In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of bridges which are being instrumented and monitored on an ongoing basis. This is in part due to the introduction of bridge management systems designed to provide a high level of protection to the public and early warning if the bridge becomes unsafe. This paper investigates a novel alternative; a low-cost method consisting of the use of a vehicle fitted with accelerometers on its axles to monitor the dynamic behaviour of bridges. A simplified half-car vehicle-bridge interaction model is used in theoretical simulations to test the effectiveness of the approach in identifying the damping ratio of the bridge. The method is tested for a range of bridge spans and vehicle velocities using theoretical simulations and the influences of road roughness, initial vibratory condition of the vehicle, signal noise, modelling errors and frequency matching on the accuracy of the results are investigated. \textcopyright 2012 Elsevier Ltd.