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Although the IRC:58–2011 design method for concrete pavements was a major step
forward it still has many compelling issues at stake in the design aspects mainly due to so
much simplifications and assumptions in the application of versatile Mechanistic-Empirical
pavement design (MEPD) approach which otherwise has huge potential to provide an
optimize designed pavement structure. Succeeding paragraphs presents a detailed discussion
on all these issues.
1. Distress Prediction and Failure Criterion:
1.1 In IRC:58–2011, the rigid pavements are designed to resist both bottom-up as well as
top-down fatigue cracking damages. It was assumed that bottom-up fatigue cracking
will occur due to moving traffic loads during mid-day hours i.e. between 10 AM to 4
PM while top-down fatigue cracking will occur due to traffic movement during night
hours between 0 AM to 6 AM. Accordingly, a transfer function was used to evaluate
the allowable number of traffic load repetitions for each type of cracking mode or
mechanism i.e. bottom-up fatigue cracking and top-down fatigue cracking, separately.
Such approach is highly questionable due to following:
“The concrete slab is assumed to start with zero initial pavement damage (or
distress) immediately after construction stage and the damages due to each
subsequent load application are added to the existing damage. The pavement damage
due to each load application is calculated as a function of the ratio of applied load
stress to flexural strength of slab concrete. Using Miner's cumulative damage concept
(1945), pavement damage against assumed distress (say, fatigue cracking) is
expressed as a damage ratio between the predicted and the allowable number of load
repetitions. Fatigue damage in the concrete slab is related to cracking developed in it
as a result of either cracking mechanism or modes namely bottom-up fatigue cracking
or top-down fatigue cracking, depending upon the magnitude and sign (tension versus
compression) of the slab stresses. Both mechanisms give rise either to transverse
cracks, longitudinal cracks or corner cracks at critical (longitudinal or transverse)
edge in the concrete slab and consequently, resulting in fatigue cracking damage in
the concrete slab. Therefore, a coupling between these two mechanisms of fatigue
cracking is usually considered to relate the measurable physical distress (fatigue
cracking damage) with pavement response by a suitable transfer function.”
As such, separate consideration of fatigue damage by both cracking mechanism lead
to overestimation of the fatigue life (i.e. an increase in the number of axle repetitions
to failure) and consequently, result in unsafe design of the pavement structure and the
pavement structure designed using such design procedure may exhibit premature
failure due to fatigue cracking. Therefore, instead of using equation 2 (or equations 7
and 8 given on page 20 of IRC:58-2011), cumulative fatigue damage (CFD) should
be determined as under:
i j k
i j k
≤ 1.0 (4.)
i, j, k
= applied numbers of axle load repetitions for i
axle load level for each j
type and k
temperature gradient during specified period.
i, j, k
= allowable numbers of axle load repetitions for i
axle load level for each j
axle type and k
temperature gradient during specified period.
j = 2 (single axle and tandem axle) for bottom-up cracking and 3 (single axle, tandem
axle and tridem axle) for top-down cracking.
k = 2 (six hour mid-day period from 10 AM to 4 PM and another six hour night
period from 0 AM to 6 AM).
The above suggested approach is on similar lines as used in MEPDG 2008. Relevant
excerpts from MEPDG, 2008 are reproduced below:
“For JPCP transverse cracking, both bottom-up and top-down modes of cracking are
considered. Under typical service conditions, the potential for either mode of cracking is
present in all slabs. Any given slab may crack either from bottom-up or top-down, but not
both. Therefore, the predicted bottom-up and top-down cracking are not particularly
meaningful by themselves, and combined cracking must be determined, excluding the
possibility of both modes of cracking occurring on the same slab.”
Accordingly, accumulated fatigue damage after considering all critical factors for
JPCP transverse cracking is computed by the following general expression:
, , , , ,
, , , , ,
i j k l m n
i j k l m n
≤ 1.0 (5.)
FD = total fatigue damage (top-down or bottom-up).
= applied number of load applications at condition i, j, k, l, m, n.
= allowable number of load applications at condition i, j, k, l, m, n.
i = age (accounts for change in PCC modulus of rupture, layer bond
condition,deterioration of shoulder LTE).
j = month (accounts for change in base and effective dynamic modulus of
k = axle type (single, tandem, and tridem for bottom-up cracking; short, medium,
and long wheelbase for top-down cracking).
l = load level (incremental load for each axle type).
m = temperature difference.
n = traffic path.
The applied number of load applications (n
) is the actual number of axle type k
of load level l that passed through traffic path n under each condition (age, season, and
temperature difference). The allowable number of load applications is the number of load
cycles at which fatigue failure is expected (corresponding to 50 percent slab cracking) and is
a function of the applied stress and PCC strength. The allowable number of load applications
is determined using the following fatigue model:
, , , , ,
, , , , ,
log 2.0 (6.)
i j k l m n
i j k l m n
= allowable number of load applications at condition i, j, k, l, m, n
= PCC modulus of rupture at age i, psi
= applied stress at condition i, j, k, l, m, n
1.2 Calibration and Validation: The (critical) pavement responses were correlated with
pavement performance indicators in the form of pre-defined pavement distress modes
for a given design life by empirically derived equations known as distress models or
transfer functions derived from the performance (or distress) prediction models based
on past experiences, field observations and laboratory results that compute the number
of repetitive loading cycles to specified pavement failure. Transfer functions are the
weakest part of any Mechanistic-Empirical pavement design approach. Therefore,
before applying to them in any pavement designs practice, they need to be calibrated
and validated to suit with local conditions in order to ensure a satisfactory agreement
between predicted and actual distress at project site otherwise it may result under-
designed or overdesigned pavement structure. This is the reason why emphatic
attention were given to carry out and verify the local calibration and validation of the
transfer functions in order to reduce the gap between predicted pavement distress and
in-service pavement performance
[8 and 9]
. To locally calibrate and validate the distress
prediction model developed under NCHRP 1-37A in 2004, more than 50 research
studies are either completed or in near completion stage in USA, so far. In IRC:58–
2011, the transfer function is taken from Portland Cement Association) 1984 method
without any calibration and validation process in India. There is no published study or
reports which tell us how this transfer function is sensitive to varied conditions of
traffic, climate, material quality, mix designs, pavement constructions, and
maintenance practices etc. as per actual field conditions found in India? Due to this
only, design procedure will always be questionable. It is also worthwhile to note that
the details furnished in Appendix-III presents a comparison with the fatigue equation
used in IRC:58-2011 and not a validation as called therein. In fact, the objective of
validation is to demonstrate that the calibrated model of any distress mode can
produce robust and accurate predictions of pavement distress for cases other than
those used for model calibration. Validation typically requires an additional and
independent set of in-service pavement performance data. Successful model
validation requires that the bias and precision statistics of the model when applied to
the validation data set are similar to those obtained from model calibration. The
purpose of validation is to determine whether the calibrated conceptual model is a
reasonable representation of the real-world system, and if the desired accuracy or
correspondence exists between the model and the real-world system.
1.3 AASHO road test was conducted on rigid
pavements consisting either PCC slab + clayey
subgrade or PCC slab + GSB + clayey subgrade.
These pavement sections exhibit failure due to
erosion/pumping on account of erodible
subbase/subgrades. However, the relevance of
these results as said in clause 6.4.1 is difficult to
appreciate for the rigid pavements used on
National Highways in India, as shown in figure
[1 & 2]
and keeping in view of the fact that 150
mm thick DLC layer (with cement content >7%)
used in India is extremely resistive to erosion.
Further, use of tied concrete shoulder further
reduces the propensity to erosion damage.
Figure 1 Concrete pavement used
on National Highways in India
It should be clearly specified, accordingly, in the guideline. Of course for all other cases, in
where DLC layer was not provided, this issue may become a vital cause of pavement failure.
GSB – drainage+filter layer
(≥ 300 mm)
(250 – 350 mm)
DLC slab (base
layer) (150 mm)
1.4 In IRC:58–2011, pavement failure condition/distress criteria is not defined. Only one
structural distress mode of pavement failure (transverse fatigue cracking) is
considered. Other distress modes for pavement failures such as faulting, smoothness
etc. should also be made part of the IRC:58 in future. It is however emphasized that
failure criteria for each distress modes should be defined properly and user defined
distress criterion should be included in the design approach so that a designer can
design the pavement as per economy, importance and need of the project, and desired
level of pavement performance and adopted maintenance strategies.
1.5 In IRC:58–2011, commercial vehicles with the spacing between the front (steer) axle
and the first rear axle less than the spacing of transverse joints only are considered to
compute the top-down fatigue cracking damage against the consideration of all
commercial vehicles in MEPDG 2008. This will happen only when a structural model
capable to handle multiple (3, 5, 6 or 9) slab system with load transfer ability across
both transverse and longitudinal joints will be used.
2. Critical pavement responses: Currently, the critical stresses are computed at only
one or two locations for critical axle load placement. This approach is not correct for
multi-axle loads as the critical location is a function of the magnitude and
configuration of axle load, axle load placement, magnitude and sign of curling
stresses, load transfer efficiencies of transverse and longitudinal joints, construction
practices, and the pavement structure. To evaluate the maximum principal (design)
stress under any axle load location plus environmental loading, pavement response
should be evaluated at multiple locations on both longitudinal and transverse edges
and corresponding pavement damages (distresses) will be calculated for each location.
Location of maximum damage will be the critical location and should be made part of
design evaluation process.
3. Design of bonded JPCP: Design of a bonded concrete pavement structure is based on
the assumption of equating the flexural rigidity of concrete slab alone with that of
composite equivalent section of bonded slab and base layer for a fixed neutral axis
(NA) which ceases on considering the coupling between traffic load applications and
curling stresses considerations. For computation of pavement responses in case of JPCP
with or without doweled joints and with or without tied concrete shoulder finite element
method (FEM) are used while for bonded JPCP an approximate classical approach is
used. Such design and analysis approach is difficult to appreciate. In fact, finite element
method can be used for all JPCP cases having unbonded, bonded or partially bonded
interfaces between concrete slab and base layer through suitable structural modeling.
Further, interface bonding between PCC slab and base layer will break down after
certain period of service (5 years as per MEPDG, 2008) and therefore, assuming the
bonding state for entire design life may lead to an inadequate design.
4. Design of jointed plain concrete pavement with widened slab (by 0.50 m to 0.60
m) was assumed to be equivalent to that of jointed plain concrete pavement with tied
concrete shoulder. This assumption may be valid only when load transfer efficiency is
greater than 70% (against the provision of 50% for transverse joints and 40% for
longitudinal joints assumed in IRC:58-2011) otherwise widened slab condition always
results a saving of 2-5% in slab thickness besides superior performance in comparison
to any other alternative.
5. Characterization of Traffic: At present in India, there is no guideline to determine
equivalent number of single, tandem, and tridem axles for a commercial vehicle
classified in IRC:3-1983. It should be defined similar to FWHA. For example, for
class 9 vehicle, number of single axles is 1.13 and that of tandem axle is 1.93. For
vehicle class 10, number of single, tandem and tridem axle are 1.19, 1.09 and 0.89,
respectively. There is no meaning to assume it as mentioned in both examples of
IRC:58-2011. Further, guidelines for axle load distribution on Indian roads may also
be prepared. It is emphasized here that rigid pavement failure is more susceptible to
overloading generally observed in India (and which is not an issue of concern in
foreign studies) and therefore, determination of highest axle load’s share in total
volume is a vital issue for rigid pavements.
6. Structural modeling of the pavement structure: Choosing an appropriate structural
modeling of the rigid pavement structure is the first major step of Mechanistic-
Empirical pavement design approach to compute pavement responses in terms of
stresses, strains and deflections by finite element method. The modeling details,
analysis and design approach of the IITRIGID2 is not available. Therefore, it is not
known to the designer what will happen or in what way will he analysis and design
the pavement structure, if any of the input variables will vary? It is however appears
from the conspectus of the IRC 58 that single slab modeling with Winkler foundation
was used in IITRIGID2. Its comparison with other well established public software
such as EverFE, ISLAB2000, or KENSLAB etc. is required to verify its results and
validate IITRIGID2. Complete details of IITRIGID2 need to be spelt out elaborately
in an appendix for its further refinement. Design with IITRIGID2 needs to be
validated with MEPDG, 2008 software and RadiCAL, 2011. In any case, the
structural model should be capable of accurately predicting stress after duly
considering (a) the nonlinear temperature distribution in the concrete slab and
multiple wheel loads, (b) loss of support due to slab curling (separation of PCC slab
from foundation), (c) the effects of base course – the model must be able to consider
bonded, unbonded and partially bonded cases, and (d) slab-to-slab interaction in a
multiple (3, 5, 6 or 9) slab system and load transfer across both transverse and
7. Temperature differential obtained in a CRRI study carried out in 1980s is still
considered in table 1 of IRC:58-2011 despite the large variation in climatic conditions
experienced now in the country and increase in the slab thickness used in the country
now-a-days. Further, it is much better to use a temperature gradient instead of fixed
temperature differential of -5
C for accounting the in-built permanent curl in concrete
slab. Assumption of the fixed negative temperature differential is based probably on a
foreign study published in 1990 having different loading patterns, climate and
construction conditions which although can be used at the moment in the absence of
any Indian study but needs to be reviewed and investigated in view of local
conditions. Besides, other three components namely differential drying shrinkage,
moisture gradients, and creep may also be considered together with the in-built
permanent curl into an effective “built-in” curl.
8. Absence of Reliability concept: The design of rigid pavements is associated with
many factors that introduce a substantial measure of variability and uncertainties.
These factors include traffic prediction, material characterization and behavior
modeling, environmental conditions, construction quality, and maintenance practices
etc. Non-consideration of any load factor (as in 2002) in IRC:58-2011 further requires
that reliability concept is required to be introduced in the new IRC design practice as
a means of incorporating desired degree of certainty into the design process and to
ensure that the various design alternatives will result a pavement structure which
survive for the analysis period without reaching to unacceptable condition of
9. The other glaring drawback of these design guidelines is that pavement design is still
applicable for a fixed set of conditions namely a standard rigid pavement structure,
slab dimension, vehicle characteristics, material properties of concrete, joint load
transfer efficiency at transverse joints and longitudinal edges, and design (failure)
criterion. Absence of any pavement design software is the biggest hurdle to perform
the pavement analysis and design with user-defined (or project-specific) input
variables and thus, to optimize the design and pavement structure. Sensitivity analysis
must invariably be included in the design guidelines.
10. Design of drainage layer: The net inflow (or quantity of water) removed by the
pavement drainage system must be determined from all sources that might contribute
to the possible saturation of the pavement section under consideration, including
groundwater, infiltration and melt water from thawing ice lenses (where frost action is
present) in the subgrade soil. In computing the net inflow, an allowance should be
made for any natural outflow that can take place by vertical seepage into the soil
beneath the pavement. Although crack infiltration rate for design purpose is
recommended as (2.4 ft3/day/ft) 0.223 m3/day/m, however, it can be suitably chosen
depending upon the frequency, intensity and duration of local precipitation. Assuming
the steady inflow uniformly distributed across the surface of the pavement section, the
thickness of drainage layer can be determined by applying the Darcy's Law (within its
application limits) as stipulated in IRC:58–2011 which result conservative design.
However, in case of non-steady flow condition (usually exists in the real pavement
structure), the thickness of drainage layer is determined by the following procedure
instead of using the Darcy's Law. Using the data of the example of drainage layer (pp
97-98) IRC:58–2011 as reproduced below:
Pavement Infiltration rate (q
) = 0.120 m
= 0.40 ft
Resultant Length, L
= 16.24 m = 54.08 ft
Resultant Slope, S
Coefficient of Permeability, k = 333 m/day = 1109 ft/day
Determine required thickness of drainage layer (H).
Figure 1 Chart for estimating maximum depth of low
(taken from ref. [11 & 12])
p = q
= 0.40/1109 = 0.00036,
then from figure 1
/H = 185, hence,
H = 54.08/185 = 0.293 ft
= 87.7 mm.
or Alternatively, for given
thickness of drainage layer of
152 mm (0.50 ft), we have
/H = 54.08/0.50
p = q
/k = 0.00075,
k = 0.40/0.00075
= 533.3 ft/day = 160 m/day.
It is clearly evident that after assuming the non-steady flow condition, we can
economize the design of drainage layer. Further, instead of using the Crack Infiltration
approach, the Infiltration Ratio approach may also be included in the design process to
evaluate the amount of moisture infiltrating the pavement structure. Further, drainage
layer designed on the basis of depth-to-flow approach may also be checked for time-to-
drain method as proposed by Barber/Sawyer or Casagrande/Shannon. Software similar to
that of Drainage Requirements in Pavements (DRIP) Version 2.0 (2000) can also be
11. It is much better and practical to give the values of the coefficients of permeability for
all the coarse/open grades of GSB defined in MORTH specification or all the four
grades mentioned in table 8 of the IRC:15-2011 instead of quoting such values for the
gradation used in AASHTO 1993.
12. It is observed that the design thickness of concrete slab is almost insensitive to
variation in the effective modulus of reaction for foundation contrary to the fact that
slab thickness decreases by 2-4% on increasing the effective k-value for the
foundation (more stiff) from 50 MPa/m to 300 MPa/m. It needs to be clarified.
13. The thickness design of JPCP is observed to be insensitive with subgrade strength. It
is therefore suggested that the need to consider the reductions in subgrade strength
due to weak embankment beneath the subgrade will be considered only after the
confirmation by an Indian study.
14. Computation of the maximum bearing stress at the dowel-concrete interface is still
based on Friberg’s formula (1940) stipulated by equation (14), while assumption of
effective length equal to 1.0ℓ (instead of 1.80 ℓ as proposed by Friberg) over which
dowel bars are effective in load transfer across the joint was based on the results of
finite element modeling and analysis of dowel bars carried out by Tabatabaie et al.
(1979). Since then, a lot of research was take place for design of the dowel bars in
order to compute load transfer across joint, requirement and spacing of dowels, dowel
size to avoid the transverse joint faulting which leads to Mechanistic-empirical
approach. One such approach was used in MEPDG, 2008. Similar approach may also
be used for the design of tie bars which may also consider their looseness and
effectiveness in load transfer over the service life.
15. Thickness determination of either granular subbase or filter layer is very confusing.
IRC:58-2011 is silent on thickness design of GSB. The clause 6.3.3 of IRC:15-2011,
as reproduced below:
“….Grading types III and IV can be used at location experiencing heavy rainfall,
flooding etc. Cases where GSB is to be provided in two layers, it is recommended to
adopt grading III or IV for lower layer and grading I or grading II for upper layer.
Minimum compacted thickness of lower layer at locations where drainage
requirements are predominant shall not less than 300 mm. ….”
Now many questions are arises.
a. In which cases, GSB is provided in two layers? For such cases, what is the total
thickness of both layers of GSB, if lower layer is having a thickness of minimum
b. Whether such enormous thickness of GSB (>300 mm) is really required? If yes,
for what function?
c. It is however worthy to mention that the role of GSB in case of Indian rigid
pavement structure (where 150 mm DLC and doweled transverse joint are also
specified for any NH) is limited to act as drainage layer and of course, it should be
strong enough to sustain the construction traffic without any distortion/settlement.
d. For other cases, what is the design thickness of GSB?
Further, how a designer will determine the thickness of filter layer? IRC:SP:42 or
IRC:SP:50 gives the gradation requirement details of filter media around the edge drains.
Besides, Ministry’s specifications gives the filter design details provided under pitching in
case of slopes of guide bunds, training works and road embankments in which thickness of
filter media was specified as 200-300 mm. In my view, the thickness of filter layer may
specified in the range of 100-200 mm and that of drainage layer as 150-200 mm. Total
thickness of GSB (consisting both drainage layer + filter layer) should be less than 250-400
mm. Further, it should be specified that the filtration compatibility of the filter layer must be
evaluated with respect to both the subgrade and the drainage (subbase) layer to prevent
migration of the subgrade/filtration material into the subbase.
16. What is the worth of first three appendix of the IRC:58-2011 in spite of having too
long and heavy titles.
a. Except “a few” details of cement stabilized base in terms of strength requirement and
use of recycled material, no other details are given in Appendix-I. Are they suffice to
represent the title. Details given in IRC:74-1979, IRC:88-1984 and IRC:SP-89-2010
needs to be integrated and updated under one guideline which can be titled as
“Subbases and Bases used in Pavement Construction”. In this connection, one
wonderful document with title “Subgrades and Subbases for Concrete Pavements,
EB204P” published by American Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA) in 2007
can be referred.
b. Similar to Appendix “I’, a small paragraph containing incomplete details is suffice to
illustrate the said international practice on use of debonding layer over stabilized
subbase. As per my knowledge, two heavy spray applications of wax-based curing
compound are generally used for lean concrete subbases. Though there are no
common bond-breaker recommendations for stabilized subbase (either it is cement-
treated subbases or bitumen-treated subbases), various other alternatives of reducing
friction or bond between the concrete pavement and stabilized subbase exist,
including sand, bladed fines, asphalt emulsion, non-woven geotextiles, polyethylene
sheets, tar paper, and choker stone. Sometimes 25 mm thick dense graded bituminous
mix layer is also used. Application criteria, effectiveness of each alternative, ease of
availability and use, weather restrictions besides other parameters needs to be
included in this appendix to serve its intended purpose i.e. to improve the local
practices and make them as par with international practice.
c. Kindly refer to para 1.2 for comments on Appendix-III.
17. It may please be clarified what is the purpose of providing such a exhausting list of
references in IRC:58-2011 in contrast to earlier revisions if none of the reference
(except reference no. 6) is able to
a. demonstrate the advancement over the last decade as claimed in the introduction part
b. illustrate or elaborate the design procedure adopted in IRC:58-2011, and
c. provide the reason(s) for the revision in IRC:58-2002.
Further, reference list includes only two studies from this vast country which have one
of the largest numbers of technocrats and researchers. It may please be clarified
whether both these studies are able to convey any meaningful result (it should be
remembered that one PhD study was completed in 1964 which have no relevance in
view of developments taken place over last 45 years and one M.Tech study has very
limited scope) utilized in the evolution of IRC:58-2011 and need to be included in a
18. It is also suggested that in a National Specification, write-up should always
introduced the subject, outlined the relevant assumptions for any design approach
along with application limitations, be specific, well referenced, and should never
concluding misleading facts – (last sentence of clause 3, clause 5.2, clause 184.108.40.206,
clause 6.4, clause 6.5.3, clause 6.7, clause 7.2.2, clause 7.2.5, table 5, and clause 7.2.7
needs to be reviewed). In any case, generalized and closed form approach should
always be avoided. A section briefing the limitation of earlier guidelines and reasons
for revisions must be included in the guideline. Examples furnished in the current
guideline may also illustrate this difference.
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