Cyclic Plate Load Test: Evaluating Soil Bearing Capacity under Repetitive Loading

A cyclic plate load test (CPLT) is a geotechnical field test used to assess the behavior of soil subjected to repeated loading and unloading cycles. It provides valuable information about the soil’s bearing capacity, deformation characteristics, and liquefaction potential under dynamic conditions.

Test Setup:

  • A rigid plate of known diameter and thickness is embedded in the soil at the desired test depth.
  • A cyclic load is applied to the plate through a hydraulic jack or actuator, typically following a sinusoidal or haversine waveform.
  • The applied load magnitude, frequency, and number of cycles are carefully controlled and monitored.
  • During the test,¬†various parameters are measured,¬†including:
    • Plate displacement: Measured using displacement transducers placed beneath the plate.
    • Applied load and frequency: Monitored by the loading system.
    • Pore water pressure: Measured in nearby piezometers to assess drainage conditions.

Data Analysis and Interpretation:

  • The collected data is used to plot load-displacement curves for each loading cycle.
  • From these curves, key parameters like secant modulus, damping ratio, and accumulated settlement are calculated.
  • Based on the analysis, the soil’s cyclic bearing capacity, fatigue resistance, and liquefaction potential can be estimated.
  • The results are compared to established guidelines and soil properties to assess the site’s suitability for the intended infrastructure.


  • Evaluating foundation performance: Assessing the long-term stability of structures subjected to dynamic loads, such as bridges, offshore platforms, and wind turbines.
  • Liquefaction assessment: Identifying soils susceptible to liquefaction under earthquake or cyclic loading conditions.
  • Pavement design: Evaluating the fatigue resistance of pavement materials under repeated traffic loads.
  • Embankment stability: Assessing the stability of slopes subjected to wave action or traffic vibrations.


  • Simulates in-situ loading conditions more realistically than static tests.
  • Provides valuable information about soil behavior under dynamic loading.
  • Can be used to calibrate numerical models for advanced analysis.


  • Requires specialized equipment and skilled personnel to conduct.
  • Test results can be influenced by factors like test duration, loading frequency, and soil heterogeneity.
  • Interpretation of results requires experienced geotechnical engineers.

In conclusion, the cyclic plate load test is a valuable tool for geotechnical engineers to assess soil behavior under dynamic conditions. By simulating real-world loading scenarios, it provides insights into bearing capacity, deformation characteristics, and liquefaction potential, ultimately contributing to safer and more resilient infrastructure design.

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