Why is bridge protection necessary?
Bridges are sensitive components of the traffic infrastructure, and their lifetimes are limited. Traffic volumes are soaring all over the world and many bridge structures are in the process of aging – two factors that combine to create a hazardous situation. Many bridges were built decades ago and were designed based on the standards and assumptions, or the traffic loads to be expected, at that time. Today, many of these bridges are subject to significantly higher traffic volumes than were originally considered and are therefore experiencing greater strain and wear. The structures are subjected to greater stress and there are no precise findings regarding their current condition.
In general, it is not easy to identify stressed structures from the outside. Structural collapse often occurs abruptly and can be triggered by a single factor (for example, an overloaded truck).
How can bridges be effectively protected?
Certified experts determine the condition of a bridge at legally prescribed intervals. Furthermore, the remaining useful life of bridges is regularly recalculated in accordance with national standards. These kinds of inspections and recalculations are time consuming and require experts to conduct on-site tours of inspection.
By attaching sensors directly to the bridge as well as in its immediate surroundings, certain parameters that provide indications for the bridge's condition can be automatically and continuously recorded and evaluated. Once a bridge reaches critical condition, measures can be taken: for example, the traffic flow can be regulated or the bridge can be closed completely.
What systems are there to monitor and protect bridges?
Before the bridge:
A Weigh In Motion system to acquire weight data can identify overloaded vehicles early on, before the bridge, and reroute them so that they do not drive over the bridge.
On the bridge:
A system to acquire traffic data (weight, vehicle classes, traffic density, etc.) and additional installed sensors can help to compare the load that the bridge is effectively subjected to with the legal standards and the fundamental dimensioning principles. This also allows for more precise recalculation results. Subsequently, this makes it possible to better prioritize necessary bridge maintenance work in accordance with the higher or lower actual load.