German company Osram produces lights for all types of the applications from those you may find in your home to those you may find on your vehicle. Indeed, Osram bulbs and beams are the leading lights of the automotive industry in every way possible.
While sitting down with T&FME at the company’s base in Dubai’s Silicon Oasis, Anas Mosleh, sales director, Middle East and Africa region, tells the magazine that the company is learning that the biggest challenge for drivers in the city around us, isn’t seeing on the roads but being seen.
Gesturing as if he is sitting at the wheel, he begins: “All the roads in Dubai are well illuminated. I don’t even need to switch on my lights. Thanks to the government, we have very good infrastructure. Even the small roads have good lighting and illumination…”
He pauses and charmingly jokes: “You would think we couldn’t do good business here. But as a car or truck driver you need to switch on the lights not to see, but also to be seen.”
According to Mosleh, 224 people have been killed on the road in the UAE over the past 15 years. Like the authorities in the Gulf state, Mosleh and Osram believe more lives can and should be saved: “That’s an average of 14 deaths per year. Our job as a component supplier for the trucks as well as the OEMS is to decrease this rate.”
Mosleh clearly sees that lights should be regarded as important priorities for fleets to maintain as tyres and brakes.
In more ways than one, their role in protecting drivers’ lives is hiding in plain sight as fleets push themselves to the limit. While vehicle lighting rarely has the spotlight when it comes to safety, what role can the technology play to help prevents accidents on our roads? What is the optimum set up for your rig?
“We often talk about how the more the driver is able to see (and the vehicle can be seen,) the more we can decrease the chance of collisions and accident,” says Mosleh. “As a component manufacturer, we need to ensure that all the trucks produced are also equipped with the safest technologies and components, and that includes the lights. Our motto for trucks is also light is safety. Good illumination directly ahead of the vehicle is a very important factor for safety.”
According to Mosleh, the optimum distant for lights to reach ahead of the driver is 50m-70m, depending on the conditions and the truck. The faster you drive, the further ahead you need to be able to see, he explains.
“If the road is not illuminated, you need better illumination on the truck – or on the car to see more. And this light should be uniformly distributed. You need to see other vehicles in good time when you are at speed. According to the speed, you need to switch the high beam or low beam lights on or off. If there is any upcoming traffic, you need to have the proper lights selected so they can see you very well.”
Showing a series of slides that demonstrate how to have your lights set-up on your trailer (give you a clue: making your truck’s running lights look like the Burj Khalifa on New Year’s Eve is a bad idea) and which beams to select, Mosleh runs through many of Osram’s suggestions for truck lighting that fleets and drivers must be considering.
“Fleet owners should use and maintain the side and position lights. I believe that the side lights are needed on any truck or trailer by law. So we need to supply these side lights as well,” he says. “Side lights are important on a truck for safety because if you are behind a truck on a two-way street or road – and you need to overtake the truck because you are faster – you need to judge the distance while avoiding oncoming traffic that could hit you.
You may also only have a few seconds to decide when to overtake. In that situation it helps to know how long the vehicle is ahead of you. If you don’t have these side lights at night you will not be able to know.”
His next observation is an issue that will be familiar to many of us on the roads in a region where many drivers do not use their lights to warn other road users that are they are about to commit to a manoeuvre. “If you are changing direction, please use your indicators!” Mosleh stresses, suggesting like others, that this is a personal bug bear.
This winter in Dubai has once again seen some changeable weather conditions and when the dust or fog is setting in, Mosleh advises that fleets should be fitting LED lights as they are much more effective than standard halogen bulbs for indicators.
“The LED can be seen much better in difficult conditions,” he remarks. “This will be better, for sure, than the halogen indicators. New trucks also have automatic LED running lights not for illumination but so they can be seen at any time. (On older trucks) they should be turned on if the driver is going into dusty conditions so people can see him.”
He pauses to show a video taken on the long straight Sheikh Zayed Road that runs between Dubai and the UAE capital Abu Dhabi to prove his point. We watch an accident happen in real time with a vehicle (not using running lights) suddenly appearing out of the gloom and the driver unable to stop.
“That was a situation where the conditions were so bad you couldn’t even see your finger if it was ahead of you. But if it had lights you would. That’s the main key.”
As covered in the A Language of Lights article in last month’s T&FME, Mosleh is a self-confessed believer in that drivers across the globe should learn the established conventions on how lights should be used.
“For example, some people in a fog or dust situation turn on the double signal hazard lights,” he says this can have potentially tragic consequences. “The meaning of these are that you are not moving; you are in an emergency situation. If you turn these on, I cannot know your speed for certain. I don’t know where you are going!”
Talking further about the mis-use of hazard lights, we discuss the idea that people need to adhere to a tight set of rules when using their vehicle’s lights and avoid confusion.
For instance, Mosleh says that even if you are changing down your speed by using your gears you must touch your brakes, so the light tells the vehicles behind you what you are doing.
“Please. Just touch the brakes so everybody knows that you are decreasing your speed,” he reiterates.
Mosleh is on a roll now and rattles through some other signals and messages trucks may send drivers. “Many new trucks now have automatic emergency braking, if you see a flashing or rotating light at the back, then they are stopping – and so should you.”
Despite tighter controls on emissions and restrictions to inner city areas, the total truck population continues to grow. The exponential growth in the number of vehicles on the road has unfortunately not been met by parallel increases in driver standards. Mosleh himself quotes figures that suggest that one in five accidents involving trucks are caused by speeding drivers – making it the most common cause of accidents. He suggests that we clearly need better trained drivers on our roads to make them safer: “Everyone wants to make more money, but they (drivers and fleets) over-work.
Checking your lights should be as routine as making sure your tyres are not going flat.
“We advise all the drivers to check the truck daily. Just have a look around; check the brakes, check the lights, check the tyres to make sure that when you start driving, you are driving a safe truck,” he comments.
“We also advise the fleet owners to make sure all of their trucks are well maintained and have regular inspections. Have regular maintenance routines and repair work that aligns with the industry’s safety standards. Train your drivers and make sure you follow the hour of service rules.”
With our conversation drawing to a close, we discuss Osram’s dominance of a market that seems markedly less diverse than, say, the tyres sector. This is a part of the automotive industry that has traditionally been viewed as both sophisticated and niche. It is also one dominated by Osram.
The company is the undisputed number one automotive manufacturer of lights globally. In fact, one out of every two cars produced and manufactured are fitted with its products.
Chief among the Osram commercial vehicles range are its Truckstar Pro signal lamps.
Claiming they give out up to 100% more light than standard lamps, Osram says that the extremely long-life and very high vibration resistance of the 24V bulbs helps drivers to keep their eyes on the road and reduce downtime and fleet costs.
Mosleh explains emphatically that the heavy-duty nature of the lamps makes them suitable for many Middle East applications.
“We have an OE-quality bulb, but Truckstar Pro is our performance bulb. It’s our hero in the truck industry,” he enthuses. “You get more light, which – as we know – allows you to see farther and therefore react sooner and ultimately avoid a collision.”