Quantification of the Joint Effect of Wheel Load and Tire Inflation Pressure on Pavement Response

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

ridership - elasticity, mode - rail


Wheel rail interaction, Wheel loads, Tire pressure, Tire pavement interface, Tensile strains, Subgrade (Pavements), Rolling contact, Roadbeds, Pavement subgrades, Pavement performance, Linear elasticity, Highway subgrade, Computer programs, Compressive strains, Asphalt pavements


Most pavement design and analysis procedures predict performance on the basis of expected pavement damage under traffic loads expected during design life. Some failure criteria are primarily dependent on wheel loads and almost independent of contact stresses. Others are primarily dependent on normal and shear stresses, not on load magnitude. Wheel load is used as a proxy for tire pressure to account for the effect of contact stresses indirectly. In most pavement design methods, tire-pavement contact stress is assumed to be equal to tire inflation pressure and to be uniformly distributed over a circular area. A methodology that explicitly accounts for the effect of tire inflation pressures and the corresponding contact stresses on pavement response is not available. In this research, pavement responses of typical pavement structures under the combined actions of variable wheel loads and tire pressures were evaluated. A multilayer, linear-elastic computer program was used to estimate three critical pavement responses: longitudinal and transverse tensile strains in asphalt and compressive strains in the subgrade. The differences of the strains estimated by the two models were statistically analyzed to quantify the effect of the assumption of uniform stress over a circular shape. The traditional model proved to be reliable to estimate compressive strains in the subgrade layer. The tensile strains in the asphalt layer under actual contact stress, however, were quite different from those under uniform constant stress. Contrary to initial expectation, for the general case, the assumption of uniform stresses is a conservative approach.