convert incandescent box lamps to the new LED stop/tail/turn box light. The lamps and conversion kit are available for Jeeps, straight trucks and truck cabs.

Incandescents are not the only lamps that generate heat. According to Grote, LEDs actually give off quite a bit of heat as well, which is why lighting suppliers are spending a lot of time and money designing lamps to keep the LEDs cool and protect them from the environment. Grote notes it does this through encapsulating, or potting, which is the process of pouring plastic material over the top of a circuit board to seal out environmental elements and help pull heat away from the LED to give it its long life.

While LEDs are designed to last longer than incandescent bulbs, Grote says it's important for fleets to remember that to get the maximum life out of an LED, it needs to be connected to a durable electrical wiring harness. The manufacturer is currently doing research and severe-environment testing to help improve the interface between the harness and the light and eliminate that as a failure point.

MORE APPLICATIONS, LOWER COST

Truck-Lite says fleets continue to drive LED technology, seeking long-lasting products at affordable prices and with reduced maintenance requirements. The lighting industry's goal, the company notes, is to continue designing lighting systems that will have more applications at lower costs.

A new LED lamp released by Truck-Lite this year offers fleets a choice of strobe frequency and viewing angles. The Super 44 Strobe warning LED allows users to select between dual, quad, and alternating dual-flashing patterns by altering the way each lamp is wired. It can also be connected through double-throw switches, allowing operators to alternate between patterns.

The lamps are offered in metalized and non-metalized reflector versions. The non-metalized version offers a wider field of view; the metalized version concentrates light in a narrower, more focused pattern. Both lamps meet SAE specifications J845 and J1318 and fit standard trim and protection rings.

Truck-Lite also released the world's smallest LED clearance/side marker lamp this year. The Mini-Marker LED measures less than 3/4 inches in diameter and depth. According to the company, the compact size of the light gives trailer engineers flexibility in design of the trailer and rear door. The lamp also provides a lower amp draw. Two mounts are available: a grommet mount and a flange mount.

Peterson Manufacturing Co. also introduced a number of new products this year. A new LED multi-function light provides both strobe and rear turn functions. It has 39 brilliant, light-emitting diodes and meets SAE J318 strobing functions as well as DOT rear turn specifications. Peterson says “smart” electronics have enabled the light's turn function to override the strobe functions when the turn indicator is engaged.

The multi-function light features a triple-flash, alternating strobe pattern, low amp draw, hard-wired terminals and a 100,000-hr. life.

Also new from Peterson is an LED I.D. light bar that provides vehicle owners with an economic and convenient way to meet legal requirements for rear identification lighting. The 169-3R model has a single lens design that houses all three LED identification lights, eliminating the need for three separate plugs and mounts. It meets FMVSS108 requirements and exceeds SAE specifications.

The LED light bar also features two hard-wired terminals, as well as potted circuits, and it mounts on 8.5-in. centers.

Added to its growing line of Piranha brand LED lights, Peterson also announced an oval clearance/sidemarker light that mounts on 4-in. centers. The manufacturer says it is a perfect retrofit for Class 8 vehicles. An optional, chrome-plated bezel further enhances the new light's appeal for owner-operators that prefer a custom look.

The clearance/side marker LED has hard-wired terminals sealed in polyurethane to eliminate the need for extra plugs and to provide better protection against moisture and corrosion. It operates on 8-16 volts and is available in amber or red.

Along with its new products, Peterson also introduced a significant redesign of its 417 and 418 lamp series this year, which includes 4-in. round, stop/turn/tail LED lamps. The redesigned light incorporates several quality improvements that increase lamp performance and protect it against road and weather conditions for longer life, the company points out. These include hard-wired terminals, a linear weld for a more robust seal and a skirted weld joint that offers additional protection against moisture, salt and corrosion.

FORWARD LIGHTING

Grote notes that it is currently doing a lot more with complex reflectors, as styling has become an important trend with truck fleets. According to the company, it has the software tools that allow it to design complex reflectors in all sizes and shapes. Computer software is also enabling the company to perform simulated night drives to test out lamp brightness and beam patterns.

Going forward, Grote says it believes LEDs will become the technology of choice for headlamps and other forward lighting. Hurdles it must overcome first include cost and developing a white LED that meets SAE requirements. The company explains that since LEDs emit just a single, pure color, red and amber applications like rear lights and turn signals are fairly easily accomplished. White, on the other hand, is a combination of all colors, so this presents more of a challenge.

Lighting companies are working around the color issue by using blue lights and adding a yellow phosphorescent material over it to make white LEDs, Grote explains. The drawback is that this produces variations in color rendering of certain objects, like road signs, when the light shines on them in the dark, which can be confusing to drivers. LED manufacturers are currently working on different mixes of phosphorous to place over the blue LED dye for a more true white, and Grote says there has been progress made in this area over the last several years.

The other issue with LEDs, Grote adds, is that they still are not as bright as a halogen bulb. Here, too, LED manufacturers are making headway. Grote says LED headlamps will require using several of the new more powerful LEDs, and that requires a lot of integration of electronics to be certain heat is properly dissipated so the lamps get the long life that LEDs are noted for.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CIRCLE NUMBER ON REPLY CARD:

Grote Industries 315
www.grote.com

Peterson Manufacturing 316
www.pmlights.com

Truck-Lite 317
www.trucklite.com