January 19, 2015 — The New York Times reports that two United States senators have expressed concern that safety tests of a potentially-defective guardrail are inadequate and should be more rigorous.
The manufacturer of the guardrails, Trinity Industries, failed to disclose a design modification back in 2005 that may have made the “shock-absorbing” guardrails more likely to lock up and impale oncoming vehicles.
Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) wrote to Gregory G. Nadeau, acting administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHA):
“We find it difficult to maintain confidence that your agency is taking proper action to ensure that the device meets the highest safety standards.”
Six tests have been completed so far. Results have not been disclosed, but the FHA said they were “unremarkable.”
However, Senators Blumenthal and Schumer said the FHA improperly allowed Trinity to test the guardrails under an older safety standard, rather than more stringent rules put into place in 2011.
The senators called for the guardrails to be tested at a variety of vehicle impact angles, warning that older standards “will ignore” a potential vulnerability at impact angles of four to six degrees.
A spokesman for Trinity said it was unfair for a guardrail designed to meet older standards be subjected to newer ones.
A number of other concerns have been raised about the tests:
- They are being conducted by a former business partner of Trinity Industries, Southwest Research Institute, who had a royalty agreement until 2007.
- Media and state highway officials have been banned from photographing, videotaping, or measuring the guardrails being used in the tests — only the FHA has been given complete access.
- All of the guardrails being tested came from California and were modified with wider exit-gaps in 2012, which means they are not the same as the controversial guardrails currently installed on highways.
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