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Here's Why Some Trucks Have Those Little Orange Lights on the Roof

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author photo by Doug DeMuro January 2018

Have you ever looked at a heavy-duty pickup truck and wondered why it has little orange marker lights on the roof? Well, as it turns out, there's a reason, and they're not just there for show: They're mandated by the government on vehicles that reach a certain size, and they're there to protect you. Or something.

First, a brief overview of what I'm talking about. As you can see in the images above, those little orange marker lights are mounted on the roof of larger vehicles. Look closely and you'll see them on everything from box trucks and vans to heavy-duty pickup trucks to semi-truck tractors. They're always coupled with some red lights in back, roughly the same size, with their placement depending on exactly what the vehicle is.

But here's the thing: When you think about them objectively, they make no sense. They provide virtually no illumination, they don't help drivers see, and they're mounted too high on trucks to actually do any real, productive work. And yet, they're there for a reason: The government mandates them as a safety feature. I have no real idea why.

And yet they do. If you make a vehicle that's over 80 inches wide, it starts to fall into various "commercial vehicle" categories, and one of the requirements of vehicles this size is that they have -- in the words of our government -- "three amber front and three red rear identification lamps spaced between 6 and 12 inches apart at the center of the front and rear of the vehicle, as high as practicable." This is why you see these lights on an F-150 Raptor (over 80 inches wide) and not on a regular F-150 (79.9 inches wide -- likely not a coincidence). It's also why you see the lights on heavy-duty trucks and not light-duty models.

And so that's why certain vehicles have little orange marker lights on the roof. Now, every time you'll see them, you'll know they're mandated by the government. Though if you're like me, you're probably still a little fuzzy on exactly why they're mandated. Nonetheless, they're there.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Here's Why Some Trucks Have Those Little Orange Lights on the Roof - Autotrader