Erica Terrini
/ Categories: ATSSA, FHWA, Roadway

MASH to become 'performance specification'

AASHTO endorses motion to provide criteria for product owners to test and certify traffic safety devices

At its meeting of October 9 in St. Louis, Missouri, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO) Board of Directors endorsed a motion put forth by the Council of Highways and Streets (Chief Engineers) to develop the Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH) into a “performance specification.” ATSSA staff’s understanding is that under this approach state departments of transportation would adopt the specification, product owners would test their devices against the criteria through independent testing houses, similar to what is done today, and then the owners would “self-certify” that their device meet the specification based on the test results.

For over a year, AASHTO had been pursuing a path of engaging a “third party administrator” to certify device conformance with MASH and issue the equivalent of “eligibility letters” following a determination by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that it would no longer fulfill that role. Lengthy conversations were held with both the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and Underwriters Laboratory (UL) to serve in that role. Ultimately, both entities declined.

The resolution also called for “flexibility” for the states to continue using NCHRP-350 products if there are no MASH-tested products that are available or “suitable” for that state. An exact definition of the term “suitable” was not included in the resolution. However, ATSSA staff understands that this relates to the unavailability of a MASH tested product that meets a state’s usual specifications.

During the discussion at the Council on Highways and Streets meeting, where the resolution originated, the following points were made or clarified:

• This new approach does not include the extension of any of the MASH deadlines.
• There was a general desire to “reward,” and certainly not penalize, those companies that had moved forward with testing their devices to the MASH criteria.
• FHWA would put an emphasis on communication with its Division Offices so that there is consistent interpretation and administration of this process.
• FHWA would continue to issue letters of eligibility, presumably until this new approach is in place.

The discussion and resolution adopted at the AASHTO meeting did not include any reference to the challenge faced by manufacturers who have tested their devices and are awaiting “release” of their eligibility letters by FHWA. ATSSA understands that the delay in their release is due to a technical question that FHWA has posed to AASHTO regarding the small vehicle, or substitution of the small vehicle, used in the crash tests.

Stay tuned to ATSSA publications and The Flash, the ATSSA Blog, and the association's social media accounts for more information as it becomes available.

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