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Many pickup owners install aftermarket lighting to see their surroundings better or make their trucks more visible. In many states, flashing lights are more heavily regulated because they are used by emergency vehicles. But no country-wide law regulates flashing lights, so you’ll need to check local guidelines.

What are strobe lights used for on trucks?

A strobing or flashing light on a pickup truck is used to get the attention of nearby motorists. They might make construction vehicles easy to spot or signal to a speeding motorist that the police are pulling them over.

A convoy of pickup plow trucks using rooftop strobe lights for safety purposes while clearing the snow off a city street.
Plow trucks with rooftop lights | Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

Many pickup truck owners, and some automakers, install spotlights. These can increase the driver’s visibility while off-roading or help illuminate a work site. There may be laws around switching spotlights on while driving on a public road, but there are no laws against installing them on your truck.

Because strobe lights are often used by emergency services, many states have laws controlling who can install and use them. Because different color strobe lights are used by various emergency services, most of the laws concerning them are based on the light’s color.

Most states limit red and/or blue strobe lights to emergency services. But other colors, such as yellow, are often legal to install and even use on a private vehicle. It is important to check local regulations before modifying your own pickup truck.

A chevrolet heavy-duty plow truck parked in front of a line of tres.
2020 Chevrolet Silverado heavy-duty with marker lights | General Motors

Here’s an example: In Ohio, you can install a flashing yellow light on your pickup truck but only switch it on while parked. This helps make construction vehicles visible to nearby traffic. But it reduces the risk of anyone mistaking a truck with a flashing yellow light for an emergency services vehicle.

California has stricter laws around rooftop lights–according to Pickup Truck Talk. Whether strobing or solid, any rooftop lights are illegal in California. The only exemption would be marker lights on oversized semi-trucks. But while automakers offer rooftop amber marker lights on heavy-duty pickup trucks in other states, they cannot sell this option in California.

Are there hideaway strobe lights for trucks?

Every year, LED lights get brighter and smaller. Many companies sell removable magnetic strobing lights you can use on emergency or civilian vehicles.

A ford F-Series pickup heavy duty plow truck clears a road and uses strobe lights to warn nearby motorists.
Ford F-Series plow truck | Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

Removable strobing lights are an excellent option for private vehicles for several reasons. No state regulates the strobe lights on trucks driving on private property. For example, a security guard on a private estate could use any color flashing light they wanted.

Being able to remove a strobe light from your vehicle is also a great way to keep it from getting damaged or creating wind resistance. If you, for example, have a business plowing driveways in the winter you might want a light during the storm. But during the summertime, you could remove it and not risk damaging it.

Are you curious about what various color strobe lights mean in your state? Read our state-by-state emergency light guide. You can also see a custom strobe light setup on an F-450 truck in the video below: