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Section 4: Legal Loads and Load Posting

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Definition of State Legal Loads

State Legal Loads may safely use any of our highways and bridges. Some routes and many bridges must be load-posted to protect them from possible damage. At this time, a load capacity of HS-20 is considered to best represent the State Legal Load for evaluation of the need for load posting.

Truck loads in Texas are considered legal if the gross load, axle load, axle configuration, length, and width are within the current size and weight laws or rules. The applicable laws are contained in the current volume of the Texas Transportation Code.32 See Section 623.0111 of the Texas Transportation Code for permit fees for selected numbers of counties, and see Section 201.8035 for requirements related to the notification of off-system municipalities and counties of deficient bridges.

The laws also provide for additional rules and regulations regarding truck weights and configurations as may be formulated by the Texas Transportation Commission.

In general, the laws require that the maximum gross load on any truck cannot exceed 80,000 lbs, the maximum load on any pair of tandem axles cannot exceed 34,000 lbs, and the maximum load on any single axle cannot exceed 20,000 lbs. Total length must not exceed 65 feet and total width must not exceed 96 inches. However, in 1989 the Texas Legislature enabled truck owners to pay an annual fee to allow their gross legal loads to be increased by 5 percent with any individual maximum axle load increased by 10 percent.33 The bill was considered controversial because it allowed travel on any bridge, on- or off-system, even if it is load restricted. This portion of the Transportation Code was amended during the 77th Legislative Session to restrict vehicles possessing a permit of this type from crossing load restricted bridges unless the bridge is the only vehicular access.

There are other so-called legal loads, sometimes referred to as Bonded Trucks, such as ready-mix trucks, utility-pole trucks, garbage trucks, mobile cranes, oil well servicing equipment, etc., that have special rules passed by the legislature allowing special categories of loads and lengths exceeding the normal limits for trucks.

Most State Legal Loads do not have a greater effect on bridges than the current HS-20 design total gross load of 72,000 lbs even though they may have a total legal weight of 84,000 lbs.34 This apparent contradiction is due to the different axle load configurations and numbers of axles.

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Load Posting

Load posting is often required for structures that, due to their original design or condition, do not have the structural capacity to safely carry the State Legal Loads. Posting is usually necessary for bridges designed at a time when the design truck for the particular stretch of roadway was only H-10 or H-15, meaning gross truck loads of 20,000 or 30,000 lbs. Structures may be posted at Operating Rating levels provided that the condition ratings exceed those defined in Figure 5-3 and Figure 5-4 and other requirements are met. Otherwise, if the Condition Ratings are less than those defined, the Posting must be at Inventory Rating level of the corresponding element (i.e. if the Condition Rating of the superstructure on a particular bridge is a 5, and the Condition Rating of the substructure is a 4, then the Posting is at the Inventory Rating level of the substructure, not the superstructure).

A load posting of a given truck size actually means that two trucks of the posted capacity to safely pass on the bridge. This concept is often misinterpreted by those doing load ratings and making load posting recommendations. It is recognized that a bridge posted for an HS-5 (18,000 lbs gross load) can safely carry a single truck of significantly more than 18,000 lbs. No method ensures that only a single truck is on the bridge. Therefore, assume that two trucks of the same size could be passing on the bridge simultaneously.

However, some bridges, particularly off-system, are load posted assuming only one rating truck even though they may be wider than 18 feet. This condition usually occurs due to the volume of truck traffic, structure width or approach roadway width, striping, runners, etc., making them functionally one-lane bridges for trucks.

It is important to recognize that even though a bridge may have been designed to an H-15 loading, it may not need to be load posted due to considerations discussed previously, such as reinforcement or member size in excess of the theoretical amount, more liberal load distribution now used in analysis, and LF analysis methods which usually increase Inventory Ratings significantly more than the original design loading.

Senate Bill 220, 77th Legislature, 2001, amended Transportation Code, Section 621.301, to provide that a county may establish load limits for a county road or bridge only with the concurrence of the department. If a county determines that the load limit of a county bridge should be different than the load limit supported by a department inspection, the county must submit the proposed load limit to the district engineer. A request for a load limit must be accompanied by supporting documentation that is sealed by an engineer and that includes at a minimum: calculations supporting the proposed limit and a structural evaluation report documenting the condition of the bridge. The district engineer will give a concurrence to a county's proposal in writing. If the department does not indicate concurrence or non-concurrence in writing within 30 calendar days of receipt by the department of a request that included all required documentation, the proposed load limit must be deemed concurred with by the department. The department may review the load limit and withdraw this concurrence at any time by providing written notification to the county. A county may appeal the decision of the district engineer by submitting a written request along with the required documentation to the executive director. The executive director will review the request and determine if department concurrence will be granted. The executive director's decision is final.

Supply the recommended load posting of all off-system bridges to the affected municipalities and counties. TxDOT provides the necessary posting signs and placement hardware. If the local jurisdiction elects not to post the bridge, all federal funds could be jeopardized or delayed for all transportation-related projects, on- or off-system, in that county.

Send a list of off-system bridges that are recommended for load posting by certified mail to the owner of the bridges. A signed copy of the cover letter is returned to TxDOT from the local jurisdiction official. Subsequently, after the appropriate load zone signs have been prepared by TxDOT, a letter is sent notifying the local jurisdiction as to where the signs and hardware may be picked up along with installation instructions. After the signs are installed, the local jurisdiction returns a statement of compliance to TxDOT. Use photographs to document installation of load restriction signs, and then submit them to the inspection file for historical reference.

Typical load posting signs are shown in Figure 5-5.35 Texas must comply with posting time limits, which are set by the Code of Federal Regulations. The time limit for initial or revised posting after bridge inspection is 90 days after the change in status for on-system bridges. This time limit is extended to 180 days for off-system bridges.36

On-System Load Posting Guidelines (click in image to see full-size image) Anchor: #CACJCAECgrtop

Figure 5-3. On-System Load Posting Guidelines

NOTE: * Permit Loads will not be allowed on bridges that are load posted.

" If the bridge has not been rehabilitated or replaced in 24 months then the structure shall be closed.

I.F. - Inspection Frequency.

OR - Operating Rating (Item 64)

IR - Inventory Rating (Item 66)

Off-System Load Posting Guidelines (click in image to see full-size image) Anchor: #CACJEABFgrtop

Figure 5-4. Off-System Load Posting Guidelines

NOTE: * Permit Loads will not be allowed on bridges that are load posted.

If the bridge has not been rehabilitated or replaced in 24 months then the structure shall be closed.

I.F. - Inspection Frequency.

OR - Operating Rating (Item 64)

IR - Inventory Rating (Item 66)

Typical Load Posting Signs (click in image to see full-size image) Anchor: #CACJFAFAgrtop

Figure 5-5. Typical Load Posting Signs

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Procedures for Changing On-System Bridge Load Posting

The following table outlines the procedure for changing the load posting of an on-system bridge.

Anchor: #i1004286Table 5-1: Changing Load Posting of an On-System Bridge

Step

Responsible Party

Action

1

Consultant/District/BRG

Inspector determines a change in posting status based on condition ratings and load rating of the structure. A change in posting status may result from one of the following:

  • a new load restriction
  • a revision to an existing load restriction
  • a removal of a load restriction

2

Consultant/District/BRG

  • Submit Form 1083R, bridge inspection record, plans and supporting calculations to TxDOT Bridge Division within 30 days of inspection date.

3

Bridge Division Load Rating Engineer

  • The date that the Bridge Division Load Rating Engineer receives 1083R starts the 90 day time period for posting On-System bridges.
  • Record this date in the Bridge Load Posting database and on Form 1083R.
  • Review the recommendation and perform more detailed analysis, if necessary.

4a

Bridge Division Load Rating Engineer

Disapproval of recommendation:

  • Notify the District that the recommendation was not approved.
  • Update the Bridge Load Posting database with this information and complete Form 1083R.
  • Scan the form and upload it to the structure's file in PonTex with the file name format: DD-CCC-CCCC-SS-SSS_LPR_YYYY-MM-DD (Load Posting Request with date of disapproval).
  • If the Load Rating Engineer performed a separate analysis, scan the load rating and uploads it to the structure's file in PonTex with the file name format: DD-CCC-CCCC-SS-SSS_LR_YYYY-MM-DD (Load Rating with date signed and sealed).

4b

Bridge Division Load Rating Engineer

Approval of recommendation or modifies recommendation:

  • Calculate the appropriate posting level.
  • Forward Form 1083R with the Load Rating Engineer's load posting recommendation to the Bridge Division Director for approval.
  • Record the approval date in the Bridge Load Posting database and on Form 1083R.

5a

Bridge Division Director

Approval of recommendation:

  • Record the approval date on Form 1083R and sign form.
  • Return form 1083R to Bridge Division Load Rating Engineer.

5b

Bridge Division Director

Approval of recommendation:

  • Record the disapproval date on Form 1083R and sign form.
  • Return Form 1083R to Bridge Division Load Rating Engineer.

6a

Bridge Division Load Rating Engineer

Upon Bridge Division Director Approval:

  • If the Load Rating Engineer performed a separate analysis, scan the load rating and upload it to the structure's file in PonTex with the file name format: DD-CCC-CCCC-SS-SSS_LR_YYYY-MM-DD (Load Rating with date signed and sealed).
  • Forward Form 1083R to Bridge Division QA/QC Engineer.
  • Scan the load posting calculations and upload them to the structure's file in PonTex with the file name format: DD-CCC-CCCC-SS-SSS_LPSign_YYYY-MM-DD (Load Posting Sign with date of Administrative approval).
  • Record the date of Bridge Division Director approval in the Bridge Load Posting database.

6b

Bridge Division Load Rating Engineer

Upon Bridge Division Director Disapproval:

  • If the Load Rating Engineer performed a separate analysis, scan the load rating and upload it to the structure's file in PonTex with the file name format: DD-CCC-CCCC-SS-SSS_LR_YYYY-MM-DD (Load Rating with date signed and sealed).
  • Forward Form 1083R to Bridge Division QA/QC Engineer.
  • Scan the load posting calculations and upload them to the structure's file in PonTex with the file name format: DD-CCC-CCCC-SS-SSS_LPSign_YYYY-MM-DD (Load Posting Sign with date of Administrative disapproval).
  • Record the date of Bridge Division Director disapproval in the Bridge Load Posting database.

7

Bridge Division QA/QC Engineer

Upon receipt of the approved load posting recommendation from the Load Rating Engineer:

  • Provide approval notification to the District.
  • Record this date in the Bridge Load Posting database and on Form 1083R.
  • Send follow-up emails to the District at 45 days, 60 days, and 75 days after the date that the Load Rating Engineer was notified of a recommended status change.

8

District

Upon receipt of recommendation approval notification, take one of the following actions:

  • New Load Posting or Load Posting Revision- Immediately order load posting signs and erect the signs upon their receipt.
  • Load Posting Removal - Immediately remove load posting signs.

9

District

After signs have been placed or removed:

  • Notify the QA/QC Engineer that the signs have been erected/removed at the bridge, and include the completion date.
  • Document the placement or removal of signs with photos.

10

Bridge Division QA/QC Engineer

Upon receiving district notification:

  • Enter the erected/removed date on Form 1083R and record the date in the Bridge Load Posting database.
  • Notify the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and the Texas Department of Safety (DPS) of the status change for the structure. The notification includes: District name, county name, the facility carried, the feature crossed, latitude and longitude, the status prior to the change, and the changed status of the bridge.
  • Record the DMV and DPS notification dates in the Bridge Load Posting database.
  • Scan the completed 1083R form and upload it to the structure's file in PonTex with the file name format: DD-CCC-CCCC-SS-SSS_LPR_YYYY-MM-DD (Load Posting Request with date of Administrative approval).


Under the following conditions, the District submits to the Bridge Division's Inspection Branch a completed Form 1083R showing reasons for a restriction removal:

  • Repair or rehabilitation of a bridge that increases load capacity and eliminates a load restriction.
  • Construction of a new bridge that replaces one with a load restriction.
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Procedures for Emergency On-System Bridge Load Posting

The following table outlines the procedure for changing the load posting of an on-system bridge in an emergency.

Anchor: #i1004318Table 5-2: Changing Load Posting of an On-System Bridge in an Emergency

Step

Responsible Party

Action

1

District

Notify the Bridge Division’s Inspection Branch by telephone that an emergency load restriction is required. Identify deficiencies that justify the placement of an emergency load limit.

2

Bridge Division

Work with the District to determine the load limit, if required, and verbally authorize an emergency load restriction for a period not to exceed 60 days if necessary.

3

Bridge Division

Prepare a letter to the District for signature by the Director of the Bridge Division authorizing the temporary load limits and specifying the duration of the temporary limit.

4

Bridge Division

Verbally notify the District of official approval of the emergency load limit.

5

Bridge Division

Notify the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and the Texas Department of Public Safety of any bridge load restriction.

6

District

On receipt of verbal approval by the Bridge Division, immediately erect signs indicating the emergency load limit.


If the emergency load limit is required for a period longer than 60 days, the District should submit a request to the Bridge Division for the emergency load restriction to remain in place for another 60 days. If the bridge is not replaced or repaired before the emergency load restriction extension expires, the District should submit a request to the Bridge Division for a permanent load restriction following the procedures for changing on-system bridge load postings.

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Closure of Weak Bridges

Close bridges with less than an HS-3 Operating Rating capacity pursuant to the Texas Load Posting Guidelines presented in Figure 5-3 and Figure 5-4. Follow these policies for on-system bridges and they are strongly recommended for the municipalities and counties with jurisdiction over off-system bridges. Bridges with Inventory Ratings less than HS-3 but with Operating Ratings greater than HS-3 may remain open for a limited amount of time. If it is desired to leave a bridge in this category open, then inspect it every six months and ensure the bridge is programmed for rehabilitation or replacement within two years. Close the bridge if after 24 months it has not been rehabilitated or replaced.

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Procedures for Closing an Off-System Bridge

If inspection reveals deterioration that affects an off-system bridge’s ability to safely carry vehicular traffic, the department may use the following procedure to recommend that it be closed for safety reasons:

Anchor: #i1004350Recommending Off-System Bridge Closures

Step

Responsible Party

Action

1

Consultant/District/BRG

Inspector immediately notifies the District and the Inspection Branch of the Bridge Division if a bridge should be closed based on the results of an inspection.

2

District

The district will verify as soon as possible the condition of a bridge recommended for closure by a consultant.

3

District

The District will immediately notify the local entity of a valid closure recommendation, and offer to meet representatives of the local entity at the bridge location. The District will inform the local entity that its participation in the TxDOT Participation Waived and Equivalent Match Program depends on full compliance with departmental closure and posting recommendations and that failure to follow closure recommendations could result in the loss of federal funds. The District will promptly update the Bridge Inspection database to reflect the closure recommendation. (See Item 41 in the Coding Guide.)"

NOTE: TxDOT will not conduct another formal inspection of the bridge until it is repaired or replaced.

4

Local Entity

Close the bridge and notify the District when the bridge is closed to traffic.

5

District

Verify closure of the bridge upon receipt of notification and include a photo or certified documentation verifying the closure in the bridge inspection file. Promptly update the Bridge Inspection database to reflect the closure status of the bridge. (See Item 41 in the Coding Guide.")

6

District

If the bridge will remain closed for an extended period of time, the district will verify and document with a photo that the bridge is still closed to traffic as part of the regular inspection cycle.


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Procedures for Changing Off-System Bridge Load Posting

Use the following procedure to place, modify or remove load restrictions for off-system bridges where an inspection and subsequent load rating show that the bridge's ability to safely carry state legal loads is compromised:

Anchor: #i1051563Recommending Off-System Load Posting Changes

Step

Responsible Party

Action

1

Consultant/District/BRG

Inspector determines a change in posting status based on condition ratings and load rating of the structure. A change in posting status may result from one of the following:

  • a new load restriction
  • a revision to an existing load restriction
  • a removal of a load restriction
  • replacement of missing or damaged signs
2

District

Upon receipt of a recommendation for a change in load restriction, take the following actions:

  • Notify the local entity that owns the bridge of the recommended change in load restriction.
  • If the recommendation involves a new load posting, a load posting revision, or replacement of missing or damaged signs, immediately order the necessary signs.
  • If the recommendation involves a removal of a load restriction, notify the local entity that the existing signage can be removed.
  • The entire process for changing an off-system load restriction is not to exceed 180 days from the time the recommendation for change is made. Monitor the timeline to ensure that this requirement is met.
3

District

Take the following steps if signs are ordered for a load posting implementation:

  • Monitor sign making request for delivery. If signs have not been received within 30 days contact GSD sign shop to follow-up. If sign orders continue to be delayed then the issue should be elevated to district administration or the Bridge Division.
  • Once signs have been delivered, immediately notify the local entity that signs and hardware are ready for pick up. This process should be documented in writing or e-mail.
  • Monitor sign pick up by local entity. If signs have not been picked up within 30 days then a reminder should be sent and documented. If signs have not been picked up within 15 days after reminder then the issue should be elevated to district administration or the Bridge Division.
  • When the local entity picks up the signs and hardware have the local entity representative sign upon receipt.
  • Monitor sign installation by the local entity. If signs have not been installed within 30 days of receipt then a reminder should be sent and documented. If signs have not been picked up within 15 days after reminder then the issue should be elevated to district administration or the Bridge Division.
4

District

After signs have been placed or removed:

  • Document the placement or removal of signs with photos.


32. Texas Transportation Code, Title 7, Chapter 621.

33. Texas Transportation Code, Section 623.011.

34. Texas Transportation Code, Section 623.011.

35. Texas Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, 1980

36. “Closing and Posting Recommendations for Off-System Structures,” Memo from Robert L. Wilson, P.E., TxDOT, October 1997

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