Monitoring and Dynamic Weighing Systems in Optical Fiber: Synergy for Safety and Efficiency of Road Infrastructures

Challenges of Road Infrastructure

The second half of the last century witnessed significant demographic and economic growth in our country, necessitating the construction of an extensive network of communication infrastructure. Among these, bridges and viaducts played a crucial role in connecting various Italian regions. However, many of these bridges were built over fifty years ago and now face new challenges related to maintenance and safety.

One of the main problems concerns the load that these bridges must bear today, considering that road traffic has significantly increased in recent decades. The enormous growth in road transport, combined with an aging and often poorly maintained road network, makes monitoring the passing vehicles highly relevant. Especially if overloaded, these vehicles can heavily impact the infrastructure and road safety. The most effective systems for such monitoring are dynamic weighing systems

Road Safety: The Issue of Vehicle Overloading

According to data from ANIA, around 200,000 road accidents occur in Italy every year, with a significant number involving heavy vehicles. The main reason for these accidents is often the overloading of vehicles. To ensure road safety, it is crucial to comply with the load limits allowed and stipulated by the Highway Code.

On average, however, between 5% and 10% of heavy vehicles circulating on Italian roads are overloaded. Although the percentage may seem low, this small number of vehicles causes significant structural damage, endangering both road users and travelers’ lives.

An overloaded vehicle in transit poses a considerable risk that should not be underestimated. Its excessive mass exerts disproportionate stress on the road surface, increasing the risk of sudden collapses and accidents for other vehicles. Identifying and monitoring such vehicles is crucial to prevent hazards on the roads. The use of weight detection technologies can help preserve the infrastructure and make Italian roads safer for everyone.

Stability and Safety of Bridges: The Need for Constant Monitoring

Bridge safety is another critical aspect to consider. Italy has over 56,000 bridges and viaducts, with an average age of over 50 years. These figures highlight the need for continuous monitoring to ensure their stability and structural safety. According to a study by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Sustainable Mobility, about 10% of Italian bridges require constant and detailed monitoring due to their “high” level of attention.

Between 2000 and 2016, over 200 bridge collapses were recorded in Europe, resulting in serious consequences for safety and traffic flow. One of the most tragic collapses was that of the Morandi Bridge (Polcevera Viaduct) in Genoa in 2018, which caused 43 fatalities and extensive damage to the city.

To address these challenges, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Sustainable Mobility, through the Higher Council for Public Works, issued the document “Guidelines for the classification and management of risk, safety assessment, and monitoring of existing bridges”[1]. This document includes the use of continuous structural monitoring systems over time, explicitly referencing dynamic weighing systems, to ensure infrastructure safety and the safety of those who use them.