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At A&M, Researchers Crash Trucks to Test Barriers

At the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, researchers test steel barriers designed to guard federal embassies by crashing trucks into them. Watch video of a recent test.

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BRYAN — As a small crowd watches, a former Blue Bell ice cream delivery truck barrels into a steel barrier at 50 mph. The truck’s windshield and hood hurtle forward while its cab folds like an accordion. The black barrels in the vehicle's trailer, made to act as stand-ins for explosives, hop a few inches into the air before restraints pull them back down.

Within seconds, workers at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s Proving Grounds Research Facility were scurrying around the truck’s remains and surveying the damage.

The test, conducted Wednesday, was part of the TTI’s contract with the U.S. State Department to test various “perimeter security devices” installed at embassies and other facilities around the world.

“The focus is on keeping a terrorist from breaching the barrier,” explained Dean Alberson with TTI’s Crashworthy Structures Program

This particular crash test centered on a 24-foot-wide barrier buried 18 inches into the ground, Alberson said. The goal was to prevent the truck bed from making it further than one meter past the barrier, a spot marked by a blue pole at the testing site. None of the truck’s bed made it past the barrier, marking the test a success, Alberson said. The ability of a driver to survive such a crash is not a primary concern.

In this video, the point of impact can be seen from five different angles.

TTI’s work with the State Department began in 2001 and grew to about 30 percent of the facility’s crash testing around 2005 but has since subsided, Alberson said. Under the current contract, TTI typically performs about $1 million worth of crash testing each year for the State Department. The majority of the institute’s crash testing still revolves around highway safety design and testing.

Disclosure: Texas A&M University is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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