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LRC News

Summer 2010

LED Beacon Lights on Maintenance Trucks Are Safe, Economical Alternatives to Traditional Rotating Beacons

Nick Skinner adjusts a LED beaconThe next time you drive past a construction zone on a highway, you may notice that more highway maintenance trucks are using light emitting diode (LED) flashing beacons instead of traditional incandescent rotating beacons. A recent study by the LRC, sponsored by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), has shown that LED beacon lights use less power without compromising safety.

Traditional incandescent beacons have relatively high wattages, which would drain the truck’s battery of power. LED beacon lights provide an energy-efficient alternative. As lead LRC researcher John Bullough commented, “With LEDs, truck engines can be turned off while the beacon lights are on, which conserves energy, decreases the amount of environmental toxins being put into the air from exhaust fumes, and saves transportation agencies money.”

The report confirms that maintenance vehicles can safely use LED beacons without affecting response times for approaching drivers. Researchers also compared the LED systems to conventional rotating beacons in terms of the distance at which observers could detect that a vehicle had moved closer to the observer. “The longer the detection distance, the more time drivers have to respond,” said Bullough. Results showed that LED beacon lights provided equivalent closure detection distances as conventional beacons, as long as the LED lights were used in pairs as the rotating beacons are currently used on NYSDOT maintenance trucks.

The report, "Evaluation of Light Emitting Diode Beacon Light Fixtures," can be found in its entirety on the NYSDOT website at: PDF

About the Lighting Research Center

The Lighting Research Center (LRC) is part of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of Troy, N.Y., and is the leading university-based research center devoted to lighting. The LRC offers the world's premier graduate education in lighting, including one- and two-year master's programs and a Ph.D. program. Since 1988 the LRC has built an international reputation as a reliable source for objective information about lighting technologies, applications, and products. The LRC also provides training programs for government agencies, utilities, contractors, lighting designers, and other lighting professionals. Visit

Contact:lrcnewsletter@rpi.eduPhotos & Graphics:Dennis Guyon
Editor:Dennis GuyonWeb Production: Christine Kingery
Contributing Writers:Christine Kingery, Mary Cimo, Dennis Guyon
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