Articles - Truss Bridge






The truss is a simple skeletal structure. In design theory, the individual members of a simple truss are only subject to tension and compression forces and not bending forces.

Typical Span Lengths

40m - 500m

World's Longest

Pont de Quebec

Total Length


Center Span


A Matsuo Example

2nd Mameyaki Bridge

Thus, for the most part, all beams in a truss bridge are straight. Trusses are comprised of many small beams that together can support a large amount of weight and span great distances. In most cases the design, fabrication, and erection of trusses is relatively simple. However, once assembled trusses take up a greater amount of space and, in more complex structures, can serve as a distraction to drivers.


Illustration #1: Simple Warren Through Truss


Like the girder bridges, there are both simple and continuous trusses. The small size of individual parts of a truss make it the ideal bridge for places where large parts or sections cannot be shipped or where large cranes and heavy equipment cannot be used during erection. Because the truss is a hollow skeletal structure, the roadway may pass over (illustration #2) or even through (illustration #1) the structure allowing for clearance below the bridge often not possible with other bridge types.

Illustration #2: Warren Truss with Vertical Members


Trusses are also classified by the basic design used. The most representative trusses are the Warren truss, the Pratt truss, and the Howe truss. The Warren truss is perhaps the most common truss for both simple and continuous trusses. For smaller spans, no vertical members are used lending the structure a simple look (illustration #1.) For longer spans vertical members are added providing extra strength (illustration #2.) Warren trusses are typically used in spans of between 50-100m.

Illustration #3: Pratt Truss


The Pratt truss (illustration #3) is identified by its diagonal members which, except for the very end ones, all slant down and in toward the center of the span. Except for those diagonal members near the center, all the diagonal members are subject to tension forces only while the shorter vertical members handle the compressive forces. This allows for thinner diagonal members resulting in a more economic design.

Illustration #4: Howe Truss


The Howe truss (illustration #4) is the opposite of the Pratt truss. The diagonal members face in the opposite direction and handle compressive forces. This makes it very uneconomic design for steel bridges and its use is rarely seen.

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