Backup and Docking Lights

Backup LightsAs is often the case, today's article comes from what I see around me as I drive. I was passed by a cube van with one white floodlight on the right rear illuminated. The driver of a truck tractor with no trailer pulled in front of him using the right lane and flashed his backup and docking lamps a few times. The offending driver didn't get the hint and his backup floodlight remained on, but both vehicles and their drivers were in the wrong.

For those of us who are not driving trucks or truck tractors, we are allowed two white lights designated as type SAE R or E Code AR that may only light when our vehicle is in reverse gear. Of course, these lights are already built into our rear light assemblies by the manufacturer. If you wish to use a different lamp assembly, they must conform and the OEM lights would have to be disabled.

Trucks and truck tractors are allowed to have one or two docking lamps in addition to the two backup lamps. There is no mention of lamp standards, colours or mounting in the rule books except that they may only operate if the vehicle is in neutral or reverse gear and that they must be directed so that the high intensity portion of the beam will not strike the eye of another driver.

Neither one of these drivers should have been able to illuminate any of these lamps while they were traveling in a forward direction on the highway. I'm also curious about how they managed to pass inspection at a designated inspection facility in this condition.

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Back up lamps

I am a 12yr professional driver and owner operator. I'm not going to quote law to you but those higher "cargo lamps" work on an individual switch. The driver may not be "allowed" to have them on while driving but as you saw that doesn't prevent it. There are, by the tail lights usually 1 or 2 backup lamps that work in reverse gear only. Those are back up lamps.

True Enough...

...but the switch should not be able to activate the docking lights when the vehicle is in forward motion.

I personally have had many

I personally have had many occasions in the dark where I need to see my trailer and or my load behind me. For instance, I drive a flatbed trailer. I may have to get out in the dark and check my load or tighten straps. Those lights have to be on a separate switch for that purpose as well as backing up. Although the flashing of the lights maybe technically illegal, it is used as part of nonverbal communication between vehicles.
Instead of worrying about the occasional truck you see flashing their cargo lights, wouldn't the time and energy be better served in enforcing turn signal use on the 75% of vehicles on the road but don't use them?

Shedding Some Light on Your Comment

Another way of looking at what you just said is "Yes, I'm doing something wrong, but I have a justification for doing it. Why don't you deal with what I consider to be a bigger problem?"

The condition that you describe is a stationary one, which is covered by being in neutral.

Submitted by E-mail

 I dont think this is illegal or against CVSE or CVI inspections otherwise they would have cracked down on this a while ago. 

Reasons for being able to turn on these lights while going forwards are numerous. In the yard around tight spaces at night I need these on while going forward to be able to tell where the ass end of the trailer is so I dont clip anything. I also flat deck so when im on the highway driving down the road and there's no one behind me ill flick the lights on and check to make sure the straps and tarps aren't flying around.... aside from stopping and checking the load every three hours of course. If it was law not to be able to turn them on in forward motion im sure CVSE would have done something about it by now.  Common sense tells you not to turn them on the highway when there's people behind you.

Off Highway

In the yard it doesn't matter what you do with lights. On the highway it's a different matter all together and just because CVSE doesn't bother to check doesn't grant you permission to disregard the law.

Submitted by E-mail

Hi, I just read your article about semi trucks not being able to turn on their back up/dock lights when moving forward.  There were a couple of things that stood out to me.

1) you wonder how the truck passes an inspection.  In every level 1 inspection I have received at a scale house, not once has the inside of the cab been inspected to make sure that all my gauges/warning lights work, including the low air warning system (this is an automatic out of service if the low air warning doesn't work). I have also never back up lights checked to see if they work or when they work.
2) I drove a 2012 and a 2013 freightliner cascadia and from the factory I was able to turn on the back up lights and docking lights while driving down the highway.

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