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P. J. M. ROBINSON, B.Sc.(Eng.), A.M.I.C.E. and Tos~lzs LEWIS, M.A.

The Paper relates how difficulties in using the Xous exposons ci-dessous comment des difficultes
CBR test led to the trial of two other types of soil dans lemploi de lessai CBR nous a men& b lepreuve
bearing test in an effort to reduce the time taken to de deux autres methodes de determiner la force
portante du sol afin de reduire le temps necessaire
determine the bearing capacity in situ of an area of pour determiner la force portante dun perimetre
soil. Preliminary trials showed one of these, the de terrain in situ. Des essais preliminaires ont
3-in. plate failure load test, to possess potentially demontre que lun dentre ccux-ci, lessai de charge
satisfactory performance. Further experiments de rupture sur un cercle de 3 pouces, a une fonction
showed that the relationship : log,, (CBR) = potentiellement satisfaisante. Les examens supplc-
mentaires ont r&G% que le rapport : log,, (CBR)
0.76837 log,, (plate load in lb.) - 1.64422 exists.
= 0.76837 log,, (la charge sur le cercle en livres)
When applying this in field work it should be re- - 164422 extste. Quant a lapplication de ceci
membered that the 3-m. plate measures the CBR dans les travaux sur le terrain, il faut se rappeler que
value at a different depth below the surface from the le cercle de 3 pouces mesure la valeur CBR L une
CBR plunger. profondeur differente a celle du plongeur CBR.

In a programme of research which has been in progress at the Military Engineering
Experimental Establishment, Christchurch, Hampshire, for the past 6 or 7 years, it has been
necessary to select sites on which to construct experimental pavements by measuring the
bearing capacity of the soil. The standard adopted for measuring bearing capacity, which
was selected for service reasons and which therefore it is not relevant to discuss here, was the
California bearing ratio. The sites were required to have various predetermined values of this
ratio. Since the research is directed to a comparison of the performance of various pavements
constructed on the sites, the bearing capacity needs to be uniform over the site. In order to
ascertain site conditions in-situ measurements were considered to be more representative than
laboratory tests. Large numbers of CBR measurements had to be made to determine whether
the necessary uniformity existed.
The CBR test is essentially not a quick one. The plunger, which in the full test must be
forced i in. into the soil, must penetrate at &G in/min, and 10 min are allowed for this part
of the test. Frequently it is necessary to bed the plunger on plaster of Paris, and having to
wait for the plaster to set can increase to 4 hour the time taken to complete the test. The
results of tests carried out in situ show inconsistent values, and a large number must be done
in order to obtain a representative answer.
As the programme progressed, it became increasingly clear that not only was there a need
for accelerating the test in order that the experiments should proceed smoothly, but that for
assessing sites for military roads and airfields, where large areas had to be covered with the
utmost speed, the test as it stood left much to be desired.
Consideration was therefore directed to other test methods.
Since the trials were based on the CBR design system any test which could be substituted
had to be related to that value. An obvious possibility was the Vicksburg penetrometer
(see Fig. 1, and Schoolcraft, Boyd and Foster, 1948). 1 A relation between CBR and penetro-
meter reading was obtained by Evans (1951) and the procedure recommended by the Authors
satisfied the need for speed. It also had other advantages, such as portability and sim-
1 The references are given on p. 78

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Since a correlation had already been established between the CBR test and that where the
point of failure was the criterion, other similar tests were sought. The only other test con-
sidered likely was one which at that time was being developed by Dr I. M. Robertson of the
Air Ministry Experimental Unit, Turnhouse. Its description (Robertson, 1951) showed it
would fulfil the requirement although not, of course, to the same extent as the penetrometer.
Dr Robertsons test consists of loading a 3-in. or a 6-in. plate rapidly until failure occurs, and
then noting the load. This failure load appears to have a quite sharply defined value. With
the hydraulic apparatus used, either a load is reached which further pumping of the jack does
not cause to rise appreciably or permanently, or else a rapid descent of the jack into the ground
occurs. In addition to the plates used by Dr Robertson it was decided to use the CBR plunger
in a similar way.
It was considered that the application of this method to the CBR plunger, if successful,
would have two advantages. If it was in use as a plate failure load test, the apparatus could,
as an alternative, also be used for orthodox CBR measurements if required. Secondly, the
load necessary to achieve failure with the 3-sq.-in. CBR plunger would be much less than that
for even the smallest of the plates-the 3-m dia. This meant that it would be possible to
apply the test from a smaller vehicle. Fig. 2 shows the apparatus used for in-situ CBR
measurements, and Fig. 3 that used for the plate bearing rests.


Tests were carried out on four different types of soil from sites already selected for the
construction of the test strips just referred to. The sites had been chosen because of the con-
sistency of the soil and of its recorded CBR value, one of them, Hurn, having been constructed
of sand from a borrow pit compacted to a depth of about 5 ft under controlled conditions-
The locality, soil type, Casagrande classification, and CBR value are given in Table 1.

Table 1.
Particulars of sites on which tests were carried out

Locality Soil type Casagrande 1 CBR :
classfication I (%)
Brockenhurst . Clay CH 2.5
Ferndown . Silty clay 4.5
Hum.. 1: Sand :&
West Moors . Gravelly sand GP-SP 1 192

Twenty repetitions of each test were made at every site, but in two cases it was not found
possible to obtain a result with the Vicksburg penetrometer. On Hurn sand it proved in-
conclusive, while the gravelly soil proved too strong to be within the scope of the instrument.
A statistical analysis was made of the results obtained, and in Table 2 is shown a list of
the tests together with the estimated number of tests required to give a mean within 10% of
the true mean with 95% certainty, and the time taken to carry out one test.
From consideration of Table 2 the 3-in. plate failure load test shows most promise of ful-
filling the desired result. Compared to the CBR test, in the worst case half the number of
tests need to be carried out to obtain a CBR of comparable accuracy, and in the best case
one-tenth. Since it takes less than half that time to carry out the failure load test from one-
quarter to one-twentieth only of the time need be spent using this test. Results showed the
3-m plate failure load test to have a range of CBR values up to about 600/b when used with a
lo-ton military vehicle. It is this consideration which makes it superior to the 6-in. plate
which would have less than a quarter of the range with the same vehicle.

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Table 2.
Number of tests required to give a mean within 10% of the true mean with 95% certainty,
and the time taken to carry out one test

Number of tests

Site CBR CBR (i-in. / Penetrometer Penetrometer

plunger plate plate with $-in. #-in. with
dia. cone dia. cone

Brockenhurst .. . 25 4 /10- 26 26
Ferndown .. ::: 26 6 14
Hurn . 6: 42 1: -
west nlOors ..
1: j 92 9 10 itI 7 -
-1 -____
Time taken to carry out 15-20 6-8 6-8 6-8 I
test : min min min min 20 tests in 2.-3 min

It was not possible to obtain a relationship of plate failure load and CBR value from this
investigation, but the results did indicate sufficient promise to justify further tests to check
whether such a relationship existed.


The next investigation was confined to the 3-in. plate failure load test alone, since it was
not considered that any of the other tests showed comparable advantages. In this investiga-
tion ten CBR measurements and ten 3-m. plate failure load tests were made in close proximity
on each of seventeen arbitrarily chosen sites.
The soil type, moisture content, and mean CBR and plate bearing values recorded in this
investigation are shown in Table 3.
Table 3.
Summary of results of investigation on seventeen sites of relation of 3-in.
plate failure load and CBR y. values

Site Soil type AIoistnrc

content ( rtiiut$R
TXcan 3-in.
plate load :
(94) (lb.)
Gravelly sand . 90
l- 3,170
:, Clay of high compressibility : 38.0 535
Sandy clay . 24.5 1,790
: Sandy gravel .. . 8.0 11 3,395
Clayey sand 23.0 10 2,480
z Sand (poorly graded) ::
Clay (medium compressibility)
: 10.0
i Clay (low compressibility)
Sand (well graded)
Gravel (fairly graded) : :
Gravel (well graded) .
: 10.0
- 5,170
12 Gravel with excess stones 8.5 22 4,950
13 Gravel (fairly graded) 8.0 22 4,980
14 Gravel with excess of fines . 11.0 13 3,160
15 Gravel (poorly graded) 14.0 14 5,340
16 Gravel (well graded) . 6.5 36 16,340
17 Chalk . . . 22.5 16 3,135
- - - L

The results are shown plotted in Fig. 4. It is clear from these results that a.relationship
exists, and the statistically evolved expression which best fits these points is the equation :
(CBR value)-* = 0~07917+2~7110 (3-in. plate load in lb.)-;
This is also shown on Fig. 4.

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Pig. 7. Locations of the twenty-nine test sites

Pig. 4. Relationship between CBR

value o/0 and 3-in. plate failure
load in lb.

-$ ,
-;; :
-Position A

t x CBR
H 0 J plate
9 8
B 6

- Position C

- Position D

Pig. 8. Pattern of CBR and plate-

bearing tests carried out at each Fig. 9. Relationship CBR values and plate failure load
site. Soil samples taken f?om
positions A and D

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While this was extremely encouraging there are some criticisms which apply to the results
obtained which would preclude the use of the 3-in. plate failure load test without some
further confirmation.
The main criticisms are : First, the work was confined to one locality, and it might be said
that in different parts of Great Britain where different geological soils exist, the results might
not apply. Secondly, the precision of the fitted relationship between CBR value and plate
failure load could not be properly assessed from the data; for, since the twenty test points on
each side were in effect chosen at random, it was not possible to define how much of the
scatter of the observation about this relationship was due to paired CBR and plate load
estimates really referring to different values of true soil bearing capacity.


A further series of tests were therefore planned, based upon statistical design.
In these tests the improved 3-in. plate failure load apparatus, shown in Fig. 5, was mounted
in the centre of the rear of the vehicle, while the CBR apparatus as shown in Fig. 6 was mounted
at the site. Twenty-nine tests were carried out over the southern part of England in the
places shown in Fig. 7. The arrangement of the pattern of tests is shown in Fig. 8 ; it was
designed to enable variations in true soil bearing capacity over small and large areas to be
assessed statistically and their effects to be allowed for in analysing the CBR-plate load
CBR tests were not carried beyond O-2-in. penetration, and in a number of cases the times
for the tests were recorded. Mean values of these times are given in Table 4.

Table 4.
Average times for tests

Operation 1 Time:

Removal of top soil for both tests .. .. . . .. / 12

CBR test
Setting up and ensuring plunger is bearing over the whole area 5
CBR test .. . . . . . .. .. 3
Fixing apparatus ready to travel . .. .. 1
Total for three CBR tests . .. .. . .. . 30*

Plate test
3-in. plate failure test .. .. .. .. .. ..
Returning plunger . . .. .. .. . .. .. :
Total for three 3-in. plate tests . . .. .. .. 9*

* Note : The time for three tests is not equal to three times the individual test
time because the former includes the time taken to move the truck and
position the apparatus.

The name of the locality in which the test was carried out, a description of the soil, the 1
soil moisture content, and a summary of the test values recorded, are given in Table 5.
A detailed statistical analysis was made from these results to evaluate the significance of
different factors affecting the accuracy. Only the derived relationship is given here.
The results from site No. 13 were discarded. This site was a disused track, so that owing to
the position of the apparatus on the vehicle the plate tests were carried out on the soft centre,
while CBR tests were made on the more compacted wheel tracks.
One missing value for site No. 2 was estimated by normal statistical methods.

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Table 5.
Location and description of soils tested with test results

Site Location I- Soil type Moisture

content :
Mean CBR
value :
Mean 3-in.
1elate failure
-- (/o) (%)
1 Boscombe Down Clay of high plasticity with lumps 7-9 9 4,450
of chalk
Hawthorn Clay of medium plasticity 14-20 1,500
Alton Barnes Organic clay of high plasticity 21-22 2,100
Burghfield Clay of high plasticity with small 21-27 950
Westcott Clay of high plasticity 16-34 650
Farnborough Medium-fine sand IO-23 1: 2,800
Chobham Uniform fine sand 14-18 10 3,250
Langhurst Sandy clay 2133 5 1,200
Wellington Silty clay, and clay of medium 13-16 15 3,350
10 Bridgwater Clay of high plasticity 1,500
11 Knowle Hill Clay of high plasticity with small 1??24 6 1,250
Cardiff Clay-bound sand 18-19 3 1,300
Pembrey Uniform fine sand 17 1,900
Pendine Uniform fine sand with stones ; 8 1,950
Aberporth Clayey sand 14-34 1,050
Rotherwas Sandy clay, and clay-bound 7-17 244 6,800
medium-fine sand
Malvern Sandy loam 12-16 9 2,350
:; Defford Clay of high plasticity 16-28 4 800
19 Summerfield Uniform fine sand 3-5 14 2,000
Swynnerton Clay-bound sand 15-23 17 1,900
EY Featherstone Medium sand with fines IO-20 4 850
22 Melton Mowbray Clay of high plasticity 24-25 650
23 Elstow Sandy silt 13-22 . : 2,150
24 Cardington Silty clay 12-14 11 2,950
Henlow Clay of medium plasticity 15-16 11 2.950
2: Sutton Heath Uniform medium-fine sand 7 22 3;500
Martlesham Heath Sand (visual classification only) 16 3,050
f: Felixstowe Sandy gravel 4-5 2,050
29 Shoeburyness Silty sand 10-I 1 1: 3.050
- -

The results are plotted in Fig. 9 together with the formula derived to represent the relation-
ship. This formula is :
log,, CBR = 0.76837 log,, (plate) -1.6442
In deriving this result previous work was not taken into account, since it was not carried out
according to the required experimental design, but the results obtained in the previous in-
vestigation are plotted in Fig. 9 to give an idea of the disposition of all the results and the
scatter to be expected.

Fig. 10. Investigation on two sites of relation between CBR values and plate failure load test

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In applying the relationship obtained in subsequent work two cases arose where agreement
between the 3-in. plate failure load test and the measured CBR value was not obtained. In
both cases an investigation of CBR with depth was made.
In the first case, at Wellington (Table 5, site No. 9), measurements were made in three
places on the surface of 3-in. plate failure loads. In proximity CBR values were obtained on
the surface, at 6- and 12-in. depth. In the second case, at Somerford, eighteen measurements
were made of CBR values at 6- and 12-in. depth, while 3-m plate failure load measurements
were made at 6-in. depth. The mean values obtained are plotted in Fig. 10, and both cases
indicate that the 3-in. plate failure load has given the CBR value a few inches below the
plane on which it acts.


While it can be concluded therefore that the 3-in.-dia. plate failure load can be used to
determine the CBR value using the relationship :
log,, (CBR) = 0.76837 log,, (plate load in lb.) - 1.6442
it should be borne in mind that the depth at which the CBR is measured may be below the
plane of measurement. Thus, with a CBR decreasing in value with depth below the plane on
which the measurement is made, the value obtained will be low. Further checks where varia-
tions occur will prove valuable, and may enable the relationship to be more sharply defined.


The Paper is published by permission of the Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Supply.
The Authors appreciate this opportunity to acknowledge the help they have received from
their colleagues in the Ministry of Supply, and in particular to Squadron-Leader K. E. James,
R.A.A.F. and Mr S. F. Read, who, between them did most of the experimental work which
yielded the results discussed.

EVANS, I., 1951. A method for the rapid evaluation of soil strength at forward airfields. War @ice
Report (unpublished).
ROBERTSON, I. AI., 1951. Air Ministry Refiort (unpublished).
SCHOOLCRAFT, G. B., TV. K. BOYD, and C. R. FOSTER, 1948. Trafficability of soil studies. Pvoc. 2nd
I?zt. Conf. Soil Mech., 5 : 206.

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