Trinity Industries is under scrutiny once again just five months after passing federally ordered crash testing; however, this time Trinity isn’t being looked into by the federal government.
Marshall Herman, a VDOT spokesperson, said in an official statement, “Everything the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) does is for the single purpose of looking out for the safety of the motoring public.”
Although the ET-Plus guardrails just recently passed a series of safety tests commissioned by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the retesting is warranted by the accusations that the testing itself had been flawed.
The main controversy over the test is the result of the eighth and final test. Critics of the last test call it a “clear failure” due to the fact that the test vehicle sustained heavy damage upon impact.
This controversy has sparked questions over the “all too cozy” relationship between the FHWA and Trinity Industries. At least six senators have called on the Government Accountability Office to investigate the relationship.
Trinity’s official statement, made by spokesman Jeff Eller, regarding the retesting reads as follows:
“We do not believe additional tests are needed. The ET Plus System successfully passed all eight Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) requested tests. VDOT officials observed each test. Those tests were validated by an independent expert, Dr. Clay Gabler from Virginia Tech, and conducted under approved NCHRP 350 guidelines. The ET Plus has been installed on Virginia roadways for more than eight years and VDOT recently confirmed to the FHWA that the ET Plus end terminals are performing as expected,”
Trinity Industries came under investigation after a former guardrail business owner claimed that the company defrauded the federal government by reducing the size of an integral part of the ET-Plus guardrails without notice, eventually leading to a federal lawsuit.
This investigation led to the discovery that Trinity was saving $50,000 a year while sacrificing the structural integrity of the guardrails from this change.
A jury ruled that Trinity violated the False Claims Act by defrauding the federal government. Trinity was ordered to pay $525 million in damages.
So far, there are eight deaths and more than a dozen crashes that have been connected to the Trinity ET-Plus guardrail systems.
A University of Alabama Birmingham study concluded that accidents involving the ET-Plus guardrails are 1.36 times more likely to produce severe injuries than the previous Trinity model, the ET-200
This same study found that accidents involving the ET-Plus are 2.86 times more likely to lead to death than the ET-200
The guardrail systems were previously banned in the following 30 states: