Steel Plate Application: Road Utilities

Steel plates (also known as road plates) are wide, flat plates used to cover road utilities while construction or repair is underway. They are also used along trench boxes during excavation for utility construction and repair. The purpose of a steel plate is to provide a temporary surface for traffic to pass over while work is underway.


Steel plates are manufactured in mills and are made of steel that is commonly at least one inch thick. They sometimes feature hardened threaded weld nuts and engineered lifting devices such as lifting rings for easy installation. Many plates come with a skid-resistant texture that’s applied to the surface to prevent vehicles from sliding on the steel, especially in wet conditions.

Though 1.00” thick steel plates seem to be the most commonly used, their thickness will depend on the speed of traffic moving over the plate. Speeds above 45 miles per hour will require taller plates, such as a 1.25-inch plate thickness.

Some common sizes for steel road plates include: 4×4, 4×6, 4×8, 4×10, 4×12, 4×16, 5×8, 5×10, 5×12, 5×16, 6×8, 6×10, 6×12, 6×16, 8×10, 8×12, 8×16, 8×20.

Common thickness options for steel road plates are: 0.500”, 0.750”, 1.00”, 1.25”, 1.50”, 1.75”, 2.00”

Steel plates are a common solution in urban areas where excavation must be done for utility work, such as installing or replacing utility lines, pipes and conduits. Steel plates are set on the road to cover the excavation when work is not underway and allow traffic to proceed as usual.

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Safety Hazards

It should be noted that the use of steel road plates as a temporary cover over an excavated area can present safety hazards if allowed to remain in place for extended periods of time, or if the plate is not properly secured. Some common issues include incorrect installation of the plates, which leads to loud rattling; plates that are not clearly marked, which can cause traffic confusion and wrecks; and plates that are used as a permanent roadway solution.

When an excavation cannot be completed within a single workday and steel plates are put into use, certain requirements should be met, as outlined by each state. Before installing a steel road plate, it’s important to consult with a structural engineer and conduct full site surveys to ensure the zone is suitable for the plates and meets all state requirements.

Steel road plates as utility covers can be safe and effective when proper installation methods are applied.

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