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FHWA Bridge Inspector's Manual: Primer on Bridge Terminology and Mechanics

COURSE NO: S06-007
FHWA Bridge Inspector's Manual: Primer on Bridge Terminology and Mechanics
Course Highlights

This engineering online PDH course will present bridge terminology needed by inspectors to properly identify and describe the individual elements that comprise a bridge. First the major components of a bridge are introduced. Then the basic member shapes and connections of the bridge are presented. Finally, the purpose and function of the major bridge components are described in detail.


This course also presents the mechanics of a bridge.  Specific topics include major bridge components and elements; characteristics of decks, superstructures, and substructures; bridge response to loadings; bridge design methods, ratings, and span classifications; redundancy in bridge design; and bridge foundations.


Bridge mechanics is the branch of physical science that deals with energy and forces and their relation to the equilibrium, deformation, or motion of bodies. The bridge inspector is primarily concerned with statics, or the branch of mechanics dealing with solid bodies at rest and with forces in equilibrium. The two most important reasons for a bridge inspector to study bridge mechanics are:

  • To understand how bridge members function
  • To recognize the impact a defect or deterioration may have on the load-carrying capacity of a bridge component or element


The 6 PDH online course is intended for civil, construction, and structural engineers, and would be of particular interest to consulting engineers or to engineers serving in government organizations concerned with the safety of bridges.

Learning Objectives

This PE continuing education course is intended to provide you with the following specific knowledge and skills:

  • Recognizing the major bridge components and shapes
  • Knowing the common connections
  • Knowing the characteristics of decks, superstructures, and substructures
  • Distinguishing the types and function of bearings
  • Understanding a bridge's response to loadings
  • Understanding bridge design loadings and bridge design methods
  • Applying knowledge of bridge ratings, span classifications, and bridge roadway interactions
  • Understand the concept of redundancy as it applies to bridge design
  • Being familiar with the various types of bridge foundations
Course Document

In this professional engineering CEU course, you need to review, Chapter 3 “Basic Bridge Terminology” and Chapter 5, “Bridge Mechanics” of the Federal Highway Administration Bridge Inspector’s Reference Manual, Publication No. FHWA NHI 12-049, December, 2012.

To view, print and study the course document, please click on the following link(s):
FHWA Bridge Inspector's Manual: Primer on Bridge Terminology and Mechanics (4.9 MB)
Course Quiz
Once you complete your course review, you need to take a multiple-choice quiz consisting of thirty-five (35) questions to earn 6 PDH credits. The quiz will be based on Chapters 3 and 5 of this FHWA publication.
The minimum passing score is 70%. There is no time limit on the quiz, and you can take it multiple times until you pass at no additional cost.
Certificate of Completion

Upon successful completion of the quiz, print your Certificate of Completion instantly. (Note: if you are paying by check or money order, you will be able to print it after we receive your payment.) For your convenience, we will also email it to you. Please note that you can log in to your account at any time to access and print your Certificate of Completion.

To buy the course and take the quiz, please click on: