Whatever we choose to moan and groan about, one topic, for better or worse, that doesn’t seem to go away is the thorny subject of our warning beacons. It doesn’t need me, or a recent letter in Professional Recovery, to remind people that an amber flashing beacon is now nothing but a joke and probably sits fair and square with the hi-viz jacket.
Of course, there seems to have been many attempts to get bona fide Breakdown and Recovery vehicles on to alternating red lights when working at the scene, but at this stage without much success, even though there are a considerable number in current use and thankfully commonsense is prevailing and by and large nothing much happens.
It looks as if we are never going to get much further with alternating reds if for no other reason than politics. The Police have them, the HATOs have them, so we are never going to get them.
Perhaps there are two solutions to the problem. The first one which no-one seems to have thought about is to improve the present light bars because, to be fair, when we complain it is about the small rotators which are fitted to everything from dust carts to farm tractors, the 5-6 ft long light bar is still almost solely used by our industry and has remained almost unchanged for 30 years.
There are now some fantastic LED beacons available. Granted they are about £1200 but they do make a Recovery vehicle stand out from the dump truck. But is it not time that the lighting beam manufacturers got some more OOMPH! into these amber beacons. I would have thought it would not take too much imagination to produce something that would roast the eyeballs of anybody who chose to drive too close. In fact the whole science of LED amber lights could take a quantum leap. If only the manufacturers would do something.
I suppose one stumbling block may be that the cost of developing new units is expensive and because of the state of our Industry projected sales could be hard to measure and then if they are thinking of exporting I can’t see much of a market in places like Greece.
The issue of course is getting a Breakdown vehicle to have a strong presence and still stay within the Construction and Use Regulations. As such, we appear to be stuck with red lights to the rear, amber lights all over the place, but at the front of the vehicle, as far as static extra lights are concerned, I do believe any colour but red is permitted. So it is quite easy to make a Christmas tree at the front of the vehicle and since many of us work on single carriageway roads or finish up facing the wrong way, this can only be seen as a big safety issue.
Anyone who does not know what I mean should note the presence of some of the big artics on the motorways. They have an array of small blue, green, purple and yellow lights, probably only 2-3 watts each, and yet they can be seen from perhaps two miles away. The blue in particular is quick to get the imagination: is there an incident, is it an emergency vehicle, only to find out three or four minutes later that it is a 50ft artic.
So what we need, gentlemen, is a change of Construction and Use Regulations to allow a Breakdown vehicle, while operating at the roadside to display static blue lights front and rear, not exceeding 5 watts. Small operators working at the sharp end have always been innovative. There has never been a better time to make a statement with a few different coloured lights here and there and see what happens.
In the meantime some Operators need to believe that part of the reason we never get a better light colour is because they appear never to have had enough toys when they were kids and insist on driving around with amber beams flashing and so further reducing their impact. Some of the worst offenders for this are the AA and the RAC patrols. But then, we don’t want them to have our new vehicle lights, do we?