Why do lighting violations continue to be so prevalent?

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Today’s lighting systems have never been better, and the tools available to fleets and drivers to ensure they are functioning properly have never been so advanced. There are telematics platforms that notify a driver and / or fleet manager in real time when a light goes out. There are pre-trip inspection assistants available from truck manufacturers that will cycle through the lights to simplify the inspection process.

And the lights themselves are now mostly LEDs, designed to last for many years. Heck, even those pesky raised clearance lights on straight trucks and trailers that are so susceptible to damage from tree limbs now have a slimmer profile with more damage resistant lenses. So why does lighting continue to be the leading cause of roadside offenses?

Kerri Wirachowsky, Director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) Road Inspection Program explains it in five words: “Drivers don’t make the right pre-trips. “

But unlike other components like brakes and tires, which wear out over time and typically provide early warning of a failure, lights can fail at any time. Even after a pre-departure inspection en route to delivery. And the way the lights expire also varies by make and model. Some LEDs, for example, will fail one diode at a time, while others will lose clusters and some will go out completely without warning.

When individual diodes fail, law enforcement relies on the sight test. “Until you can’t see the light at the required distance, you don’t have a violation,” Wirachowsky said of LEDs with individual diodes failing.

However, the failure of individual diodes should be recorded on the pre-trip inspection report and communicated to the workshop for repair, she added.

As for the excuse “This light was working great when I did my pre-trip,” she said that a light violation is always a light violation and an out of service truck or trailer is still out of service. service, even if it happens a few moments before a traffic stop. But enforcement agents will sometimes give the operator the benefit of the doubt and not write a citation if their story is credible.

“Often times, I didn’t quote the driver because I know a light bulb can go out at any time,” says Wirachowsky. “If that light is all I have on this truck, I might not quote the driver, but I will turn him off anyway.”

A persistent problem

Lighting has been the leading cause of roadside violations for as long as publicly searchable FMCSA inspection data goes. Specifically, “Lamp required unusable (offense code 393.9)” was the main culprit, consistently accounting for over 12% of the total number of roadside offenses, more than double the percentage of the following offense. the most frequent. And in the annual CVSA Operation Roadcheck inspection blitz, lighting accounted for 13.5% and 15% of out-of-service violations (OOS), respectively, over the past two years. (Canadian fleets fared better, at 7.5% and 12.5%, respectively, but in Canada and across North America, the rate of OOS lighting violations increased this year).

Even more surprisingly, one in four trailers on the road at any given time has a lighting violation, according to Ross Froat, vice president of engineering and government affairs at Peterson Manufacturing.

“Not all LED lights are the same. There are several variables that contribute to performance.

Paul Sniegocki, Clarience Technologies

The first step that fleets can take to control their lighting violations is to specify equally large, well-designed quality lamps and wiring harnesses. Paul Sniegocki, executive vice president – engineering and chief technology officer at Clarience Technologies, the parent company of Truck-Lite and Road Ready, says not all LED lights are created equal.

“Now almost everything is LED lighting and the perception and the assumption is that LED lighting is sort of a lifelong light, because it is a solid state, there are no filaments and so on. more, “he said. “The problem is that not all LED lights are the same. There are several variables that contribute to the performance of LED lights.

Thermal management, corrosion resistance and impact resistance are a few variables that fluctuate between designs in the market. And Froat warns that the aftermarket is still full of offshore products that haven’t been designed or tested to North American standards. “Not all LED lights are the same and certain environmental conditions contribute to the failure of these lights,” Sniegocki adds.

It encourages fleets to involve their lighting supplier during the truck or trailer specification process, so that the lighting manufacturer can work with the truck or trailer manufacturer to select the best lights and configurations. harnesses for the vehicle.

“Fleets that involve us early in the process can take advantage of field and application engineering expertise. [available],” he says.

Once the best lights and wiring harnesses are selected for the application, ongoing maintenance is required. Froat believes this is overlooked by many fleets, especially when it comes to trailers.

“The FMCSA requires an annual inspection of all commercial vehicles, including trailers and forklifts,” says Froats. “It is good practice to do this more than once a year. “

A thorough shop inspection can identify potential issues before they lead to a violation of the lighting. And most light failures come from the wiring harness and connection points rather than the lamps themselves, which means it’s not as straightforward as a driver swapping a lamp at the side of the road and continuing its delivery.

“The wiring harness for a 53-foot trailer is really bulky,” Froat points out. “And they get even bigger when you think of car carriers and other types of trailer equipment that are out there.”

They are not only long, they are also exposed to quite difficult conditions.

“There has to be some recognition that some connections still need maintenance,” Sniegocki explains. “The undercarriage of a trailer or a body is one of the most difficult conditions on the road. “

Anti-icing chemicals and other materials put on the road during the winter can eat away at connectors and even rocks and dirt can damage the harness or cause shoulder straps and fasteners to fall off. Technicians working on these systems should follow proper guidelines to prevent water or contaminants from entering the harness. Inserting a probe into a wire harness creates an entry path for contaminants.

“Some of the more typical things that we don’t recommend are cutting and splicing in sealed harness systems,” says Sneigocki.

Froat encourages shop supervisors to get involved with the Technology and Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations and familiarize themselves and their technicians with the recommended practices developed there. “It’s really all about training,” he adds.

Road Ready Command Center. (Photo: Ready for the road)

Technical assistance

While the trucking industry has failed to significantly reduce lighting infractions, additional help has come in the form of connectivity. In an age where seemingly everything about the vehicle speaks to everything else in the vehicle, and in turn to the driver and fleet manager, extinction situations can be identified as they occur.

PetersonPulse handheld device
PetersonPulse puts lighting conditions in the hands of the driver. (Photo: Peterson)

Peterson has been offering its PetersonPulse telematics system since 2018.

“Smart trailer systems and smart tractor systems can alert you whenever a light isn’t working,” Froat explains. “If the light was working when it was inspected before departure and is not now, it gives you a chance to be alerted, get off the road and go to a repair shop or a place where you can repair it before you commit an offense.

Likewise, the Road Ready telematics platform offers light failure detection fleets to take action to reduce infringements. It also helps streamline the troubleshooting process by indicating where the problem exists.

“We can identify where this failure mode is in the electrical circuits, which saves a considerable amount of time for the fleet itself,” says Sniegocki.

A light mounted at the corner of a body or trailer also alerts the driver immediately when a light goes out. From there, it’s up to them to take care of the problem right away. Before ending up on the scales with Wirachowsky, insisting that “This light was working great when I did my pre-trip!”


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