Bridges are major infrastructure projects that use highly skilled engineering techniques. But more than that, bridge construction entails using specialized machinery. While the type of equipment used depends on a particular project, some tools are best suited for specific purposes, while others form basic equipment for bridge construction.
Equipment used in bridge construction includes bridge access machinery like cranes and aerial lifts. It also comprises excavators for digging trenches and hauling equipment like skid loaders and telehandlers. Also, hydro platforms enable below bridge access while light towers offer extra lighting.
Bridges come in a wide range of sizes and shapes. They are built over highways or water bodies, and constructing them requires varied equipment over the course of the project. Keep reading to learn more about the equipment builders use when constructing bridges and for what purposes.
Equipment Used To Break Ground
Before bridge construction can even start, the ground must be prepared for the bridge supports. The ground must be broken and the materials must be moved. Bridge construction equipment must include those things to complete these first actions.
Let’s take a look at this first category of construction equipment.
Bridges boast different designs and structures, but they all have a foundation or substructure containing footings, piers, and abutments.
Also, while different bridges contain different substructures, their excavation requirements are generally similar. For instance, various bridges use different construction materials, while long bridges feature piers for extra support.
During the construction of a new bridge, an excavator is among the initial bridge construction equipment used. It helps remove rocks, dirt, and debris materials from the site that forms the base of the bridge. Excavators also help dig trenches for the substructures and may be used alongside drilling and blasting to remove underwater materials.
But once bridge construction gets underway, excavators have minimal use though they can transport dirt and rubble.
After removing most of the soil and dirt, skid loaders help get the bridge site in order by moving the piles of dirt and rocks to their appropriate place. They also move the backfill needed to hold abutments securely in place and ensure that the bridge area is level.
Backhoes are essential in creating a strong bridge foundation. You can use them to dig holes and trenches for piers and abutments like excavators or move dirt, rocks, and backfill holes if need be, like skid loaders.
Equipment Used To Move Materials
Once the ground is broken and the dirt and debris have been moved away, the next category of construction equipment includes equipment to move heavy materials used to construct the bridge.
Let’s look at those now.
Telehandlers serve as bridgework equipment useful for moving large materials.
Bridge workers often combine telehandlers with a platform to gain access to specific points on the bridge. However, unlike boom lifts, telehandlers are not as adjustable.
A telehandler works like a forklift, but instead of the latter’s limited up-and-down motion, the telehandler offers an extended reach plus greater capacity. Moreover, it contains the same kind of attachments available on a forklift, though they’re much larger.
An aerial lift is a type of bridge construction equipment that enables you to gain safe access to various parts of the bridge during construction.
Most bridge access equipment is designed to fulfill a special need, and aerial lifts are no exception. They are particularly helpful in instances where builders require extra height, like when working on elements above the bridge deck.
The most commonly used aerial lifts are straight telescopic and articulated knuckle boom lifts.
They both feature a platform that rises high into the air, but knuckle boom lifts sport joints that make them more flexible and agile, thus suitable for smaller spaces. Conversely, straight telescopic boom lifts move in a straight line to provide maximum reach but offer limited flexibility.
The type of aerial lift to go for will thus depend on the kind of bridge, the reach you desire to attain, and the capacity you will be lifting.
Hydro Platforms and Vertical Masts
These two pieces of equipment are useful when working under the bridge deck. The dynamic duo helps you get access to the bridge deck underside with the vertical mast attaching to the bridge side.
On its part, the hydro platform attaches to the vertical mast’s bottom and can move workers up to 35’ (10.6 m) beneath the bridge.
Cranes are bridge construction equipment used to put the bridge substructure and superstructure in place. The construction work entails setting beams and culverts, but the cranes also serve as bridge access equipment, helping to place concrete in areas unreachable by trucks, such as tall piers.
They could also serve to get shoring in place, offering temporary bridge support during construction. There are several types of crane equipment:
- Floating crane: A floating crane or crane vessel is a specialized ship mounted with a crane. Bigger cranes boast a lifting capacity of 10,000+ tons (10,000,000+kg), with some crane barges capable of transporting sections of an entire bridge.
- Bridge crane or overhead crane: Bridge cranes help fix bridges, especially large ones. Bridge constructors use them primarily when structuring bridge pillars before placing slabs.
- Gantry crane: Grant cranes are a type of heavy machinery capable of lifting hefty loads. Though designed like bridge cranes, they have a different mode of mobility and are available in various options, including adjustable, full, portable, and semi-gantries.
Equipment Used To Construct the Bridge
Now that the materials are in place and the equipment for reaching high spaces is in place, construction crews also need to have the equipment to construct the actual bridge. Let’s look at these now.
Concrete saws help cut through differently sized concrete slabs used in bridge construction. Most of the bridge, including the foundation, substructure, and superstructure, is actually made of cement. As a result, concrete saws form an essential part of bridge construction tools.
Since construction workers work day and night to meet project timelines, they need light towers to provide maximum onsite visibility during the night. This helps to enhance safety, preventing accidents at a time of highly reduced visibility.
Light towers also provide additional visibility in sections of the bridge that are not well-lit during the daytime.
Safety is a crucial element in bridge construction, as it helps save lives, time and reduces overall project costs. As such, light towers form an extremely vital component in successful bridge construction.
Miscellaneous Construction Equipment
While the last three types of construction equipment are not necessarily used to construct the bridge, they are still necessary for successful bridge construction. They include a pressure washer, generator, and protective equipment.
Let’s discuss these further.
An enormous amount of dust, dirt, and debris accumulates on the bridge structure during construction. Afterward, pressure washers help get rid of this debris, leaving the bridge clean and ready for use.
Generators are not bridge construction equipment per se, but they play a crucial role in serving equipment that requires electricity to run. They also power construction trailers which serve as temporary offices for the construction personnel.
Portable generators are particularly convenient since you can move them between different site points.
To enhance personal safety and prevent bridge construction accidents, workers need to use protective gear and equipment. It’s also crucial for them to use proper equipment for the right job, such as bridge access equipment when accessing hard-to-reach parts of the bridge.
Some of the equipment includes:
- Fire control tools like fire blanketing.
- Protective footwear, gloves, and hard hats.
- High-visibility safety equipment like reflective clothing.
- Eye and face protection tools like face shields and safety glasses.
- Signage and barriers to control traffic near bridge construction sites.
As we have seen, bridge construction involves different tools and equipment, with most serving a specific purpose. Using the right equipment for the right job is therefore important in producing efficient, safe, and durable bridges.
If you manage a bridge construction project, you might want to use newer equipment models as they sport enhanced safety features and advanced technology. As a result, they help maximize productivity while creating sturdy bridges that last for years.
While this can be expensive, it’s possible to rent bridge construction equipment at a lower cost.
- Wikipedia: Abutment
- Wikipedia: Shoring
- My-equipment: Types of Heavy Construction Equipment Used in Building Bridges
- MacAllister Rentals: Best Rental Equipment for Bridge Construction
- Bridgemastersinc: 8 Must-Have Tools for Bridge Industry Professionals
- Bridgemastersinc: 10 Essential Safety Tools for Bridge Workers
- Quora: What Is the Equipment of Building a Bridge?
- The Engineering Community: A Short Definition of a Bridge Deck