Government watchdog: Federal Highway Administration failed to oversee proper guardrail testing

Posted at 6:54 PM, Jul 13, 2016

A congressional watchdog agency found that the Federal Highway Administration has failed to properly oversee the testing of guardrails.

The Government Accountability Office’s yearlong investigation was launched after concerns involving a controversial guardrail model, called the ET-Plus, made by Trinity industries.

The G.A.O. found that the agency allowed laboratories to test products despite conflicts of interest. The agency also didn’t require independent testing.

“Specifically, six of the nine crash test labs we reviewed can test products that were developed by employees of the same parent organization,” according to the report.

A successful whistleblower lawsuit alleged that the design of the ET-Plus model was changed without proper testing or approval. Critics said the changes made the guardrail model more dangerous by causing them to jam up and spear through vehicles.

Several lawmakers have criticized the Federal Highway Administration over the ET-Plus guardrails, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who requested the G.A.O. investigation.

“The FHWA poured millions of taxpayer dollars into dangerous guardrails while ignoring safety concerns and allowing sham testing to keep them on the road,” Blumenthal said.

ABC15 began reporting on concerns involving the ET-Plus in late 2013. The popular guardrail model has been linked to deaths and serious injuries around the state and country.

Ever since, several states, including Arizona, have stopped installing new ET-Plus models on the road.

Trinity Industries, which is also under a DOJ criminal investigation regarding the ET-Plus, has aggressively defended it’s guardrail.

A spokesman said the ET-Plus model is the “most successfully crash-tested product of its kind.”

Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at