LED lighting has dramatically improved night driving

Since the increasing availability of LED lighting systems hit the transport industry, we’ve seen the highways at night transformed into what some might describe as a parade of Christmas decorations, as trucks travel at 100 km/h towards their ultimate destinations.

There’s a high safety value in being seen, but there are also significant safety benefits in being able to see what lies ahead on our nighttime highways, in time to take evasive action where necessary.

As both Delivery Magazine and PowerTorque Magazine have reported recently, lamp performance and ability comes with a history that relates back to proven technology and known names in manufacturing.

The low-cost imports that are now finding their way onto the Australian market from China and other off-shore manufacturing centres are no match in quality terms when compared to the long-established leading global automotive lighting suppliers. The internal systems contained in some of these cheap Chinese imports are also in many cases inferior and could result in early failure.Driving_Lights_3

While the opportunity to light up the horizon may be a distinct advantage for an aircraft trying to land at night, most truck, ute or van requirements are for high-performance lighting systems that project a strong beam to give clear vision over the distance required for bringing the vehicle to a complete halt if necessary.

The other requirement for maximum vehicle safety does not relate to nighttime vision at all, but relates to daytime running lights.

As long-term supporters of daytime running lights (DRLs), also known as Safety Daylights, Delivery and PowerTorque have for several years now been retrofitting all our fleet vehicles with DRLs. The justification for this is based on well-established data that shows a significant reduction in accidents can result from making the vehicle stand out on the road, even in broad daylight.

Hella has released a set of ultra-slim DRLs that can be fitted to bullbars or any flat surface simply by drilling two holes for self-tapping screws or small bolts. The strip light LED assemblies fit almost flush with the surface of the vehicle bodywork and come complete with a relay for the connection to a power source. The lens is formed from Hella’s almost indestructible Grilamid compound and it transforms the front of the vehicle into something that really stands out from the crowd.

There’s a major difference in driving with headlamps on during the daylight and running with DRLs. Firstly, the DRLs are pointed at oncoming traffic, whereas dipped headlamps are pointed at the ground. Secondly, the current draw of a DRL LED is minimal, compared to that of a pair of headlamps.

When coupling up DRLs to a vehicle’s electrical system, Hella has developed a “Smart Controller” that simplifies installation by eliminating the need to connect the lamp or changeover relay to the ignition terminal. The Smart Controller connects straight to the vehicle battery terminal and uses advanced electronics to detect when the ignition has been turned on, at which point it activates the DRLs. When the headlamps are operated the Smart Controller deactivates the DRLs.

There’s a wide range of DRLs in varying sizes and formats with mounting systems that include flush, surface and compact options. As well as making your vehicle stand out from the crowd, it’s a proven benefit to reducing the accident rate.

When it comes to driving lamps, our choice for ute and truck driving, as opposed to finding a light suitable for the Le Mans 24-hour race, is to go for the Hella Luminator LED series of driving lamps. These are multivolt units that operate anywhere between 9-33 volts and use three high-powered LEDs, a triple high boost, free form (FF) reflector, hard cased polycarbonate lens, in-built LED position light, all contained within a heavy-duty, die cast aluminium housing with bracket.Driving_Lights_17

The light emission from the Luminators is quite amazing, with a clean white beam extending up to 540 metres or 1 lux ahead of the vehicle.

The standard Luminator is quite a large diameter lamp at 222 mm. For fitment where space is at a premium, or where airflow into a radiator can be obstructed, Hella has now released a compact version, which pretty much offers all the same benefits, but within a lens diameter of 181 mm.

Although the lights themselves appear to be virtually indestructible, for those travelling on dirt roads or corrugations we would advise mounting additional lamps by using Nylock nuts rather than standard nuts. In our experience, vibration occurring across a bullbar can result in additional lamps becoming loose after time, whereas a Nylock nut fixes the problem.

It was a recurring problem with vibration running through the bullbar on our Isuzu D-Max that resulted in our trying a pair of Bushranger Nighthawk LED driving lamps.

The base mounting system is claimed by Bushranger to be specifically designed to resist vibration and it does so by having the foot of the mounting bracket sitting on a rubber non-slip base. The adjustment of the beam angle is completed by unlocking two Allen key bolts on each side of the lamp housing.

Each Nighthawk lamp features 16 x 3-Watt LEDs supplied by German manufacturer Osram contained within a die-cast aluminium body that is then powder coated. It’s waterproof, and with its vibration damping system and stainless steel bracketry it’s pretty much indestructible.

The advantage of the Nighthawk is with its compact external dimensions combined with its high level of performance. This is a unit that is well acceptable for light commercial use with utes and vans, and with realistic pricing it’s certainly worth considering.

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