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Outside of relatively limited crash testing with large trucks, very little is known regarding the performance of traffic barriers subjected to real-world large truck impacts. The purpose of this study was to investigate real-world large truck impacts into traffic barriers to determine barrier crash involvement rates, the impact performance of barriers not specifically designed to redirect large trucks, and the real-world performance of large-truck-specific barriers. Data sources included the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (2000-2009), the General Estimates System (2000-2009) and 155 in-depth large truck-to-barrier crashes from the Large Truck Crash Causation Study. Large truck impacts with a longitudinal barrier were found to comprise 3 percent of all police-reported longitudinal barrier impacts and roughly the same proportion of barrier fatalities. Based on a logistic regression model predicting barrier penetration, large truck barrier penetration risk was found to increase by a factor of 6 for impacts with barriers designed primarily for passenger vehicles. Although large-truck-specific barriers were found to perform better than non-heavy vehicle specific barriers, the penetration rate of these barriers were found to be 17 percent. This penetration rate is especially a concern because the higher test level barriers are designed to protect other road users, not the occupants of the large truck. Surprisingly, barriers not specifically designed for large truck impacts were found to prevent large truck penetration approximately half of the time. This suggests that adding costlier higher test level barriers may not always be warranted, especially on roadways with lower truck volumes.


Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board



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Civil and Environmental Engineering