October 27, 2014 — Trinity Industries, Inc. has agreed to stop shipping a controversial guardrail end-terminal until tests determine whether it can fail in a head-on guardrail accident and impale vehicles and drivers.
The announcement is a sharp reversal for Trinity and came just days after a federal jury in Texas found Trinity guilty of defrauding the government by failing to disclose design changes to the ET-Plus end-terminal in 2005.
The original product, invented at Texas A&M, was thoroughly crash-tested and approved in 2000. During the trial, lawyers accused Trinity of concealing five failed crash-tests involving the re-designed ET-Plus.
According to Law360, Trinity’s decision to suspend shipments was made after the U.S. Federal Highway Administration requested additional crash testing of the guardrail system.
The president of Trinity, Gregg Mitchell, said:
“In light of FHWA’s request, the right thing to do is to stop shipping the product until the additional testing has been completed. We have confidence in the ET-Plus System as designed and crash tested by Texas A&M Transportation Institute.”
Trinity insists the ET-Plus end-terminal is safe, but they admitted shrinking the feeder-channel behind the head of terminal from 5-inches to 4-inches. This could possibly cause the system to jam and impale vehicles, instead of feeding the guardrail through the terminal and deflecting it away from an oncoming vehicle.
Last week, a jury awarded $175 million in a whistleblower lawsuit. The whistleblower, Joshua Harman, discovered the design changes in 2011 and filed the lawsuit in 2012. For the next two years, Trinity continued shipping the guardrails and insisted they were safe. More than a dozen lawsuits were filed during that time, including five deaths and even more injuries.
This year, 13 states banned new installations over safety concerns — most recently Arizona, Connecticut, and Louisiana, in addition to Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Missouri, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Virginia, Vermont, Hawaii, and New Hampshire.
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