Highway Pavement Failure

Project and Seminar Material for Civil and Environmental Engineering

Highway Pavement Failure


Most of the road networks in the developing countries of Africa are in deplorable conditions. Nigeria being one of these countries is not an exception. The conditions of the roads in Nigeria were examined. The causes of these conditions of the roads in Nigeria were articulated and their effects to the citizen, government and the economy of the country were highlighted and solutions to these problems given in the form of recommendations that will remedy the situation. Some of the identified causes were; poor design and construction, poor maintenance of already built highways, use of low quality materials in construction, poor workmanship and poor supervision of construction work and the plying of heavy traffic that were not meant for the road on the road. Some of the recommendations to remedy the situation are; Use of the appropriate design of the roads, avoiding unnecessary congestion of the roads with traffic especially heavy traffics that were not meant for the roads in  the first place, prompt maintenance of the roads, application of suitable construction material in the construction of the roads, applying appropriate tests to the soil in road construction, use of qualified engineering personnel in road construction and the application of sanctions for highway failures.

Chapter One

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background Of The Study

The catalogue on road defects (1992) refers to road defects as the visible evidence of an undesirable condition in the pavement affecting serviceability, structural condition or appearance. The definition of a “road defect” includes any part of a road, highway, or construction site that does not meet the regulations for a safe road. In Nigeria the defects that most often cause injuries to people or damage to vehicles include: inadequate road shoulders, lanes that are uneven, pavement that is uneven, improperly marked signs, malfunctioning stop lights, construction negligence, and municipal negligence. These leads to accidents on Nigeria roads which lead the national emergency agency NEMA to put up a programme that engaged the competent hands from other stake holders such as the Nigerian police, Nigerian army, Nigerian security and civil defense corps, federal road safety commission, National air space management authority, Nigerian red cross, the states ministries of health and environment. For the programme, national and state emergency agencies were to train the volunteers (Onwubiko 2010). NEMA also did a study on the major causes of accidents across the country in collaboration with the federal road safety commission in close partnership with members of some state emergency management agencies in some flash points like Tafa junction, Forest/ Mararaba to Jos in Kaduna state and made recommendations to some state governments on the urgent need to decongest some major federal highways which passed through these states and are now used by heavy duty vehicles drivers as transit camps thereby constituting veritable sources of road disaster. From these studies it indicated that the deplorable conditions of the roads contribute to high level of accident on the roads. Onwubiko (2010) stated that Nigerian roads were death traps. In the developing world which includes Nigeria, road network is the most developed transport mode and the vastest in usage. The Nigerian government over the years has tried to construct and rehabilitated the roads. Considerable interest has been shown by the government to road investment (see table2). The issue has been the extent these interests has been driven to achieve the desired result. According to Oguara(2010), roads represent the major areas of investment in transportation and are the most dominant travel mode accounting for over 90% of passenger and goods transport in Nigeria. One of the main problems of road work in Nigeria is the lack adequate informational data on the Nigerian roads. Some studies have been done on the state of Nigerian roads. Ette (2010) stated that there was a road net work study that was commissioned in 1998/99. This study covered all inters- urban roads which had a traffic of more than 30 vehicles/day and a total length of around 53,000km. Urban roads were not included in this study. The outcome of the study is shown in table 1 below. The problems of the Nigerian roads are looked into in this paper and their causes analysed with the proffering of solutions to these problems.


Good< 3.5m/km27%
Fair3.5 – 4.5m/km38%
Poor> 4.5m/km35%

Source; Ette (2010) Book of proceedings19th Engineering Assembly, page18.


Development planTransportation sector as a percentage of total plan (%)Road transportation as a percentage of transport sector
Road transportation as a percentage of total plan
1962- 6819.548.79.5
1970 – 7424.372.117.5
1975 – 8022.368.315.2
1980 – 8515.268.210.4
1985 – 9028.768.211.0

Source; Oguara(2010), Book of proceedings19th Engineering Assembly, page53.

1.3 Objectives Of The Study

The major goal of this research is to investigate the causes leading to the early deterioration of the highway (road) pavement and the remedial approach to ameliorate the current situation.

1.4 Scope Of The Study

Highway pavement failure occurs when it can no longer perform its traditional function of carrying vehicles and people from one location to another in safety and comfort before the anticipated design life.
Usually highway pavement failure of Nigeria roads results in frequent road accidents with loss of life and properties, high transportation costs of goods and services, high maintenance costs of vehicles and increase in travel time.

1.4 Classification Of Nigerian Roads.

Nigeria has about 200,000 km of roads spread all over the country. These roads are made up of over 32,000 km of federal roads spread over the thirty six states and the federal capital, over 30,000 km of state roads and over 130,000 km of local government roads (see table 3). Within the states, the local government roads are further classified into urban and rural roads.


Federal (km)State roads (km)L.G.       roads
Paved main roads26,50010,40036,90019%
Unpaved main roads5,60020,10025,70013%
Urban roads21,90021,90011%
Main rural roads72,80072,80038%
Village access roads35,90035,90019%

Source; Central bank of Nigeria.

Federal Roads

In one of its publications in June 2011, the federal ministry of works reported that it had over thirty five thousand kilometres of federal roads and bridges in the thirty six states of the federation and the federal capital territory, Abuja (see table 4). These roads are divided into the federal trunk ‘A’ roads and the federal trunk ‘F’ roads. The federal trunk ‘A’ roads are those under the federal government ownership and they are developed  and maintained by the federal government while the federal trunk ‘F’ roads are those that were formerly under the state ownership, but were taken over by the federal government, with a view to upgrading them to federal highway standards (Nnanna etal 2003). The faults on most of the Nigerian federal roads are; depressions on the road surfaces, presence of pot holes and cracks, development of gulley due to erosion, washing away of the road shoulders, faulty street lights, faulty drainage systems , faulty traffic signals and wiping off of pavement markings.


North West
North East
North Central
South West
South East
South South

Source; Federal ministry of works.

State Roads

The state roads are classified as the state trunk ‘B’ roads. These are the roads under the ownership and management of the various state governments.

Local Government Roads

These are classified as the local government trunk ‘C’ roads. They are the roads under the ownership and management of the local governments in the country. These roads are divided into the urban, rural and village access roads.

Urban Roads

In Nigeria, these are the roads that are in the urban areas. They account for over twenty one kilometres of Nigerian roads. They include township streets, lanes, cul-de-sac and avenues. Most of these roads are tarred while some are still untarred. In the state capitals the advanced urban roads posses traffic facilities like street lights, drainage facilities, pavement markings and traffic signals. In this country, the main faults on most of our urban roads are almost the same as the ones on the federal and state roads; they are; depressions on the road surfaces, presence of pot holes and cracks, development of gulley due to erosion, washing away of the road shoulders, faulty street lights, faulty drainage systems, faulty traffic signals and wiping off of pavement markings.

Rural Roads

In Nigeria, rural roads account for over 72,000 km of roads in the country. These are roads that are found in the remote country parts of the nation. They are mainly earth roads, but with recent developments in the rural areas some of them are now lightly tarred. Here, most of the faults on our urban roads are also available on our rural roads. Faults like the depression of the road surfaces, presence of potholes, cracks, gulley and the wearing away of the road surfaces are rampant.

Village Access Roads

In the local governments these are minor roads that provide access within the various villages we have in the country. They are mainly earth roads. The level of under development of these roads reduces them to the level of foot paths. The village access roads account for 35000 km of Nigerian roads (see table3).

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