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Design Vehicle


Design vehicle is defined by ITE as the vehicle that must regularly be accommodated on a roadway without encroachment into other travel lanes. The design vehicle’s dimensions and movements can play a large role in the physical characteristics of a roadway, such as the appropriate lane width and the radii of curves at intersections and driveway corners.

AASHTO has developed several profiles for commonly-used design vehicles, the details of which are provided in Chapter 2 of AASHTO’s Policy on the Geometric Design of Highways and Streets. The profiled design vehicles range in size from passenger cars to interstate tractor-trailers. Larger design vehicles require larger roadway dimensions, particularly at intersections. 

There are a number of tradeoffs inherent in design vehicle selection. The design vehicle selected for a given roadway should represent the largest vehicle that regularly or frequently, not occasionally, uses it. Selecting too large a design vehicle for a roadway or roadway segment will result in wider lanes and intersections, jeopardizing safety for other modes and leaving less space for pedestrian, bicycle and transit infrastructure.

Selecting too small a design vehicle can make turning maneuvers difficult or impossible for larger vehicles, potentially causing congestion and/or safety issues. Balancing these tradeoffs is an essential component of creating a great street which adequately serves regular users and is appropriate for the place type.