Faller earns lifetime award for roadside safety research

· 5 min read

Faller earns lifetime award for roadside safety research

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Craig Chandler | University Communication

Ronald Faller, director of the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, has received the Transportation Research Board’s 2020 Kenneth A. Stonex Roadside Safety Award, given annually for lifetime contributions to roadside safety.

The award was presented in mid-January at the board’s 99th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. It was one of a huge harvest of awards for the University of Nebraska–Lincoln transportation researchers at the MwRSF, Mid-America Transportation Center and Nebraska Transportation Center.

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Ronald Faller (left) accepts the 2020 Kenneth A. Stonex Roadside Safety Award in Washington, D.C.
Faller, a research professor of civil and environmental engineering, said he was “humbled and honored” to be nominated for the Stonex Award because of all the connections it has to MwRSF. Two former MwRSF directors, Edward Post and Dean Sicking, also received the Stonex Award.

“I didn’t get to this point in my career by myself; it’s only because of the many great things that everybody else does in the missions of Midwest (Roadside Safety Facility) and UNL and working to meet greater goals,” Faller said. “There have been so many people around the world who do great work that have received this award, including my former bosses and mentors. It’s amazing to me that I’m even included in this list.”

In recognizing his contributions to roadside safety, the committee said Faller has “advanced the field of roadside hardware design through an unparalleled combination of engineering excellence, leadership, service and overall dedication to the safety of the motoring public.”

Stonex was a longtime General Motors employee who is credited with laying the foundation for roadside safety research and development back in the 1930s and running through his retirement nearly 40 years later.

Faller said part of the reason he was honored to receive the award is because the work Stonex did was ahead of its time and is still revered in the industry. That work included creating the first natural proving grounds for testing automobiles, which involved a network of roads with roadside hazards.

“The things he was advocating for in his early papers on roadside safety and design are still relevant today, and it seems like we’re sometimes chasing our tails when it comes to things he pointed out 60 and 70 years ago,” Faller said.

Faller said his career has been about working to find solutions to some of those problems. He graduated from Nebraska in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and began working in the roadside safety research program, which in 1989 became MwRSF.

Faller has assisted MwRSF’s development of many innovative products that have been installed and deployed worldwide, helping the facility come to be recognized as a global leader in roadside safety. Those innovations include the well-known Steel and Foam Energy Reduction Barrier that has become the industry standard for high-speed racetracks.

Despite the Stonex Award being given for lifetime achievements in the field of roadside safety, Faller said it doesn’t signal the end to his career.

“I’m not done yet. I’m not retiring. I’m not going anywhere, hopefully for quite a while. I have too much to do,” Faller said. “What I believe in is the mission of Midwest (Roadside Safety Facility) and the university, and working to make roads safer is truly what I love to do.”

Big weekend of awards

The Stonex Award was only one of multiple major awards earned by Nebraska transportation faculty, researchers and students.

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Laurence Rilett (right) accepts the Workforce Development and Technology Transfer Leadership Award from the Council of University Transportation Centers.

  • At the Council of University Transportation Centers Annual Awards Banquet on Jan. 11 in Washington, D.C., the Mid-America Transportation Center was awarded the inaugural CUTC Workforce Development and Technology Transfer Leadership Award. The award recognized the Mid-America Transportation Center for its Roads, Rails and Race Cars program, its Sovereign Native Youth STEM program, and other K-12 STEM outreach activities that promote science and education in underrepresented populations. MATC Director Laurence Rilett accepted the award.

  • A MwRSF team that included Faller also won the 2020 Best Paper Award from the Transportation Research Board’s Committee on Roadside Safety Design for “Development of a Test Level 4, Side-Mounted, Steel-Tube Bridge Rail.” The team included civil and environmental engineering faculty Jennifer Rasmussen, research assistant professor at MwRSF, and Joshua Steelman, assistant professor; MwRSF research engineers Scott Rosenbaugh and Bob Bielenberg; and former engineering graduate students Oscar Pena and Pascual Mauricio, who are now working in industry. It was the fifth consecutive year, and 13th time in the past 16 years, that a Husker team has earned the award.

  • Rilett and Nebraska Transportation Center graduate student Ernest Tufuor received the Best Paper Award from the Transportation Research Board’s Highway Capacity and Quality of Service Committee for a paper titled “Analysis of Component Errors in the Highway Capacity Manual Travel Time Reliability Estimations for Urban Streets.”

  • Five MwRSF graduate students — Jacob DeLone, Ryan Bickhaus, Michael Sweigard, Kellon Ronspies and Ricardo Jacome — were chosen to receive the Dwight D. Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship to support their research. Fewer than 200 of the fellowships are awarded annually.

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Elisa Vasquez (center) accepts her award from the Council of University Transportation Centers.

  • The Nebraska Transportation Center’s Elisa Vasquez was awarded the Council of University Transportation Centers’ 2019 Student of the Year Award for her accomplishments and demeanor while pursuing her master’s degree in mechanical engineering and applied mechanics.