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  LED headlights to the US military
 
Truck-Lite has never been that interested in halogen technology and they see LED systems as the way forward. In 2007 they were asked to design an solar bulb for the US Army which was field-tested on army trucks in Iraq and Afghanistan. They eventually sold 300,000 LED headlights to the US military. These days, the technology is available to anyone as seven-inch round beams and five-inch rectangular units.

But it is Truck-Lite’s application of LEDs to custom aerodynamic headlights like the Cascadia, which marks a new direction for the lighting manufacturer. According to Van Riper, LED headlights for several other truck makes and models should be available later this year.

After fumbling about on concession roads and secondary highways, Zak and I turned the Cascadia towards the industrial wilderness of Milton, Ont. Yes, lots more illumination in the dimly-lit truck yards. Then I remembered a grocery store in Brampton where I used to make night deliveries. This site featured a set of receiving docks that was separated from the nearby suburban townhouses by a wall. The area was always cluttered with debris, abandoned shopping carts and an overflow of garbage from the bulging refuse compressors. It was the loneliest feeling pounding on the steel doors at night and ringing the bell for an eternity with some kind of small creatures shuffling around my feet, anxious for the night receiver to open the door. 

Not to my surprise, the delivery docks were the same, with the same amount of refuse and cabbage leaves scattered on the ground – only now I could see better. And once again I came to realize why I don’t miss delivering to supermarket receiving docks, especially at night.

The last stop was the Husky Truck Stop off Dixie Road. There are always a number of tractors lined up in the parking lot and I was hoping to get a picture of the LED lights beside a conventional system. Nothing doing. Guys are in their bunks and sleeping. Oh, there are always a few drivers fuelling, and a couple in the coffee shop, but despite a full yard, like most truck stops on a Friday night it’s a quiet place. But I finally did sidle up beside a fuel hauler, old style halogen, and there’s no contest in terms of brightness between the two.

The remarkable thing, I suppose, is how a technology that’s so clear and precise could be so much more efficient. According to Van Riper, a rig and trailer completely outfitted in LEDs, as compared to a contemporary truck running on all incandescent lights, actually uses 33 less amps. This is significant, especially to an owner with a big bunk and lots of electrical gadgets, who might have to otherwise consider going to a bigger alternator. The power savings may result in a reduction in fuel consumption which is currently under study.

No question about the benefits and longevity of LED headlights, but the cost involved ($750)  is considerably more than halogen or HID-Xenon. But Van Riper estimates the price will come down as manufacturing and consumer demand heats up, and with Volvo and International coming online, that could happen sooner than later. Meanwhile, Truck-Lite’s offering interested Canadian fleets free one-week trials to see the difference for themselves.
 
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