Bridge Analysis and Evaluation of Effects under Overload Vehicles

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June 2011
Project Summary
Interim Report
User’s Guide
Research Brief
Final Report

Primary Investigator

Michael G. Oliva
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1214 Engineering Hall
1415 Engineering Drive
Madison, WI 53706


Movement of industrial freight infrequently requires special overload vehicles weighing 5 to 6 times the normal legal truck weight to move across highway systems. Transportation agencies are asked to provide special permits for these vehicles along a specified pathway. Because of the unusual configuration of the vehicles it is difficult for those agencies to evaluate the effect of the vehicles on highway bridges. It is a time consuming job for the local agency since simple analysis methods for determining effects on bridges subjected to those overloads are not well established and the possibility of errors in estimating the impact of the loads on these structures could affect safety. The work proposed in this project aims to help agencies in evaluating the impact of these vehicles on structures.


The proposed work objective will focus on development of a simplified analysis method to predict the effects of overload vehicles on a bridge system – including deck, girders, bearings, diaphragms, joints and other major components.


  1. Reference study: closely examine previous work on medium and large overload situations, special 3-D analysis techniques, and existing overload vehicle geometries and weights.
  2. Categorize bridge types for focus of the study and select prototype bridges for detailed modeling and analysis.
  3. Select a representative set of overload configurations to use in developing a simplified analysis method.
  4. Conduct detailed analyses of bridge decks to identify possible problem situations with overload vehicles.
  5. Conduct detailed analysis of multi-girder prototype bridges as a basis for developing a simplified analysis methods.
  6. Develop simplified analysis methods for predicting overload vehicle effects in bridge girders, bearings, expansion joints, diaphragms, and loads applied to sub-structures.
  7. Test simplified effect predictions by comparison with results from accurate analytic models on an independent set of prototype bridges, suggest modifications if necessary.
  8. Conduct detailed analysis of a set of “complex” bridge types including tied arch, truss, and curved box girders and use as a basis for modifying the existing proposed simplified methods or developing alternate simplified methods for these bridges.
  9. Prepare a final report describing the research procedures, proposed simplified bridge analysis methods, limitations on the use of the methods related to bridge types and overload vehicle configurations, and suggestions.

Project Information

  • Duration: 12 months
  • Dates: September 1, 2008 – August 31, 2009
  • Budget: CFIRE: $72,452; $77,239
  • Modal Orientation: Highway
  • Project ID: CFIRE 02-03
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