MDOT stops use of questioned guardrails

28 Oct 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »

Florida Lawmaker Calls For Safety Study On Highway Guardrails 13 States Have Banned.

Mississippi has become the sixth state to ban the use of Trinity Industries’ ET-Plus guardrails, which are the subject of a $175 million fraud verdict. Virginia is the first state to announce it plans to physically remove from its highways a controversial guardrail system blamed by accident victims for injuries and deaths across the country.LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska officials say they will continue using a highway guardrail system that has been the focus of safety concerns until the Federal Highway Administration says it shouldn’t.The controversy over the ET-Plus guardrail end terminals has deepened as Texas-based Trinity Industries has now announced that it will stop selling the problematic roadway safety features. Last week, a federal jury decided Trinity Industries owed the hefty sum for defrauding the government regarding its faulty guardrails, which have been cited by some for impaling drivers on impact.

The move comes after Trinity Industries, the manufacturer of the ET-Plus system, failed to meet a deadline to submit a plan to conduct new crash tests for the system. “The Virginia Department of Transportation is currently putting together a plan for removal,” Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) spokesperson Marshall Herman told ABC News today. The Lincoln Journal Star reports ( ) Trinity Industries’ ET-Plus guardrail system has been used in Nebraska since 2005 mostly on interstates and freeways. For those just joining us, the issue revolves around a metal plate installed on guardrails by Trinity, the manufacturer found guilty of failing to notify federal authorities of a modification to its design. Trinity Industries Inc. stopped shipments of its ET-Plus guardrails after a Texas jury ordered it to pay at least $175 million for misleading regulators. In the last five years, there have been 107 accidents involving ET-Plus guardrails and three deaths in Nebraska, but the state Roads Department has no evidence the system malfunctioned.

Several fatalities have been linked to the modified design, which has been known in some cases to impale drivers and vehicle occupants instead of protecting them. Trinity has said it didn’t tell U.S. officials about a change it made to the part in 2005 until seven years later, when a competing guardrail-maker alerted the government. Herman said there is no finalized timeline to remove the end terminals, and should Trinity provide data proving the ET-Plus meets safety criteria, it will reconsider the recall. Autoblog notes that as of this writing, Trinity still lists its ET-Plus components as being for sale on its website, which states: “The ET-Plus® is an NCHRP Report 350 Test Level 2 and Test Level 3 compliant cable anchored system and is acceptable for use on the National Highway System.”

In its Oct. 24 letter, Virginia’s transportation department supported Trinity’s plan to begin the additional testing requested by the state and FHWA. Lawmakers including Schumer are urging the FHWA, which reviews crash-test results and decides whether highway devices are eligible for federal reimbursement, to step up scrutiny of the product’s safety. Virginia’s announcement came a week after a jury in Texas found that guardrail maker Trinity Industries had defrauded the government by altering the guardrail end terminal design nearly a decade ago and failing to disclose all of the changes to federal officials as required. Today, Schumer asked the FHWA to work with New York State to determine where the units are located “so that they may be quickly removed if additional safety concerns are discovered.” Last week, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, criticized the agency for taking too long to start investigating safety concerns surrounding the ET-Plus.

Trinity, which plans to appeal the decision, was ordered to pay $175 million in damages – an amount that is expected to triple by statutory mandate. The agency, which learned about the design change in 2012, waited more than two years to require additional crash testing from Trinity, Blumenthal said.

The head — or end terminal — is the flat piece of steel at the front of the system that, on impact, is meant to glide along the rail and push the metal safely out of the way. Read or Share this story: The next day, the Highway Administration demanded that the guardrail be retested, citing concerns that the new design had made it prone to malfunction.

Virginia’s action goes a step further than the other states, which have generally said they were awaiting results of the new federally mandated crash testing. The jury last week found Trinity liable for fraud against the government and returned with a verdict for $175 million, which, by law, will be tripled to $525 million.

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