The Michigan Cone Tests: A Reliability Study

Our Civil Engineering Seminar of this week will be presented by three
graduate students: Michael Hochscheidt, Karl Krueger, and Tony Oxley.
Public welcome.


Karl Krueger


Dr. Stanley J. Vitton


The Michigan cone test is a compaction control test used to determine the maximum density of granular materials. This test has been used in Michigan as a field compaction test for over 50 years. However, the Proctor test is more often used as a method of compaction control in other states. Recently, the question has risen concerning the reliability of the cone test compared to methods used in other states. Specifically, does the Michigan cone test lead to better overall compaction control than use of the Proctor test would? Specific questions concerning the cone test include: how was the test developed, does the cone test yield a greater maximum density than the Proctor test, is the cone test repeatable between multiple technicians, and what should be done for quality assurance testing on MDOT projects. The purpose of this report is to:

  • Research the origins of the cone test and gain insight into the compaction principles behind it.
  • Better answer how well the cone test compares to testing employed by other DOT agencies.
  • Determine the repeatability of the cone test for a single user as well as for multiple users.
  • Make recommendations regarding the continued use of the cone test.