Restrictions relating to velocity and vehicle weight are frequently encountered on bridges, particularly where heavy traffic is involved. The strain experienced by the structure increases exponentially as vehicles become heavier, with trucks and heavy commercial vehicles in particular causing excessive stress to roads and bridges. However, speed and weight restrictions unfortunately only have a limited effect as they are frequently not observed. A Weigh In Motion system is particularly effective in ensuring compliance with regulations. In addition to measuring the overall weight of the vehicle, sensors integrated directly in the road surface also determine the real extent of significant axle loads. This is achieved in moving traffic at normal speeds (heavy traffic up to 120 km/h, vans up to 140 km/h) and in several lanes. Three specific advantages that contribute to effective bridge protection are derived from this:
- The acquisition of weight-related vehicle data provides an accurate basis for calculating the actual load on the bridge and the remaining service life (instead of estimates).
- Overloaded vehicles that exceed the permissible overall weight can be prevented from crossing the bridge (so-called preselection). The collection of fees is also possible, depending on domestic legislation in the particular country.
- The WIM system can be combined with further sensors and cameras to, for example, detect speed, the condition of tires and vehicle dimensions, thus contributing to increased road safety on the bridge.
Weigh In Motion for efficient international bridge protection
KiTraffic series Weigh In Motion systems from Kistler are deployed for this reason on many bridges around the world, collecting traffic data and ensuring applicable rules are observed. A WIM system from Kistler has been monitoring the spectacular El Carrizo bridge in Mexico since the summer of 2018. Overloaded vehicles are preselected and prevented from crossing the structure that, at 226 meters, is the second-highest bridge in North America.
Older and smaller bridges can also be protected with WIM systems. A solution of this kind was used in Austria for a road traffic bridge spanning a very busy long-distance line operated by Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB). Due to the presence of a sawmill nearby, the bridge had already been damaged by heavy timber transports. KiTraffic Statistics helped to reliably detect trucks that were frequently massively overloaded and, in cooperation with the authorities, these were ordered to pay a fee. Overloading of the bridge reduced correspondingly within a short period of time.
Real-time condition monitoring thanks to Structural Health Monitoring
Despite the usefulness of WIM systems in providing modern bridge protection, they cannot provide any information on the actual condition of the structure. Further technologies frequently associated with condition monitoring and Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) therefore play a significant role. This involves the installation of sensors at key positions on the bridge to, for example, record vibrations or changes in the construction material. The quality of data is decisive for reliable condition monitoring. The entire measuring chain from sensor to software must be examined in this respect to ensure that what is seen on the monitor is as accurate a representation as possible of what is currently happening on and, indeed, “in” the bridge. With regard to real-time monitoring, particular attention must be paid to the achievement of high-quality signal transmission and data acquisition.
In addition to strain sensors and accelerometers as individual components, the Kistler Group also provides complete solutions from sensor to cloud. K-Beam accelerometers from Kistler have been installed in the piers of the Great Belt Bridge in Denmark, a structure which has spanned the Great Belt strait in the Baltic Sea since 1998. These compact sensors continually record changes in natural frequency in real time that could indicate a possible deterioration in the condition of the bridge. Turnkey systems consisting of sensor technology, the KiDAQ data acquisition system and a customized software dashboard are also increasingly employed. Solutions of this kind enable authorities and bridge owners to monitor the condition of these structures continuously and reliably, and they provide support when planning everything from maintenance management to new constructions.