Research related to the dynamic interaction of vehicles with the road, and the results this interaction has on both the road and the vehicle.
Early work initially concentrated on the influence of dynamic tyre forces generated by heavy goods vehicles on road damage and bridge vibration. Research was performed to understand the mechanisms by which lorries generate dynamic tyre forces as they travel along roads, and how road surfaces and bridges respond to these applied forces. Sophisticated mathematical models of vehicle dynamics and road and bridge response to moving random wheel loads were developed. These were validated using field measurements with instrumented lorries, instrumented pavement sections on the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) test track and instrumented highway bridges.
A mathematical model of 'whole-life' flexible pavement performance has been developed, by integrating the vehicle and road modelling tools developed by the group. The model incorporates the effects of dynamic tyre forces, variations of road strength (caused by construction variability) and environmental effects such as temperature and ageing. It models the development of surface rutting, surface roughness and structural stiffness degradation throughout the life of the pavement. The calculations are performed in a deterministic way - so it is possible to see (for example) how potholes and ruts develop with time at various locations along the road; or to investigate the effects on service life, of pavement design, initial construction non-uniformities and vehicle fleet variables (e.g. suspension types).
The program has recently been used to predict the influence on road maintenance costs of air spring suspensions with poorly maintained shock absorbers.
It is thought that this program will eventually become an invaluable tool for road designers and 'DBFO' contractors, in their efforts to optimise road life performance.
This software is currently being developed into a modular, user-friendly application called VPI (Vehicle-Pavement-Interaction). It is planned to release VPI for limited evaluation trials by researchers, towards the end of 2011.