With more than 220,000 U.S. bridges, 36 percent of them in need of repair work, and 79,500 needing to be replaced, bridge inspections, maintenance, and repair may be at an all-time high.

In addition, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s (ARTBA) 2021 Bridge Conditions Report found that more than 45,000 bridges are in poor condition and were classified as “structurally deficient” (SD) in 2020.

How Highway Bridge Inspections Work for Rating Bridge Structures

Most everyone in the highway bridge construction and maintenance industry is familiar with the requirement of routine bridge inspections.

The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) bridge inspection program, and the subsequent National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS), were developed after the tragic Silver Bridge collapse in West Virginia in 1967, which resulted in 46 people dying.

The program has expanded over the years to include state and municipally owned bridges in addition to those that are part of the federal highway system. The rules for various inspections and standards, such as the frequency of inspections and regulations for qualifications of inspectors have expanded over the five decades.

Most highway bridges are inspected every two years, with certain bridges inspected more often.

Each municipality or state that owns and maintains these bridges must submit the inspection reports to their respective state DOTS, which are, in turn, required to provide them to the Federal Highway ­Administration.

Bridge inspections can range from “routine” to special inspections depending on the purpose and circumstances. 

As one publication has noted,

“Inspectors, who are trained engineers, largely perform detailed visual inspections of the three major structures of a bridge — the deck on which vehicles drive, the structure that carries the deck, and the substructure or culverts that hold up that superstructure. Other inspection methods are used underwater or when needed to determine whether corrosion has affected the weight a bridge can carry.

If any of the three structures of a bridge is rated 4 or below on a 9-point scale, the bridge is rated as poor, said Andy Herrmann, past president of the American Society of Civil Engineers.”

According to the point scale, all new bridges are rated 9, while bridges with little or no wear are rated at a 7 or an 8. Those highway bridges considered to be in fair or satisfactory condition show some signs of deterioration or minor loss or cracking. Based on the NBIS scale, these structures are rated 5 or 6.

If a bridge is given a 4 rating, that simply means there is advanced deterioration or section loss, but the primary structural components are still sound. However, a rating of 3 means the bridges’ structural components are starting to see substantial deterioration.

And a 2 or 1 rating means there are significantly critical issues or even that an imminent failure of the structure is possible.

What many industry insiders are also familiar with are the various types of under bridge access equipment used by inspectors.

The Case for Under Bridge Platform Equipment Rentals

Because of the sheer height and width of many highway bridges, it is impossible to gain access to the underside of most structures without some type of equipment.

In fact, for most bridges that must be inspected regularly, any portion of the structure beyond the bridge deck itself must be accessed with scaffolding, rope rigging, floating platforms, or – more efficiently – under bridge platforms.

But the problem for many inspectors and contractors working highway bridges is the prohibitive cost of these specialized pieces of equipment.

As one service provider has noted,

“Although bridges with simple structures can be inspected on foot and using basic equipment, inspection of complex bridge structures require the use of an assortment of tools. Inspectors and authorities may have to recruit diving teams and use watercraft for effective inspection of bridge structures constructed over water bodies. 

Additionally, checking the underside of bridges may require using under-bridge-inspection-trucks or suspension rigs. The high cost of ownership and maintenance of these equipment coupled with the requirement of skilled labor to operate them is expected to hamper bridge inspection system market growth.”

The most cost-effective solution, however, is renting the specific equipment required for each project on a “as-needed” basis.

No need for massive amounts of capital outlay for machinery that may be used a few times a year. And this approach also eliminates the difficulties of trying to accommodate the particular capacities of one under bridge platform unit with the varying reach requirements of different bridges. 

For the Best in Under Bridge Platforms and Bridge Access Equipment

The need for gaining under bridge access is an ongoing one for engineers, inspectors, and contractors conducting bridge work. And this includes work involved in the inspecting, the maintaining, and repairing of all highway bridges.

Which means having reliable under bridge access is also a regular part of your line of work.

The experts at Under Bridge Platforms are proud to serve all of the Western States, including California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, and Wyoming, by providing the best selection of high quality under bridge access equipment.

We are a professional equipment provider you can rely on us to guide you through the process of buying or renting the right under bridge inspection vehicle and equipment. No matter the size or type of project, the team at Under Bridge Platforms is here to help you make the proper selection. 

We take a great deal of pride in being the only company in our industry based in California that offers total under bridge access. Because we believe in providing only quality customer service, we have managed to build long-lasting relationships with our esteemed customers.

Contact us today and let us help take care of all your under bridge platform needs.