Improving the Safety and Efficiency of Nighttime Operations

A towman’s job is difficult and dangerous.  The calls increase when conditions are the worst – torrential rains, ice, snow, and darkness make a tough job even tougher.  You know every job should be approached with a plan of action; one that is methodical and logical with safety in the forefront of your mind.  A great plan is essential, but a great plan is not enough. You need the right tools to maximize your safety and efficiency, especially at night.

This article will review the lighting tools and technology available today that will significantly improve your safety, and some can even improve the bottom-line of your business.

Long gone are the days of halogen lights where you could fry an egg on the light housing and a generator was needed to power them.  Most of today’s lights are LED which consume 90% less power and generate much less heat while providing brilliant illumination at an affordable price.  No need to pack a generator, these lights can be powered directly from your vehicle.

Do keep in mind the age-old adage, “you get what you pay for” which absolutely applies to LED lights. LED lights with heat management circuitry will provide a constant level of light output throughout the job and will last much longer than cheap LED lights.  LED lights can be found on truck-mounted light towers that are powered by the alternator.

What benefits do truck mounted light towers provide?

A telescoping light tower such as Will-Burt’s Night Scan HDT provides light from up to 15 feet above your truck which enables the light to spread across a wide area to illuminate more of the scene – as much as an entire football field!  This height also allows oncoming traffic to see you long before they arrive on the scene.  The powerful light also will not blind the crew because it comes from above, like sunlight.  Lastly, the height provides the ability to direct the light into a ditch or ravine.

The lights on top of the tower are remotely controlled to direct the light nearly anywhere, regardless of the position of the truck.  Some towers like the Night Scan Powerlite HDT with two banks of lights, enables you to direct the light banks in two different directions which gives you 360° of light coverage. Optional cameras can be added to a light tower which allows the action to be viewed locally, remotely, or recorded.

Lastly, several tow companies charge customers for the deployment of a light tower, sometimes up to $250 / hour.  We have been told that companies have been able to pay for a heavy wrecker just from the money they make on the light tower!

A truck-mounted light tower is not the only way to get light above the scene.  You can use the height of your vehicle and mount a remote-controlled light positioner such as the Night Scan Spot on the roof, headache rack, or boom.  This is a lower cost option to enjoy the benefits of overhead light, but you will not be able to achieve the same lumen output as a light tower.  

Another option with height is the Night Scan Pump-Up light tower.  This product is flexible enough to be used by any size tow company.  A small pneumatic mast that is elevated with an onboard hand pump has 40,000 lumens of light on top and has the flexibility to be mounted in a 2” hitch receiver, tripod or drive-on stand.  In fact, this tower is so versatile, you can leave the tripod attached to the mast permanently and still put it in the hitch mount or drive-on stand.  Because the lights are powered by 12-volt DC current, you can power the Night Scan Pump-Up light tower from your truck.  This easy-to-use light tower can be elevated in less than 60 seconds.

An autonomous flight, tethered drone with LED lights and camera is the ultimate in leading edge technology for illuminating and monitoring the scene.  Will-Burt’s Mobile Sentry tethered aerial system is portable, allowing it to be placed nearly anywhere.  It is simple to operate, set the height and it will automatically launch and hold its position.  Need to redirect the light?  The tethered drone can be guided by the wireless controller to the desired location.  A standard height of 150’ will give you a bird’s eye view that you can monitor from your wireless controller or remote location.

A little closer to the ground, there are a variety of lights that can improve safety.  Truck-mounted LED scene lights are more popular than ever.  They are flexible enough to be mounted about anywhere and if you buy a quality light, they can last the life of your vehicle.  Make sure to mount them strategically around the vehicle so you can light the scene from any angle.  More flexibility can be achieved by adding a push-up pole on each side of the vehicle or even every corner.  A push-up pole can add up to 60” of height and 20,000 lumens of light each and can be manually turned and tilted to optimally illuminate the scene.  This is a very affordable method to get light on the scene.

Portable lighting that is not attached to the vehicle provides additional flexibility.  Cost-savings can be realized by sharing this lighting across your fleet.  Technology has had a positive impact in this lighting category as well.

LED technology is now available for the “balloon lights” that have seemingly been around forever.  The Night Scan Air is available with up to 110,000 lumens on a 10 ft. tripod.  This balloon light projects usable light evenly in a 45,000 sq. ft. circle.

If you need the ultimate in portability, look for LED lighting that is powered by long-lasting and lightweight lithium-ion batteries.  Rugged handheld flashlights that convert into stand-alone tripod lights with 16,000 lumens are versatile enough to find a place within any towing company.  Another option is a ruggedized, wheeled case that contains not only the batteries but extendable poles and two 20,000 lumen LED lights – the power of a light tower on the go!

The safety of you and your crew is not the place to cut corners.  Invest in quality lighting products and you could see a reduction in accidents and an increase in efficiency.