Structural health monitoring (SHM) systems can provide valuable information for the evaluation of bridge performance. As the development and implementation of SHM technology in recent years, the data mining and use has received increasingly attention and interests in civil engineering. Based on the principle of probabilistic and statistics, a reliability approach provides a rational basis for analysis of the randomness in loads and their effects on structures. A novel approach combined SHM systems with reliability method to evaluate the reliability of a cable-stayed bridge instrumented with SHM systems was presented in this paper. In this study, the reliability of the steel girder of the cable-stayed bridge was denoted by failure probability directly instead of reliability index as commonly used. Under the assumption that the probability distributions of the resistance are independent to the responses of structures, a formulation of failure probability was deduced. Then, as a main factor in the formulation, the probability density function (PDF) of the strain at sensor locations based on the monitoring data was evaluated and verified. That Donghai Bridge was taken as an example for the application of the proposed approach followed. In the case study, 4 years' monitoring data since the operation of the SHM systems was processed, and the reliability assessment results were discussed. Finally, the sensitivity and accuracy of the novel approach compared with FORM was discussed.© (2011) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.