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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 66 · No. 5 > National Highway Institute

March/April 2003
Vol. 66 · No. 5

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The National Highway Institute (NHI)

901 N. Stuart Street, Suite 300

Arlington, VA 22203

New Course Updates Inspection Techniques for Steel Bridges

With approximately 25,000 steel bridges in the United States that potentially are vulnerable to cracking and other failures, inspectors need the most up-to-date techniques and technologies. To meet this need, the Federal Highway Administration's National Highway Institute (NHI) developed a new 3.5-day course, Fracture Critical Inspection Techniques for Steel Bridges (#130078A). The new course provides participants with information on crack initiation and propagation, failure mechanisms, and places to look for fractures on steel bridges.

Developed in 2002, the new offering replaces an older course, Inspection of Fracture Critical Bridge Members (#13036). NHI reformatted and expanded the course to include hands-on workshops for employing popular types of non-destructive testing equipment, including dye penetrant, magnetic particle, and ultrasonic testing. The updated curriculum reflects current practices and addresses new and emerging technologies for bridge inspectors, such as the expanded use of eddy current and acoustic emissions testing.

An inspector checks a steel bridge pin

Using ultrasonic testing, an inspector checks a steel bridge pin.

The first day focuses on fracture critical members (FCMs), explaining failure mechanics and fatigue in metal and how to identify cracks. Days 2, 3, and part of the fourth day introduce nondestructive testing equipment through hands-on demonstrations and cover inspection procedures and reporting for common FCMs such as steel cover plates, I-girders, floor beams, trusses, box girders, pin and hanger assemblies, arch ties, eye bars, cross girders, and pier caps.

Upon completing the course, participants will be able to:

  • Identify fracture critical bridges, fracture critical bridge members, and fatigue-prone details.
  • Categorize the factors that contribute to the initiation and propagation of fatigue cracks.
  • Perform an intensive, in-depth, and thorough inspection of fracture critical members.
  • Identify various crack types and assess their impact on the performance of the member.
  • Evaluate, select, and facilitate the use of available nondestructive testing methods.
  • Recommend a necessary course of action based on inspection findings.

Bridge inspectors, supervisors, project engineers, maintenance engineers, shop inspectors, shop foremen, and others responsible for the fabrication and field inspection of fracture critical steel bridge members will benefit most from the training. Participants should have completed NHI's course, Engineering Concepts for Bridge Inspectors (#130054) and/or Safety Inspection of In-Service Bridges (#130055), or possess equivalent field experience to understand bridge mechanics and safety inspection procedures as required by the National Bridge Inspection Standards.

To learn more, consult the course catalog on NHI's Web site at

For scheduling, contact Danielle Mathis-Lee at 703-235-0528, For technical information, contact Tom Everett at 410-962-3743,

United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration