Effects of Increased Weights of Alternative Fuel Trucks on Pavement and Bridges

Research Team: John Harvey (lead), Alissa Kendall (co-lead), Miguel Jaller (co-lead), Arash Saboori, Marshall Miller, Changmo Kim, Jon Lea, Ashkan Saboori

University: UC Davis

Problem Statement: California’s truck fleet composition is shifting to include more natural gas vehicles (NGVs), electric vehicles (EVs), and fuel cell vehicles (FCVs), and it will shift more quickly to meet state greenhouse gas (GHG) emission goals. These alternative fuel trucks (AFTs) may introduce heavier axle loads, which may increase pavement damage and GHG emissions from work to maintain pavements.

Project Description: This project aimed to provide conceptual-level estimates of the effects of vehicle fleet changes on road and bridge infrastructure. Three AFT implementation scenarios were analyzed using typical Calif. state and local pavement structures, and a federal study’s results were used to assess the effects on bridges. This study found that more NGV, EV, and FC trucks are expected among short-haul and medium-duty vehicles than among long-haul vehicles, for which range issues arise with EVs and FCs. But the estimates predicted that by 2050, alternative fuels would power 25–70% of long-haul and 40–95% of short-haul and medium-duty trucks. Results from the implementation scenarios suggest that introducing heavier AFTs will only result in minimal additional pavement damage, with its extent dependent on the pavement structure and AFT implementation scenario. Although allowing weight increases of up to 2,000 lbs. is unlikely to cause major issues on more modern bridges, the effects of truck concentrations at those new limits on inadequate bridges needs more careful evaluation.

Status: Completed

Budget: $63,745

Project Partner(s): California Legislature (in response to AB 2061)

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Policy Brief(s):
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