Two methods have been reported by Zhu and Law to identify moving loads on the top of a bridge deck. One is based on the exact solution (ESM) and the other is based on the finite element formulation (FEM). Simulation studies on the effect of different influencing factors have been reported previously. This paper comparatively studies the performances of these two methods with experimental measurements obtained from a bridge/vehicle system in the laboratory. The strains of the bridge deck are measured when a model car moves across the bridge deck along different paths. The moving loads on the bridge deck are identified from the measured strains using these two methods, and the responses are reconstructed from the identified loads for comparison with the measured responses to verify the performances of these methods. Studies on the identification accuracy due to the effect of the number of vibration mode used, the number of measuring points and eccentricities of travelling paths are performed. Results show that the ESM could identify the moving loads individually or as axle loads when they are travelling at an eccentricity with the sensors located close to the travelling path of the forces. And the accuracy of the FEM is dependent on the amount of measured information used in the identification. (C) 2002 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.