Steel bridges are subjected to live loads which produce variable stress ranges in bridge components. At welded bridge details, the existence of initial defects and residual stresses eliminate the initiation stage of fatigue crack growth, and stress range is found to be the controlling factor for crack propagation. Laboratory tests have resulted in stress range-fatigue life relationships for various bridge details. These data correlate well with fracture mechanics theory and with field data. Limits on live load stresses have been adopted for steel bridges. Coupled with material fracture toughness requirements, the stress range limits minimize the probability of fatigue and fracture in steel bridges.

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