MWRSF Research Culminates in Full-Scale Tractor-Tanker Crash Test

Semi truck crash test
The roadside barrier developed by University of Nebraska–Lincoln researchers holds firm as a fully-loaded tractor-tanker vehicle slams into it during a Dec. 8 test. (Craig Chandler / University Communication)

Researchers at Midwest Roadside Safety Facility (MwRSF) are in the fourth year of the project “Investigation and Development of a MASH Test Level 6, Cost-Effective, Barrier System for Containing Heavy Tractor Tank-Trailer Vehicles and Mitigating Catastrophic Crash Event”. After performing numerous calculations and simulations, they were finally ready to do a full-scale test early December at the Outdoor Proving Ground facility.

Previous research involved replicating the dynamic behavior of a truck-tank trailer combination in computer simulations. Since these trailers are designed to transport fluids, this setup can be difficult and requires various fluid modeling techniques that take into account the elliptical shape of the trailer. The 62-inch barrier must account for these challenges to prevent the vehicle from disturbing other lanes of traffic.

The high performance, high energy test was performed using an 80,000 pound tractor-tanker vehicle. It impacted the barrier at 50 mph and a 15-degree angle. This type of test is especially rare, as it is classified as Test Level 6 by the Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH) and uses a tanker trailer rather than a box trailer, and has only been performed two other times.

The concrete barrier was created with the optimum height and reinforcements in mind. The goal was to create a shorter barrier that uses less material, therefore costing less, but that is still tall enough and strong enough to keep the vehicle upright.

The barrier test proved successful. The tanker vehicle was prevented from crossing the line of the barrier into opposing traffic. After the crash, the team will analyze the crash data before working with transportation departments to accept the design. Next, a bid letting process for road installation begins and could take six to 18 months. Interest has already been expressed in the design, so road users can expect to see these barriers soon.

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