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FHWA Releases Trinity ET-Plus Guardrail End Terminal Re-testing Plan

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Testing scheduled to start week of November 17

WASHINGTON – The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released a revised plan submitted by Trinity Industries to re-test the four-inch ET-Plus guardrail end terminal.  The device must meet crash test criteria established by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) – or it will no longer be eligible for federal reimbursement by FHWA. 

“The safety of motorists on America’s roads is our number one priority and we will not waver on safety,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

Re-testing of the device, with FHWA safety engineers present and state transportation officials invited to participate, is expected to begin the week of November 17, 2014, at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. FHWA required that the testing facility did not participate in the previous testing of the product in 2005 and 2010.  The Southwest Research Institute met those criteria.  The device must meet the applicable AASHTO-developed crash-test criteria in place at the time the device was developed or FHWA will declare it ineligible for Federal-aid reimbursement.

“The crash tests are one of several efforts by FHWA to review the safety performance of the ET-Plus and other guardrail end terminals.  Our work to protect American motorists doesn’t end with the re-testing of the ET-Plus,” FHWA Acting Administrator Gregory Nadeau said. “These crash tests will give FHWA important data about how the ET-Plus performs, but they are only one action among several efforts we’re undertaking on behalf of the American driving public.”

The required re-testing of Trinity is the latest in an aggressive series of efforts by the agency started in 2012 when concerns about the design change were first raised to FHWA. To confirm that the ET-Plus is performing as designed and meets AASHTO crash test criteria, FHWA has taken a hard look at existing information on the ET-Plus, including:

  • Analyzed 2005 crash testing results by Texas Transportation Institute;
  • Examined two additional ET-Plus crash tests conducted in 2010;
  • Reviewed results from a 2012 AASHTO survey – performed at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s request – of all state DOTs about performance of w-beam end terminals (ET-Plus is included in that category).  If a state DOT had concerns with any of those types of terminals they were asked to identify which terminal.  The results of that survey were that no state DOT identified  performance or safety issues with the ET-Plus;
  • Reviewed results of a 2014 AASHTO survey on ET-Plus to members of its Subcommittee on Design (48 States, PR & DC).  Of the 33 States that responded, only Missouri noted specific concerns with the ET-Plus, which was shared with FHWA in October.  That material is now under review;
  • Reviewing the results of an October 29, 2014, study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham on “Relative Comparison of NCHRP 350 Accepted W-Beam Guardrail End Terminals.”

FHWA is aggressively pursuing all available sources of information on the performance of the ET-Plus on roads throughout the country, including:

  • Analyzing responses to an October 2014 request to all State DOTs for all information they may have on crashes involving the ET-Plus on their roads;
  • FHWA’s analysis of the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Study data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  From that study’s database FHWA identified  14 crashes involving the ET-Plus four-inch end terminal; and the available evidence did not indicate a performance issue with the device in any of these cases;
  • Analyzing guardrail end terminal crash data provided by the Missouri Department of Transportation; and
  • Evaluating other data sources (Fatality Analysis Reporting System, Highway Safety Information System, and Strategic Highway Research Program Safety Database) that may provide insights on the performance of the ET-Plus in the field.

Documents about the crash test plan can be found at


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FHWA 35-14