HELLA adapts high output LEDs for road transport
Originally developed for the mining industry and since adapted for commercial vehicles and first responder 4x4s, HELLA’s RokLUME 380 N offers fleet managers a high output LED driving light that delivers increased visibility, while also helping to reduce driver fatigue.
Commercial vehicle operators in remote conditions on tireless schedules, like those common to the resource sector, often battle nocturnal conditions on unsealed roads.
Long hours spent looking through a windshield on an artificially illuminated track can be challenging, with changes in lighting conditions and visibility both being key factors in driver fatigue.
Increasing awareness around fatigue management has helped inform the development of the RokLUME 380 N, a lighting package manufactured by automotive and heavy vehicle component specialist HELLA.
Although developed for the mining industry and now the standard high beam on LED retrofit packages for mining haul trucks, the RokLUME 380 N has, since its inception in 2016, been trialled and evaluated for commercial vehicle application as universal driving lights.
According to Stefan Kisser, HELLA Australia Product Manager and Applications Engineer, the RokLUME 380 N offers both distance and width in its output, allowing drivers to see up to 50 metres ahead, illuminating potential obstacles or animals that might jump, without warning, onto the road.
“The lighting is very uniform,” he says. “We don’t have any hotspots where
the road is overlit.”
Just as shifts on mining sites can last between 12 and 14 hours, the LED system has been developed to minimise fatigue through a softer transition between well-lit areas and areas that are poorly illuminated.
Adjustments in the eye that take up to half a second between, for example, a well-lit area and a darker tunnel mean additional work for the human eye and brain as they adjust to the change in ambient light levels according to Stefan.
“The same thing happens as you exit the tunnel from the dark into bright daylight. Your eye again has to adjust to the amount of light hitting the retina, causing glare,” he says.
“If that happens repeatedly, if you’re driving at night and your lights provide a harsh contrast between well-lit and dark areas, your eye constantly has to switch and work overtime. This can cause operator fatigue. There’s no difference if you’re pulling a roadtrain in the outback or in your four-wheel drive in the bush, or if you’re operating a mining haul truck on a mine site.”
The colour temperature of 5000 kelvin of the RokLUME 380 N is slightly lower than most driving lights (6500 kelvin) in the market, according to Stefan.
Warmer globes, like those of halogens, which are rated at 3000 kelvins, have been confirmed by studies to alert the brain.
At face value, Stefan says this is a positive as it increases the speed of reaction time, but for operators working extended hours on linehaul at night, drivers need to be alert for longer.
“Very high colour temperatures can cause early operator fatigue,” he says.
“The RokLUME 380 N is a slightly lower colour temperature than is standard on many mine sites because it allows the operator to be alert for longer but it’s not as tiring, because they are not having to push the limits of their alertness.”
Trials with a fleet using commercial vehicles began for the LED system on public roads in 2017.
After eight weeks, with five different drivers operating trucks at night, the feedback was unanimously positive. At the time, HELLA only had a 24-volt version available.
They have since developed a 12-volt version applicable for the North American drivetrain specified from the mining version with the same optical system.
“The minor differences aren’t noticeable to the end-user,” says Stefan. “They are more or less the same: no change to the LEDs and optical system, only to the electronics.”
The mining pedigree of the heavy-duty bracket was carried across to HELLA’s 12V version.
It’s a 4mm stainless steel bracket which has been designed to mitigate lamp vibration on corrugated roads.
It comes with a cover lens made from impact-resistant hard-coated polycarbonate.
According to Stefan, some LED lights on the market have high mounts for the aluminium driving light and these can have an oscillating effect when they start to vibrate as the vehicle moves down the road.
“They don’t provide uniform lighting and because of this it creates more of a strobing effect,” Stefan says.
“That’s extremely tiring and exhausting. This mining specified bracket is designed for extreme vibration and shock. That was the feedback we received from the drivers of our fleet customers that used the trucks on corrugated roads. They were wowed and told us it was the first driving light in a long time that performs on poor quality roads.”
The RokLUME 380 N can reach 580 metres in stereo which is more than enough for a heavy vehicle moving upwards of 100 km/h through the dark.
The lower, warmer colour temperature, created by 12 high powered LEDs, reduces the reflection and the glare from street signs which is not as harsh as some other high-powered driving lights available in the market that often sacrifice uniformity of light for greater distance reach.
“There’s always the assumption that bigger is better – people want the strongest performing product that they can get and with driving lights it’s often assumed that the more powerful the better,” Stefan says.
“Yes, it might turn night into day, but at the same time you get more light reflected from any surface. One of the most positive things about the RokLUME 380 N is that the warmer colour temperature is not perceived as being as bright as the same amount of light coming from a cold white light. So even though our lights might be as powerful as many competitor products in the market, if the competitor product has a higher temperature, a cold light or blueish light then the human eye would perceive the light as brighter, therefore the glare coming back from road signs would be worse.”
As the RokLUME 380 N reaches the highest rating in electromagnetic compatibility it will not interfere with communication systems. Many fleets, according to Stefan, benefit from improved lighting setups with gains in safety and efficiency.