Effects of Increasing Truck Weight on Steel & Prestressed Bridges


Altan Altay, Diego Arabbo, Robert Dexter, Catherine French, Eric Corwin

March 2003

Report no. MnDOT 2003-16

Any increase in legal truck weight would shorten the time for repair or replacement of many bridges. Five steel girder bridges and three prestressed concrete I-girder bridges were instrumented, load tested, and modeled. The results were used to assess the effects of a 10 or 20% increase in truck weight on bridges on a few key routes through the state. Essentially all prestressed girders, modern steel girders, and most bridge decks could tolerate a 20% increase in truck weight with no reduction in life. Unfortunately, most Minnesota steel girder bridges were designed before fatigue-design specifications were improved in the 1970's and 1980's. Typically, an increase in truck weight of 20% would lead to a reduction in the remaining life in these older steel bridges of up to 42% (a 10% increase would lead to a 25% reduction in fatigue life). Bridge decks are affected by axle weights rather than overall truck weights. Transverse cracks in bridge decks are primarily caused by shrinkage soon after construction and are not affected by increasing axle weight. However, decks with thickness less than 9 inches or with girder spacing greater than 10 ft may be susceptible to longitudinal flexural cracking which could decrease life.

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