Caltrans faces new call to ban controversial guardrail

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Thursday, October 30, 2014
Caltrans faces new call to ban controversial guardrail
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Caltrans is facing a new call to ban a controversial guardrail component that has been linked to injuries and deaths.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Caltrans is facing a new call to ban a controversial guardrail component that has been linked to injuries and deaths. This comes after the state of Virginia promised to replace all those guardrails in question. The ABC7 News I-Team first covered this issue a year-and-a-half ago.

On Wednesday, several more states banned the guardrail head, or end terminal, bringing the total to 25 states. But California is taking a wait and see attitude, and the whistleblower in the case says that may be a fatal mistake.

I met Josh Harman in San Francisco Wednesday. He's traveling the country, spreading the word about the dangers of one very common guardrail system.

"People are dying, Dan. If I don't do it, nobody else will. It's that simple," he said.

Just last week, Harman won a whistleblower lawsuit against Trinity Industries and its ET-Plus end terminals. A Texas jury found the company defrauded the government by not revealing design changes and fined Trinity $175 million, an amount which could triple as the case unfolds.

The jury saw crash test videos of the ET-Plus repeatedly failing. The company answered that it is flared version of the ET-Plus, one that never made it to the road. But, the videos were never shared with federal safety officials, who have now ordered the company to run new crash tests to prove their system is safe.

"They had full knowledge that this terminal failed," Harman said. "They kept it from the federal government, they kept it hid, and they exposed the entire nation to a safety issue that there's no question in my mind has resulted in fatalities and injuries."

The ET-Plus is supposed to work so that the force of the crash feeds the W-shaped guardrail into the end terminal, where it gets flattened into a ribbon of steel, curling off to the side. That process absorbs the energy of the crash and slows down the vehicle.

But, as Harman showed the I-Team last year, Trinity shrank its end terminal by an inch, and several lawsuits underway say the system may fail, sending the guardrail slicing through the car. As of Wednesday, 25 states have banned the ET-Plus terminal, but a spokesman for Caltrans tells the I-Team the agency is simply taking an inventory of the system, waiting for the federal government to tell them what to do.

"Caltrans should be responsible," Harman said. "They can look at the testing that has been withheld from the government and protect their citizens. For Caltrans to take a position of 'we'll wait and see' is totally irresponsible."

The states that have banned the ET-Plus include:














New Hampshire

New Mexico

North Dakota



South Carolina