The California bearing ratio (CBR) is a penetration test for evaluation of the mechanical strength of road subgrades and base-courses. It was developed by the California Department of Transportation before World War II.
The test is performed by measuring the pressure required to penetrate a soil sample with a plunger of standard area. The measured pressure is then divided by the pressure required to achieve an equal penetration on a standard crushed rock material. The CBR test is fully described in BS 1377: Soils for civil engineering purposes: Part 4, Compaction related tests.
The CBR rating was developed for measuring the load-bearing capacity of soils used for building roads. The CBR can also be used for measuring the load-bearing capacity of unimproved airstrips or for soils under paved airstrips. The harder the surface, the higher the CBR rating. A CBR of 3 equates to tilled farmland, a CBR of 4.75 equates to turf or moist clay, while moist sand may have a CBR of 10. High quality crushed rock has a CBR over 80. The standard material for this test is crushed California limestone which has a value of 100.