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How will the new AASHTO loading specifications affect you?

Precasters who manufacture underground products such

as box culverts and pump chambers have for many years designed their
products for AASHTO HS20-44 or Alternate Military Loading (Interstate
Loading), whichever produces the worst condition on the structure. They are
beginning to see specifications for projects that require an AASHTO HL93
truck load. How will the new loading specifications affect future designs for
underground structures that are currently based on the requirements of the
old loading specifications?
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
(AASHTO) was created in 1914 to provide guidelines for the design of
structures within highway boundaries. State Department officials volunteer
their services to generate necessary specifications. The document titled
Standard Specifications for Highway Bridges has for many years defined
the load and design requirements for underground precast (or cast-in-place)
concrete structures. The recommendations from this document are included
in ASTM specifications written for underground precast concrete structures
such as C478, C890, C913, C1443 and C1557.
The most recent edition of the Standard Specifications for Highway Bridges
is the 17th edition, published in 2002. The design methods in those 17
editions included the Allowable Stress Design (ASD) and Ultimate Load Factor
Design (LFD).
The truck loads first used had the designation of H20 (see Figure 1), which
covered a two-axle truck weighing 20 tons. The front axle carried 8,000
pounds and the rear axle, 14 feet away, carried 32,000 pounds. The 1944
edition included the HS20 truck load and started a policy of affixing the year
to loadings making HS20-44 the official designation. The additional S made
an allowance for heavier tractor-trailers that were available at the time.
Figure 2 describes the load and load spacing for HS20-44.

As the Interstate Highway System evolved in the 1950s, one of its goals was
to transport military vehicles. The Alternative Military Load (also referred to
as Interstate Load) was created to cover axle loads from heavy military
equipment. This new load, shown in Figure 3, consists of two axles 4 feet
apart with each axle carrying a load of 24,000 pounds.

A system of lane loads was created to provide a simpler method of

calculating moments and shears rather than using concentrated wheel loads
shown in Figures 1 and 2. The lane loads are used in designs of bridge decks
that consist of several lanes on multiple spans. They are not used for design
of structures below grade, because the concrete boxes normally consist of
single spans that are relatively short when compared with bridge spans.
There was some concern during the end of the 20th century that the HS20
truck load did not adequately reflect actual conditions. As a result, some
engineers have required an HS25 truck load for underground precast
structures. This rating has been interpreted as being 25 percent higher than
the HS20 truck load. Thus, the HS20 axle load of 32,000 pounds becomes an
HS25 axle load of 40,000 pounds. The increased load can in some cases
create the need for additional reinforcing steel and sometimes a thicker top
slab on underground structures installed in areas exposed to heavy truck

In recent years, AASHTO has created the document titled LRFD Bridge
Design Specifications. The current 3rd edition was published in 2004 with a
2005 interim. The purpose of the LRFD (Load and Resistance Factor Design)
document is not to make all existing bridges obsolete, but to provide a
design of new bridges that includes benefits from statistics, research and
new materials. Load and resistance coefficients are slightly different, but the
results are similar. The Federal Highway Administration has endorsed the
new LRFD method and encouraged its adoption for new bridge designs
after 2007. As a result, precast concrete manufacturers are seeing contract
documents that require AASHTO HL93 truck loads.
The HL93 designation consists of a design truck plus design lane
load or design tandem plus design lane load, whichever produces
the worst case. A design truck is identical to the HS20 load
configurations shown in Figure 2. The design tandem is the same as shown
in Figure 3 except that the axle load is 25,000 pounds rather than 24,000
pounds. The term lane load is new and applies to design of above
grade bridge decks. It does not apply to below ground structures.
This is confirmed in ASTM C1577, which states that the tables were created
using the AASHTO HL 93 live load without the lane load as permitted by

Many precast manufacturers pose the question, How does the new HL93
load affect design of structures that were designed with wheel loads
specified in the old document Standard Specifications for Highway
Bridges? The term wheel load is used because spans on most underground
structures are so small that only one wheel can be on top of the structure at
any given time. A wheel load is one-half of the axle load.

A comparison of old versus new indicates that the difference is very small.
The HL93 design truck wheel load is the same as the HS20 wheel load. The
HL93 design tandem wheel load is 12,500 pounds compared with the
Alternate Military Load of 12,000 pounds. The extra 500-pound wheel load
is not a large increase and will only affect those designs that did not have
excess capacity.
Designs that were based on HS25 loads can in some cases be capable of
carrying the new design truck load. A 20,000-pound wheel load for HS25 is
larger than the 16,000-pound design truck load in HL93.
Wheel loads affect the top slab design more than wall and bottom slab. This
is especially true where the slab is less than 2 feet below grade. The effect of
the wheel load on the slab decreases as depth of cover increases. Wall
design in the majority of cases will not be affected by the small increase in
loads required by the LRFD Bridge Design Specification. The same is true of
the bottom slab design.
It can be concluded that the new loads may affect existing designs, but the
difference between old and new does not mean that all designs need to be
updated. The small increases will not affect designs that have excess
capacity. Those designs that minimized reinforcing steel and slab thickness
to create a structure that was just good enough may need to be reviewed.
These conclusions are based on a comparison of wheel loads and do not
include the many other factors used in design. Items such as impact, depth
of cover, load and resistance coefficients all play a part in the final design. A
true comparison of designs must be made based on criteria used in the
precasters previous calculations.
A comparison of two ASTM specifications demonstrates that old designs are
not inferior to new designs using LRFD. ASTM C1433 was written for box
culverts using the older load factor design (LFD), while ASTM C1577 was
written for box culverts using the newer LRFD design. Some of the steel
areas required in the newer specifications are less than steel areas required
in the older specification. This comparison confirms that the new HL93
loading is not meant to cause redesign of underground precast structures.