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

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. Find a truck for sale

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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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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  1. They identify a rig that is extra wide when you’re coming at them head on at night, so you can note that they may be taking extra room. C’mon Doug, it’s not that hard to figure out.

  2. come on Mr. Demuro really? , I’m a retired truck driver and those lights, even when I think about them, DO make sense, they’ve saved lives because “other” drivers are able to see them.
    Next time do research on your subject or start your column off by stating ..this is your personal opinion

  3. These lights are extremely helpful in blizzard and white out conditions. They make the trucks more visible as the orange lights cut through the snow and fog better than white lights or tail lights.

  4. If you see cab lights coming your way and let’s say you’re on a thin road and you’re in a wide truck (or hauling a wide trailer) …guess what. Cab lights may have just saved you from crashing, because one ( or both) of you made provisions to get over. Now, concerning 3/4 and 1 ton trucks that are not 80 inches wide, these marker lights are completely optional. Its good thing too, I would install them if  I am consistently hauling loads at night with a wide trailer, for example… farmers…totally a visual safety regulation. NOT to see if your rig is close to a tunnels low clearance.  A trucker knows the height of his truck. And all low clearance structures are identified with signs and such.

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