Selecting the right quality of lighting is vital for various on- and off-highway applications. It is particularly so for those working in dangerous roadside or off-road conditions – such as field mechanics, rescue workers, telecom linemen, farmers, landscapers, plumbers, electricians, and other contractors. It can can be the difference between life and death.
In these cases, safety is determined not just by using bright lights on the vehicle, but by producing optimal light quality to fully illuminate the environment and attract the attention of those nearby. Of course, it is crucial for hazard/strobe lights to warn nearby drivers of danger to prevent them from driving into the workspace.
Proper lighting is also required to effectively light up the ground and surroundings, so the vehicle can operate safely in any working conditions.
It is critically important to get the attention of nearby drivers to protect any in-service field workers that could be in harm’s way.
SAE Class 2 warning lights are typically used for utility vehicles that work along roadsides, while Class 1 warning lights (with four times the intensity of Class 2 lights) are used for emergency vehicles like fire, police, and ambulance. A variety of colors are also used, such as red for emergency vehicles and amber for vehicles that obstruct or impede traffic.
“To alert other drivers, when service vehicles may unexpectedly stop, turn, or move out of regular traffic flow, it is easy to incorporate strobe lights in hideaway areas such as in headlamp, tail, turn, or back up lamps that do not require additional mounting. Beacons or bar strobes can also be added. There are many options,” says Kevin Cornelius, Global Marketing Manager – Trailer and Body Builders at Grote Industries.
It is crucial for vehicles driving or backing up over uncertain terrain at night – sometimes in complete blackness –to have good ground lighting. This ensures the vehicle does not end up in a ditch, hole, or other hazard.
While some manufacturers still use incandescent or halogen lights for ground lighting, these tend to fail prematurely due to short bulb life and high heat, which can put in-service/field workers at risk.
Instead, Cornelius recommends the use of advanced LED lights, which can last up to 10 times longer than incandescent or halogen bulbs, with much lower power consumption.
Just as important, such LEDs can provide significantly better light quality, which equates to better visibility and safety in dark environments, where there may be no other nearby light source
“Unlike traditional bulbs, the best LED lights today also can provide an even, high-quality white light color that is easier on the eyes and provides a contrast similar to natural sunlight for better visibility,” says Cornelius.
All ground lights should also be mounted below the vehicle shining downward, typically at a – 40 degree inclination, so the actual light source is not visible to the vehicle driver or others on the scene. “You don’t want to directly view the light source providing the ground lighting, or it can dilate your pupils, so your eyes are no longer adjusted for nighttime viewing,” explains Cornelius.
Scene lighting is used when high-powered, long-range illumination is required from a service vehicle, and usually takes the form of work lamps. Again, advanced LEDs are used when safety is paramount, and night must essentially be turned into day. This can help to eliminate work-related errors due to poor visibility.
There are different types of scene lighting available, some of which are better suited for specific tasks.
“When work area lights are used on the rear of the vehicle, flood or wide flood LED lights cover the broadest area,” says Cornelius. “To light up an area at a distance, we recommend trapezoid or combination light patterns. For long distance viewing, a spot light or pencil beam type pattern is usually the best choice.”
In terms of light quality, LEDs are far superior to halogens. 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.
LEDs also help workers see more at the edge of the scene, where traditional lamps tend to fade out. This improves safety and reduces eyestrain since it helps the worker more quickly and easily spot potential dangers and other important details. For the same reason, it also can increase worker productivity, particularly when the task lasts for many hours.
Typically, surface lighting is called for when safe footing up steps or quick access to tools and equipment in compartments or truck beds is required.
While this can be accomplished by mounting LED lamps on the side of steps, or at the ends of compartments, an increasingly popular alternative is to install LED light strips wherever needed. Advances in thin-film LED technology not only produce brighter illumination, but do so using paper-thin, ultra-light strips that can be easily installed into the existing lighting power system.
The most rugged are resistant to damage from impacts, waterproof, and able to withstand pressure washing with hot water. They are also resistant to the most common chemicals associated with vehicles in the event of exposure or spills, including motor oil, diesel fuel, battery acid, gasoline, and brake fluid. Installation usually involves just peeling off doubled-sided tape and pressing the LED strips into place.
When making lighting choices for vehicles, working with an expert can help to optimize options for safety and productivity. The end result often reduces worker fatigue, stress, and error, while dramatically reducing maintenance, repair and replacement.
This article was contributed by Grote Industries, and written by Del Williams, a technical writer, on behalf of Grote.