The new Blade Truck Mounted Attenuator is setting the bar for safety on Australia’s road worksites, having been tested and approved to the latest MASH standards.
This April, Austroads advised industry of an important change to the eligibility criteria for product submissions to the Austroads Safety Barrier Assessment Panel.
Since its introduction in 1999, the AS/NZS 3845 Standard has used National Cooperative Highway Research Program report (NCHRP) 350 guidelines as the basis for testing protocols to assess safety barrier related hardware and devices. Subsequently, the Austroads panel’s reviews have been based on NCHRP 350, in line with the standard.
However, in 2017, Parts 1 (2015) and 2 (2017) of the Standard recognised the introduction of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO) 2009 Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH) guidelines.
In an open letter to industry in April, panel Chair Stan Robb advised that, in an effort to encourage installation of MASH crash-tested devices, and in line with changes to the standard, the panel has updated its product submission criteria.
“Effective immediately, all submissions received by the panel must be in accordance with AASHTO’s MASH guidelines or an equivalence rating to MASH in accordance with AS/NZS 3845 Parts 1 and 2,” the letter stated.
The panel has now set a number of timeframes for the current suite of accepted road safety barrier systems and devices in Australasia to transition to the 2009 MASH guidelines.
For Tim Eato, Business and Compliance Manager at Innov8 Equipment, these updated guidelines have given an important deadline for road safety product specialists like themselves, but also a unique opportunity in the truck mounted attenuator market.
While Austroads has set the date for Australasian transitions, temporary barriers and Part 2 products, which includes TMAs, to meet 2009 MASH guidelines as 31 December 2020, Mr. Eato says Innov8 is going one step further to ensure its latest TMA is ahead of the curve and approved to the new MASH 2016 guidelines already introduced in the US.
“The introduction of the new MASH requirements and the upcoming deadline got the ball rolling for our Blade TMA in Australia,” Mr. Eato asserts.
The Blade TMA, designed and manufactured by Dutch firm Verdegro, has been in the US market for nearly 18 months, and in the Australian market for nearly a year, with Innov8 Equipment distributing the product here.
The lightweight laser-cut aluminium TMA has extra crash length for absorbing a crash of the heaviest trucks in the industry and is crash tested according to MASH 2009/2016 at the Texas Transportation Institute. It’s also full scale crash tested according to the UK optional 110 kilometre-per-hour test TD49/07.
In the US, the new MASH 2016 guidelines sets stricter criteria for TMAs. Bigger, heavier and newer test vehicles have to be used during testing, the shadow vehicle criteria is stricter and much heavier, the upper and lower truck rate has to be tested, the ballast has to be fixed and the arrow board together with the TMA construction must be tested.
The design of the Blade TMA also makes it a unique addition to the Australian market and another effective tool in protecting workers on the nation’s roads.
“Older products are typically built with some type of hexagonally-shaped materials made of aluminium in which the aluminium absorbs the impact. The Blade is like a ladder, it comes down at one stage and extends out,” he says.
The TMA’s strength comes out of its composite aluminium-welded profiles, which, when impacted, will be cut by the specially-designed internal blades.
On impact, the first four blades cut through the H-beams and, after unlocking, the remaining eight blades cut through the welded tubes. The remaining weak aluminium parts will then bend away in safe directions.
“It’s very similar to a rollercoaster brake – it has electronic handling control so it’s not just absorbing the energy,” Mr. Eato explains.
It also incorporates a full CAN-bus controlled system, helping to improve ease of use in operation.
“It’s quite different, and we’re the first TMA provider to have a MASH tested product recommended for acceptance by the Austroads Safety Barrier Assessment Panel,” Mr. Eato says.
While Innov8 Equipment’s latest TMA offering is already approved and passed to the new 2016 MASH standards, Mr. Eato stresses the importance of selecting products approved under the new guidelines, given the impending December 2020 end of transition date.
“Buyers in the market for TMA products will need to consider the deadline when choosing a product for purchase,” he says. For Mr. Eato, the message is clear: “If your product hasn’t been approved under the new standards then you could run the risk of it not being acceptable to use after 2020.”
In addition to achieving the highest MASH standard to date, the Blade TMA is built into Iveco’s Eurocargo E6 ML160 truck platform.
“Iveco has given us a factory base where we can actually build the TMA onto the trucks, which is evidence of the growing support for the product from truck manufacturers in Australia,” Mr. Eato says.
The Blade TMA also offers a range of accessories to enhance the product’s effectiveness and ease of use, including an arrow board bracket, truck bracket, foil striping, jockey wheels and a truck body.
“While we have a number of trucks ready and built for purchase, for customers who cannot wait, our trucks are also customisable to specific requirements. So, when needed, we build them bespoke to what the client requires,” Mr. Eato states. “The choice is up to the customer and their needs.”