U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Skip to content
Facebook iconYouTube iconTwitter iconFlickr iconLinkedInInstagram

Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

This report is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information
Back to Publication List        
Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-20-011    Date:  February 2020
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-20-011
Date: February 2020


Development of Guidelines for Bearing Resistance of Large Diameter Open-End Steel Piles

PDF Version (4.60 MB)

PDF files can be viewed with the Acrobat® Reader®


This report describes the development of guidelines for large diameter open-end piles (LDOEPs) made from steel. LDOEPs are a type of deep foundation element available for the support of transportation structures (e.g., bridges). In certain projects, for example, those with a need to support larger lateral, seismic, and axial loads, these foundations are preferred over similar size drilled shafts and/or pile groups because they provide a cost-effective solution while also addressing constructability and/or environmental concerns. However, current design guidance and codes are based on load tests for open-end piles with diameters less than 24 inches, casting doubt as to the reliability of static analysis methods to estimate the bearing resistance of LDOEPs in design. This report will be useful for geotechnical and bridge engineers, consultants, and contractors.

Cheryl Allen Richter, P.E., Ph.D.
Director, Office of Infrastructure
Research and Development


This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) in the interest of information exchange. The U.S. Government assumes no liability for the use of the information contained in this document.

The U.S. Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trademarks or manufacturers' names appear in this report only because they are considered essential to the objective of the document.

Quality Assurance Statement

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provides high-quality information to serve Government, industry, and the public in a manner that promotes public understanding. Standards and policies are used to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of its information. FHWA periodically reviews quality issues and adjusts its programs and processes to ensure continuous quality improvement.

Technical Report Documentation Page

1. Report No.


2. Government Accession No. 3 Recipient's Catalog No.
4. Title and Subtitle

Development of Guidelines for Bearing Resistance of Large Diameter Open-End Steel Piles

5. Report Date

February 2020

6. Performing Organization Code
7. Author(s)

Kathryn Petek, PhD, PE
Michael McVay, PhD*, and
Robert Mitchell, PE

8. Performing Organization Report No.

21-1-22024-007 R1

9. Performing Organization Name and Address

Shannon & Wilson, Inc.
400 North 34th Street, Suite 100
Seattle, WA 98103

*University of Florida,
Gainesville, Florida 32611-6580

10. Work Unit No. (TRAIS)
11. Contract or Grant No.


12. Sponsoring Agency Name and Address

Office of Infrastructure Research and Development
Federal Highway Administration
6300 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA 22101-2296

13. Type of Report and Period Covered

Technical Report; September 2014–May 2019

14. Sponsoring Agency Code


15. Supplementary Notes

The Contracting Officer's Representative was Dr. Jennifer Nicks (HRDI-40). Technical Reviewers included Naser Abu Hejleh, Michael Adams, and Silas Nichols.

16. Abstract

This FHWA project seeks to research bearing resistance of large diameter open-end piles (LDOEPs) using the load and resistance factor design framework. The research evaluates existing static design methods using a new load test data set of steel LDOEPs in cohesive, cohesionless, and mixed soil conditions. The analysis includes development of steel LDOEP-specific resistance factors for each of the design methods considering multiple load test failure criteria, combinations of design methods, and combinations of side and base conditions. Statistical analysis and resistance factor calibration is performed using First Order Second Moment, First Order Reliability Method, and Monte Carlo simulations. The numerous combinations of methods and considerations result in over 6,000 resistance factor values. Resistance factor trends and considerations are discussed. The report concludes with a recommended design approach for LDOEPs and recommended resistance factors for LDOEP design.

17. Key Words

Large diameter open-end pile, LDOEP, driven piles, bearing resistance, bridge foundations

18. Distribution Statement

No restrictions. This document is available through the National Technical Information Service, Springfield, VA 22161.

19. Security Classification
(of this report)


20. Security Classification
(of this page)


21. No. of Pages


22. Price


Form DOT F 1700.7 (8-72) Reproduction of completed page authorized
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000
Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center | 6300 Georgetown Pike | McLean, VA | 22101