Semi-Truck OEMs Begin Switch to LED Headlights on New Models
Starting in 2019, LEDs to replace halogens and HIDs on most new class 7 and 8 trucks
For drivers of semi-trucks, driving at night or in bad weather is about to become significantly safer as most class 7 and 8 truck OEMs are finally making the switch to LED headlights beginning with 2019 year models.
Although most trucks come installed with halogen or high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps today, the declining cost of LEDs combined with a host of safety, maintenance, and operational benefits has pushed OEMs to make such headlights standard in upcoming models.
However, instead of relying on LED technology adapted from the private car sector – which may not always be suitable for over-the-road trucks – OEMs are partnering with lighting manufacturers that specialize in commercial truck headlight applications to optimize safety, function, and even aesthetics.
Why LED Headlamps Now
LEDs have long been used in the heavy-duty trucking aftermarket and for OEM applications such as clearance/marker lights, cab lights, stop tail turn lights, back-up lights, turn signals, auxiliary interior lighting, and even headlights. However, due primarily to a higher initial cost, OEMs have resisted making LEDs standard as headlights. Now, with the price of LEDs dropping – along with key improvements in the technology – OEMs are now ready to take the lead.
By offering LED headlights as a standard feature, commercial fleets and owner-operators no longer have to worry about aftermarket LED headlight replacement kits, which may not always meet Department of Transportation (DOT) code.
The Benefits of LED Headlights
Because the color of LEDs is closer to that of daylight than the yellowish hue of halogens, it appears brighter and can illuminate details of objects in the distance better. They also help a driver see more at the edge of the road, where traditional lamps tend to fade out even on high beam.
This improves safety and reduces eyestrain since it helps the driver more quickly and easily spot vehicles, pedestrians, signage, road conditions, and wildlife to prevent potential collisions and driving errors.
Since LED headlights can last 30,000 hours, about ten years of service for a commercial over-the-road truck, they can also dramatically reduce the risk and cost of unscheduled downtime to service failed headlights, as well as cut down on the number of fines and points against the driver and the fleet’s CSA scores if cited by law enforcement.
Although LED replacement kits have been available, some may not be DOT approved. Replacement bulb kits designed to convert halogen lamps to LED must be marked with the DOT symbol. However, some of the kits do not meet the standards for beam pattern, when placed in a reflector designed for a halogen bulb.
Why Heavy Truck Specific LED Headlamps
Because typical cars and over-the-road heavy duty trucks are so different in size, shape, configuration and use, LED headlamps need to be specifically designed for class 7 and 8 trucks, and not come from headlamp manufacturers trying to adapt a passenger car design to satisfy truck requirements.
“Long haul trucks on the road may need an LED reflector pattern that reflects light farther out to allow adequate reaction time and braking distance while traveling at higher speed,” says Jessil Joseph, of Grote Industries, a manufacturer and supplier of LED lights and lighting products for heavy duty trucks. “Short haul trucks, which travel more in urban areas, usually need a wider beam pattern that can better detect traffic, cyclists, and pedestrians which may unexpectedly cross in front of the truck.”
In this regard, OEMs can benefit from partnering with LED light manufacturers that can customize to the specific needs of the commercial trucking industry.
For example, Grote is currently working with leading OEMs to customize headlight beam pattern and performance characteristics.
Besides allowing a longer distance or wider beam, the company can also match the high beam and the low beam to prevent overlap or a “dead” area. This can enhance nighttime and bad weather visibility while reducing driver fatigue.
Using a combination of reflectors with the LED source, Grote is also achieving energy performance efficiencies of up to 70% compared to a typical 40% industry standard. As such, more efficiency translates into less heat, a smaller lamp profile, and a more aesthetic, streamlined design.
“More heavy duty truck OEMs are also looking for custom headlamps to differentiate their brands, as well as satisfy the requests of fleet managers and owner-operators who want a distinctive look,” says Joseph.
Whether a driver, fleet manager or an owner-operator seeking to improve safety, operational costs or aesthetics, heavy duty truck OEMs will have them covered when they begin to roll out new models with the latest LED headlights customized to their unique requirements.