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Officials Claim Trinity Guardrails Passed All Crash-Tests

March 16, 2015 — Trinity Industries’ ET-Plus guardrail passed all eight crash tests, despite severely damaging the driver’s door in one of the tests, according to an analysis released by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA).

The agency called the tests “unremarkable” or “met the applicable crash test criteria.”

The sticking point was one test involving a 1998 Geo Metro impacting the end of the guardrail at 60-mph. The shock-absorbing end-terminal deflected most of the guardrail away from the oncoming car, but bent into a sharp elbow just behind the end-terminal. When the car spun around, the elbow indented the driver’s door by 6.75 inches.

Attorneys for a whistleblower say the FHA is ignoring its own criteria limiting the acceptable level of damage. The New York Times has reported that guardrails are not supposed to pass crash-tests if they “show potential for penetrating the occupant compartment.”

The controversy erupted in 2012, when whistleblower Joshua Harmon accused Trinity of changing the design of the ET-Plus in a way that made it more likely to impale oncoming vehicles.

Since that lawsuit was filed, Trinity has engaged in an “aggressive lobbying blitz” that was greased by donations to attorney general political causes.

After one glitzy lobbying event at the Four Seasons Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, the Times reported:

“[Trinity] has contributed $300,000 to the Democratic Attorneys General Association and the Republican Attorneys General Association, after not donating in the two previous years. … The company separately has made direct campaign donations to the 2014 political accounts of attorney general candidates in Oklahoma, Ohio, Alabama, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and South Dakota, among other states.”

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