LED headlamp test: Not just brighter, but wider and more natural illumination

| November 13, 2013
truck-lite
Even on low beam, the lamps can light up a distant reflective sign and still provide good peripheral illumination.

U.S. Highway 43 North out of Tuscaloosa, Ala., is a twisting, hilly bitch of a road with a sole redeeming quality: It’s almost always devoid of traffic. And like most Southern backroads, it’s also pitch black at night. In short, it’s the perfect road for a late-night run in a 2014 Freightliner Cascadia to test out Truck Lite’s new LED headlamps.

Truck Lite is owned by Penske. So it was no surprise when I requested a demo truck to evaluate these new LED headlamps that my brand-new Cascadia was painted in that familiar Penske yellow. It also was no surprise that the truck was a Freightliner: Daimler Trucks North America announced in July that Truck Lite Custom LED headlamps would be standard on all Cascadia and Cascadia Evolution models.

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Napa Valley, Calif., has become an annual locale for Freightliner to present news and updates on various industry issues. And what’s the point of holding court if you don’t let folks take your trucks out for a spin?

LED headlamps offer distinct advantages over conventional (halogen) designs, said Brad Van Riper, senior vice president and chief technical officer for Truck Lite:

ENHANCED VISIBILITY. Thanks to finely tuned light-emitting chips with enhanced blue and white colors in the light spectrum, the lamps do an excellent job of lighting up the roadway.

LONGER LIFE. Although Custom LED headlamps cost more than conventional lights, the return on investment is much greater due to longer lifespan, Van Riper notes. “We conducted extensive shock and vibration testing on this lamp design, and we have rated the lights at more than 30,000 hours of life – with no failures to vibration during those tests.”

LOW CURRENT DRAW. LEDs draw about 50 percent less energy than halogen headlights, Van Riper says. “That’s more amperage available to recharge batteries or run auxiliary systems on the vehicle.”

LONGER EFFECTIVENESS. The luminosity level of conventional headlamps fades with use, usually so slowly that drivers never notice until new lamps are installed. But LED lights remain almost as bright at the end of their service lives as they were at the beginning.

My first impression was the color of the light emitted by the LED lamps. It’s a natural white light, lacking the yellowish hues you see with conventional lamps. I was reminded of fluorescent lighting and found it easy on the eyes.

Another trait was the wide coverage area. While a lot of headlights focus narrow beams of light that reveal little peripheral detail, the Custom LED lamps give much wider illumination. For example, I could clearly see deer off to the side as opposed to seeing, at best, yellow eyes floating in the dark.

Also striking is the greater range the Custom LEDs offer on the low-beam setting. Forward visibility is so enhanced that you easily can see reflective signs up to a half a mile away.

In fact, with the visibility difference between low and high beams not that dramatic, I wondered if oncoming traffic would find my low beams too intense and flash me as a result. But during this test, only once did an oncoming car hit its high beams, leading me to conclude that the low-beam intensity is not a big problem for other motorists.

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  • Steve

    ok, so where do I get them? I’m ready to retrofit my truck to these LED’s.

  • Canada 1955

    No heat generated so they will ice up

  • Slow and steady

    DOT approved LED lights five years ago, it takes the truck industry that long to catch up, they’re always behind the curve.

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  • Ray

    You need to instruct the truck owners how to aim them! They
    are a pain in the A– when miss aligned in the rain or snow coming at you. If they are going to be sold , they need to be installed by a professional shop! The US DOT needs to seta new category on the CDL Physical for Night Blindness, If tested with your not allowed to drive from dusk until dawn, period!

  • YAJA

    NJ

  • YAJA

    GTF

  • Jon McLaughlin

    Oh, by all means we need more regulations!!!!!!

  • Rafael

    Ray is obviously an Idiot

  • Johnn

    Every Penske truck with LED headlights that has either followed or met me on a two-lane road blinds me as bad, if not worse than a regular headlight vehicle with high beams on. These LED headlights are going to cause a serious accident when operating on a narrow two-lane road in rain and roadspray at a curve, as the oncoming driver is completely blinded. Looks like an “ambulance chaser’s” dream. As another reader point out, no heat – no snow melt. If one were to take a higher intensity halogen headlight, and focus the beam the same as the LED pattern, it would be just as effective. good concept, poor execution.

  • Greg

    Pit Stop Truck Parts Proudly Presents : Freightliner Cascadia 2008-2014 LED Headlights :

    http://www.pitstoptts.com/truckparts/headlights/234-frieghtliner-cascadia-led-headlights.html