October 24, 2014 — New York Times reports that Mississippi and Oregon have joined a growing list of states banning further installation of the Trinity ET-Plus guardrail, pending investigations into design changes that may have compromised safety.
Other states on the list include Virginia, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Missouri. The Federal Highway Administration (FHA), which subsidizes approved highway equipment, may stop offering reimbursements for the ET-Plus.
Last month, researchers at the University of Alabama published a study suggesting the ET-Plus is 36% more likely to cause injuries and 3-times as likely to cause death compared to the ET-2000.
Trinity Industries, Inc., the manufacturer of the ET-Plus, is accused of quietly changing the design in 2005, shaving steel off a key component to save about $2 in materials per product, or about $250,000 per year, according to internal e-mails.
Recent studies suggest that the re-designed product does not perform as well as the original. The ET-Plus is a lighter-weight, cheaper version of the ET-2000, which was developed in the 1990s by engineers at Texas A&M. The government approved the ET-Plus in 2000, but the version re-designed in 2005 was never crash-tested or approved.
Earlier this week, a whistleblower lawsuit in Texas ended in a jury ordering Trinity to pay $175 million for defrauding the government by failing to disclose design modifications to the ET-Plus. Total liability could balloon to $1 billion. At least 14 injury lawsuits have also been filed, including five wrongful death suits.
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