Factors affecting Pavement Design

By Shreya Laddha|Updated : December 2nd, 2021

Through Champion Study Plan for GATE Civil Engineering (CE) 2022, we are providing Factors affecting Pavement Design study notes and other important materials on every topic of each subject.

These topic-wise study notes are useful for the preparation of various upcoming exams like GATE CivilIESBARCISROSSC-JEState Engineering Services examinations and other important upcoming competitive exams.

The article contains fundamental notes on the "Factors affecting Pavement Design"  topic of the "Highway Engineering" subject. 

Factors affecting Pavement Design 

Traffic and loading

Traffic is the most important factor in pavement design. The key factors include contact pressure, wheel load, axle configuration, moving loads, load, and load repetitions.

  • Contact pressure: The tire pressure is an important factor, as it determines the contact area and the contact pressure between the wheel and the pavement surface. Even though the shape of the contact area is elliptical, for sake of simplicity in the analysis, a circular area is often considered.
  • Wheel load: The next important factor is the wheel load which determines the depth of the pavement required to ensure that the subgrade soil is not failed. Wheel configuration affects the stress distribution and detection within the pavement. Many commercial vehicles have dual rear wheels which ensure that the contact pressure is within the limits. The normal practice is to convert a dual-wheel into an equivalent single-wheel load so that the analysis is made simpler.
  • Axle configuration: The load-carrying capacity of the commercial vehicle is further enhanced by the introduction of multiple axles.
  • Moving loads: The damage to the pavement is much higher if the vehicle is moving at creep speed. Many studies show that when the speed is increased from 2 km/hr to 24 km/hr, the stresses and detection are reduced by 40 percent.
  • Repetition of Loads: The influence of traffic on the pavement not only depends on the magnitude of the wheel load, but also on the frequency of the load applications. Each load application causes some deformation and the total deformation is the summation of all these. Although the pavement deformation due to single axle load is very small, the cumulative effect of a number of load repetitions is significant. Therefore, modern design is based on the total number of standard axle loads (usually 80 kN single axle).

Material characterization

The following material properties are important for both Flexible and rigid pavements.

  • When pavements are considered as linear elastic, the elastic moduli and Poisson's ratio of subgrade and each component layer must be specified.
  • If the elastic modulus of a material varies with the time of loading, then the resilient modulus, which is elastic modulus under repeated loads, must be selected in accordance with a load duration corresponding to the vehicle speed.
  • When a material is considered non-linear elastic, the constitutive equation relating the resilient modulus to the state of the stress must be provided.
    However, many of these material properties are used in visco-elastic models which are very complex and in the development stage. This book covers the layered elastic model which requires the modulus of elasticity and Poisson's ratio only.

Environmental factors

Environmental factors affect the performance of pavement materials and cause various damages. Environmental
factors that affect pavement are of two types, temperature and precipitation and they are discussed

  • Temperature: The effect of temperature on asphalt pavements is different from that of concrete pavements. Temperature affects the resilient modulus of asphalt layers, while it induces curling of concrete slab. In rigid pavements, due to differences in temperatures of the top and bottom of the slab, temperature stresses or frictional stresses are developed.
    While in Flexible pavement, the dynamic modulus of asphaltic concrete varies with temperature. Frost heave causes differential settlements and pavement roughness. The most detrimental effect of frost penetration occurs during the spring break-up period when the ice melts and subgrade is a saturated condition.
  • Precipitation: The precipitation from rain and snow affects the quantity of surface water in filtrating into the subgrade and the depth of groundwater table. Poor drainage may bring a lack of shear strength, pumping, loss of support, etc.


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