Roadside Safety Hardware Test Labs to Need Accreditation

The Federal Highway Administration yesterday said it plans to require accreditation of laboratories that conduct crash tests on roadside hardware by an accrediting body. FHWA's proposed rule says this change will improve the agency's ability to determine that crash test labs are qualified to conduct and evaluate tests intended to determine the crashworthiness of roadside safety features.

FHWA is accepting comments until June 8. The rule is aimed at crash testing of traffic barriers (roadside and median barriers and bridge railings), sign and lighting supports, and crash cushions. These products have evolved and increased in number since the 1960s, more manufacturers are participating, and now there are about 10 crash test laboratories operating, some of which are not sponsored by an academic institution. FHWA says it recognizes most state DOT personnel Aren't experienced in assessing test laboratory reports to determine whether the hardware was subjected to all required tests and all tests met the appropriate evaluation criteria, so it began reviewing test reports upon request and providing written acknowledgements that specific devices were crashworthy and thus eligible for use on the National Highway System. These "FHWA Acceptance Letters" quickly became essential to the manufacturers and widely recognized by the states, according to the rule.

But FHWA, too, does not have adequate personnel or resources to continuously make site visits to verify the capabilities of the established test laboratories and to assess new labs. It is proposing to amend 23 CFR 637.209 by adding 637.209(a)(5), which would require all labs that perform crash testing for acceptance of roadside safety hardware to be accredited by an accreditation body that is recognized by NACLA or another specified body (visit www.nacla.net for information).

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