Crash Test Ratings for Bollards: K Ratings and ASTM Safety Standards You Need to Know

Crash Test Ratings for Bollards

Take a look outside the front of any commercial building in an urban environment. Chances are, you’ve been walking past bollards every day. These posts are situated by the entrances to buildings to serve as protection from several types of damage from vehicles. Some are designed to prevent cars from rubbing up against a building in drive-thrus, while others are intended to stop 60,000-pound trucks from ramming into high-security facilities at 50 miles an hour. The requirements for a bollard are specific to the needs of the site, and crash ratings and testing standards have evolved to address those needs.

Main Goals of Bollards for Pedestrians

One of the primary goals of bollards is to protect pedestrians and guests inside a building and on the sidewalk. Bollards can prevent vehicles from reaching the building and injuring people. They also prevent property damage to the storefront, which can be a significant cost and use of time, and some are designed to cause less harm to the driver. Others can stand up to terrorist attacks and intentional destruction. To address the differing needs of various sites, crash performance testing came about so contractors and architects could understand the scope of the security devices they were purchasing. Since then, performance testing has become a regulated part of purchasing vehicle security devices and can help you make the right buying choice.

The History of Crash Rated Bollards

People have been driving into buildings and installing security devices for centuries. Since carriages were built and subsequently driven into storefronts, people began making bollards out of timber and, later on, cast iron. When the British defeated the French in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar, they even used the French cannons — which were too large to be placed on British ships — as bollards in the East End of London. You can still find some there today. While these historical bollards may have been suitable for the time, the United States’ Department of State (DoS) stepped in to develop some more contemporary bollard design standards in 1985.

The standards they created were K ratings, which assessed the bollards’ ability to prevent a vehicle’s bumper from passing the barrier. This worked well enough for most instances, but after the events of 9/11, a bollard’s ability to resist high-impact terrorist actions came into question. The results of a large vehicle at high speeds, possibly with explosives on board, are much more damaging than a driver who mistakenly presses the wrong pedal when pulling into a parking spot. To give bollards enough strength to withstand a terrorist attack, the DoS began to research impact-rated bollards and high-speed bollard crash testing and, in turn, raised the testing standards. They came up with M ratings, which tested barriers for their ability to stop a 15,000-pound truck at 30, 40 and 50 miles per hour (mph). Another concern was explosives within the vehicle, so they also looked into structures that could prevent the flatbed of a truck from penetrating 3.3 feet or more past the security barrier and, by extension, into the building itself.

As people became interested in the K rating system, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) introduced their own bollard rating system. This one measured how far the vehicle would penetrate security barriers at different speeds and vehicle weights. The DoS officially adopted the ASTM approach in 2009, so ASTM ratings have mostly overtaken the K ratings, but you may hear K ratings used as shorthand in the industry when people talk about crash-rated bollards. Instead of K ratings, ASTM now divides classifications based on the vehicles they address — into C, P, M and H standards, which we’ll cover in more detail later. ASTM bollards cover a wider range of impact types and include low-speed bollard crash performance testing.

In the United Kingdom, you’ll find similar Publicly Available Specifications (PAS) ratings, developed with input from the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure and the British Standards Institution. Input from all of these organizations, as well as the DoS, helped to create the International Workshop Agreement (IWA) standard 14.

Low-Speed vs. High-Speed Crash Testing Standards

bollard crash testing standards

The various types of crash testing and testing standards focus on several different classification areas that offer information based on factors like speed, weight and support structures. The potential for vehicles to penetrate a security barrier rises with speed and weight. Some barriers need to be ready for vehicles moving at highway speeds, while others are more likely to see impacts at low speeds. Low-speed incidents may be more likely for storefronts and drive-thrus in urban areas, with collisions related to pedal errors in parking lots. High-speed incidents can occur more often in businesses that are next to interstates or that may be targets of terrorist activity. Financial institutions, banks, military bases, and arenas, or other places that hold high volumes of guests can be examples of these places. Each type of crash can be reduced in severity with different types of bollards that address their distinct impact characteristics.

ASTM standards include F2656, which tests for high-speed impact, and F3016, which addresses low-speed impacts below 30 mph. Speeds can influence penetration ratings and you need to know which impact type of impact you want to protect against.

High-speed and low-speed testing often become a matter of security versus safety. Low-speed testing usually involves protecting a storefront and pedestrians from vehicle movement that occurs from incidents like pedal error. In urban areas that have tight quarters and close-fitting structures, a difference of a few feet can prevent heavy damage to property, utility boxes and passersby. High-security buildings like banks and government facilities, on the other hand, may need to stop incredibly fast, incredibly large vehicles with malicious intent. These institutions have more leeway when it comes to penetration distances and bollards may be some distance away from the actual entrance to the building to account for this stopping power. The distinction in speeds helps to more accurately select bollards that will respond best to the traffic conditions and likely threats.

What Are the Crash Test Ratings for Bollards?

Crash Rating for Bollards

Crash ratings have developed with different criteria to accurately represent a bollard’s capability. As more threats have become present, more detailed specifications were created to address them. These include the ASTM bollard standards, K ratings and WK ratings, each from different institutions attempting to cover different areas of bollard safety.

ASTM Bollard Standards

ASTM Bollard Standards

Let’s talk about three major ASTM standards that you’ll need to be aware of — F3016, F3016M and F2656-07.

F3016 was developed to create a repeatable test to apply rating designations based on vehicle impact to security devices like bollards and fences. Surrogate test vehicles are used, which include impactor zones at the nose, alongside a target penetration rating. As we’ve discussed, this standard includes ratings for different vehicle sizes and speeds. F3016M is common, used in reference to medium-duty vehicles that weigh 15,000 pounds.

F2656-07 has a similarly defined set of classifications but is intended for anti-ram purposes. It typically covers high-security requirements, such as those for military areas, financial institutions or government buildings. This makes higher speeds and weights necessary components of the testing. These test standards are rated with speeds of 30 to 50 mph.

K-Rated and M-Rated Bollards

K-Rated and M-Rated Bollards

As we mentioned earlier, K ratings were developed by the DoS in the ’80s based on the penetration distance of a vehicle’s front bumper past a security barrier. This kind of barrier includes fences and gates as well as bollards. Since the inception of K ratings, M ratings have emerged, which are more focused on the distance of the payload and developed from ASTM testing standards. Both involve the medium-duty 15,000-pound vehicle.

K ratings are still used frequently in industry talks, but officially, the M ratings are more appropriate.

WK Ratings

WK ratings are another type of rating from the ASTM, but these are under development and intended to address errant vehicles. They can include items like barriers, gates, planters and more, in addition to bollards. This testing standard covers low-speed vehicles and situations that may not be addressed with high-security bollards, which could allow smaller vehicles through if not spaced properly.

Different ASTM Models and Codes Used

ASTM standards are split up in many ways, including by speed, weight and penetration distance. F3016 addresses vehicles at lower speeds and allows minimal penetration lengths, with a maximum of 4 feet. Several factors help determine the speed and penetration ratings.

Speed ratings for this classification are based on vehicles of 5,000 pounds, with 110 pounds plus or minus, and separated into three categories.

  • S10: Nominal minimum test velocity of 10 miles per hour and a permissible speed range of 9.0 to 18.9 mph
  • S20: Nominal minimum test velocity of 20 mph and a permissible speed range of 19.0 to 27.4 mph
  • S30: Nominal minimum test velocity of 30 mph and a permissible speed range of 27.5 to 32.5 mph

Penetration ratings are also a part of both low and high-speed ASTM standards and reflect how far a vehicle can penetrate the security barrier. For low-speed vehicles, the ratings are:

  • P1: Less than 1 feet
  • P2: 1 to 4 feet
  • Failure: Greater than 4 feet

High-speed crash codes are divided into sections based on the size of the car used for testing. Among these categories, each is divided based on speed, tacking on the speed in mph after the letter. Speeds include 30, 40 and 50 mph. For instance, an M30-rated bollard is tested against a medium-duty truck going 30 mph. The size categories include:

  • C ratings: For small passenger cars of 2,430 pounds
  • PU ratings: For pickup trucks of 5,070 pounds
  • M ratings: For medium-duty trucks of 15,000 pounds
  • H ratings: For heavy goods vehicles of 65,000 pounds

Penetration ratings for high-speed standards are as follows and apply to all vehicle sizes.

  • P1: Less than 3.3 feet
  • P2: 3.31 to 23.0 feet
  • P3: 23.1 to 98.4 feet

These testing standards have helped to develop safer options for buildings around the globe. Before the adoption of F3016 and F2656-07, the strength of bollards was more unknown and, unless you had an engineer on hand, it was difficult for contractors or project organizers to select the appropriate ones. Creating F3016 and the distinctions within have made it easier to choose bollards that match a site’s traffic needs and threat levels. The bollards can be chosen that will be more likely to withstand the types of incidences that may occur at a location.

Of course, it also created a practical manner of testing that was consistent and based on the actual stopping power of the bollard. An industry standard is a vital part of creating safer materials that everyone can rely on. For high-security needs, the ASTM standards addressed many characteristics that were not covered by the K ratings that were available.

How K Ratings Compare to M Ratings

K ratings were developed by the DoS and later replaced by M ratings, but the industry still commonly refers to K ratings when measuring the strength of a bollard.

K ratings are divided into the following distances:

  • L3: Less than 3 feet
  • L2: 3 to 20 feet
  • L1: 20 to 50 feet

The more modern M ratings are listed in the above section as part of the ASTM standards. Penetration distances are included in each code.

Remember how we mentioned that M ratings are divided based on speed? M30, M40 and M50 ratings are for vehicles going 30, 40 and 50 mph, respectively. K ratings work similarly, with K4, K8 and K12 respectively representing 30, 40 and 50 mph tests. For example, K12-rated bollards are tested at 50 mph.

K-rated bollards were a necessary advancement in safety when they first came around in the last century, but when the threat of terrorism became more pronounced, security experts realized they needed something more robust to prevent ramming attacks. By revising the program and eventually pivoting to M ratings and the ASTM testing standards, people could put more trust in the ability of bollards to resist high-speed, heavyweight impacts. They became a more reliable method of resisting terrorism and theft through vehicle ramming attempts.

The Importance of Crash Testing Standards

Importance of Crash Testing Bollards

Bollards that are not certified can have any level of unknown resistance. They could be perfectly suitable for your needs, but the simple lack of certification makes them a non-starter. Certification both helps you make an informed, safe decision and may be necessary should an incident and resulting litigation occur. Now that you know the heavy-duty requirements that back up the standards, you know how vital a bollard can be to the safety and security of a facility. Crash testing also allows you to more accurately select bollards that fit the specific needs of your building. Just because something is “certified” doesn’t mean it is appropriate for your purposes. Make sure that when you purchase bollards, you buy ones rated for the correct environment. A high-security location needs more protection than some F3016 bollards can handle.

Never purchase bollards that aren’t tested and certified. When you buy certified bollards, you get products rated from independent testing labs that are accredited and judge actual performance results, not simulations. Also, make sure that you know what kind of bollard you are buying. The codes reflect many aspects of their characteristics and are crucial in selecting the right ones. Be certain you have a thorough understanding of what each part of the crash codes means so you can purchase the best bollards for your application.

What Crash-Rated Bollard Do You Need?

Choose a Crash Certified Bollard

You don’t need to be an expert in engineering or security to purchase bollards for a site, but you do need to have a little bit of basic knowledge on them. Purchasing bollards requires you to know a few details about the nature of your site, like:

  • What are the traffic patterns?
  • What are the most likely threats?
  • How will vehicles most likely impact the building?
  • Is damage to pedestrians or the building more of a concern?
  • Will you most likely need to stop high-speed or low-speed vehicles?
  • How much space will you have between your security barrier and your building?
  • Do you need to use bollards to delineate traffic or add aesthetic value to the outside of the building?
  • How important is easy pedestrian flow to the place where the bollards will be?

Knowing the answers to questions like these will help you better fit the bollard to the safety needs of your application.

Another component you’ll need to consider is state and federal requirements for crash-rated materials. Many locations need to meet certain requirements to be compliant, and you’ll need to know these and the bollard code requirements for your purposes. For security purposes, bollards are a type of anti-vehicle barrier (AVB) or vehicle security barrier (VSB) employed in plenty of high-security facilities. You may also see them referred to as passive barrier systems, meaning they don’t move and are fixtures that rely on absorbing energy, transferring it into the foundation. Often, you may need to use bollards in conjunction with other devices or structures that can reduce the speed of an oncoming vehicle.

Aside from federal and state regulations, you may find suggestions from these entities as well, which would be good to follow. Any structures built after 2009 use the ASTM standards. Before that, you may find bollards rated with the K system in place.

choosing a bollard

Once you know your site characteristics and federal and state requirements, you can begin to select a bollard. Check that you are looking under the appropriate ASTM bollard standard, F2656 or F3016, and identify appropriate speeds and vehicle weights. If you determined that your likely threats will come from small cars, and you don’t have much room for penetration distance, look closely at the C and P ratings. Make sure they are appropriate for your application. Do not use low-impact bollards where a heavy-duty model is needed. This selection can provide less effective results in an environment where safety should be the utmost priority. Bollard design standards were designed to protect people, and skimping here can lead to injuries or worse and could put your facility at risk for litigation. Make sure you purchase bollards that are correctly rated for the environment you’ll be putting them in. Different designs, such as retractable bollards or planters, can also work better in some applications, depending on the layout of your site and your goals.

Find Bollards That Fit Your Needs at Blockaides

Bollards from Blockaids

Now that you know all about what goes into crash ratings for bollards, you can make a more informed decision about which ones to implement in your site. Remember to assess your location’s traffic patterns, threats and distance from the security barrier. These factors will help you select bollards that are rated for appropriate vehicle sizes, penetration distances and speeds. Only purchase certified bollards since this ensures they are tested to stand up to the situations they may be exposed to.

If you know what kind of bollards you need, or if you want more information about safety ratings and tests, Blockaides, Inc. can help. We have a line of products designed to improve the safety and security of the places people visit every day. We will work with you to identify your project’s needs and which bollards will work best to keep your visitors, staff and building safe. Our commitment to safety informs our manufacturing process and our approach to customer service. For more information about safety ratings or for help identifying your project’s needs, reach out to our team today. Or, if you know what you’re looking for, feel free to browse our selection of bollards.