Light direction07 November 2011

Upcoming European regulations for lighting are forcing commercial vehicle manufacturers to look for better illumination solutions. John Challen finds out more about the latest products

To the vast majority of fleet engineers, a vehicle's exterior lights are seen as nothing more than a maintainable item. Few probably appreciate the real safety benefits that correct illumination can provide, but suppliers such as Philips Automotive are trying to change that perception. The Dutch company agrees that lighting provides an effective brand signature on the front end of trucks, but sees the real advantages in the quality of individual bulbs and the extra visibility they can provide.

Admittedly, its hands are being forced slightly in the UK, partly due to the forthcoming (1 November 2012) EU regulations regarding the mandatory fitment of daytime running lights (DRLs) to commercial vehicles. Specifically using LEDs, rather than traditional bulbs, DRL technology is already starting to emerge on trucks, which many will argue is a good thing. But for many operators, choosing the right LED lighting can be difficult.

The Philips Automotive solution is DRL 24V, being rolled out as part of the company's DayLight range. Maintaining the Philips mantra that 'light is life', safety both during the day and night is seen as of paramount importance to the company, but benefits, such as two-hour installation and the ability to fit its eight-light units on light, medium and heavy duty trucks, are also key factors. Operating between voltages of 9 and 35V, the LEDs are claimed to need no maintenance, thanks to advanced Luxeon Rebel technology, which helps provide ultra hight light density. A dimming function is also available, which is easily operated from the vehicle's cab.

Another key company in the market is Labcraft, which recently tested its new 72 LED Apollo light against a standard imported LED strip light. After three weeks of continuous operation, light output from the Apollo only dropped by 3.5% – compared with more than 75% for the imported light. This alone is reason enough to ask what type of LEDs are being used on a truck that you might be buying – and if this information is not available then maybe you need to worry that it might be an inferior quality LED, which might compromise safety and potentially add to the maintenance bill.

Beam me up
Away from DRLs, standard bulb technology and fittings and holders are also being subjected to upgrades and development. One reason is that although instances are steadily falling, headlamp beam aim is still regarded as one of the major causes of MOT failures, according to VOSA.

There are several factors behind the remaining failures, but recent tests have laid some of the blame at the door of high street brand bulbs, many of which, surprisingly, failed ECE regulations (R37) covering the filament position within the bulb, as well as bulb dimensions.

One company that does comply with the regulations is Osram, which has been working with a number of fleets that had been experiencing problems – and, in some cases, failures – with headlamp aim. Its goal was to ensure more consistency for commercial vehicle lighting. As OE-fit products, Osram's bulbs are subject to a number of extra quality requirements, such as light output control through life, high vibration resistance and low parts per million failure rates.

Vibration resistance is considered a major factor in both HGV and PSV applications, as research suggests that many bulbs do not reach their full life, since the filament fails prematurely due to vibration and mechanical shock loads. Osram's solution? Filaments in its 24V Truckstar bulb range use approximately twice the length of wire, compared to 12V equivalents. This alteration ensures that the filaments are more stable, providing improved service life, as well as the greater resistance to shock and vibration.

So what's next? There is no doubt that further developments are planned for truck, van, and bus and coach lighting – one of them being Philips' Blue Vision bulbs, which offer even better light quality, the downside being the extra cost of purchase and fitment. But fleet trials of this range have taken place with companies accustomed to working mainly in night hours, including an unnamed but well-known dairy fleet and a bread company, both of which demonstrate good lifecycle costs.

It is fair to say a bright future lies ahead...

John Challen

Related Downloads

Related Companies
Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA)
Labcraft Ltd
Osram GmbH
Philips Automotive Lighting

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