Estimating Passenger Car Equivalent using the HCM-6 PCE Methodology on Four-Lane Level Freeway Segments in Western U.S.

Jianan Zhou, Laurence Rilett, Elizabeth Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The passenger car equivalent (PCE) of a truck is used to account for the presence of trucks in the Highway Capacity Manual (HCM). The HCM-6 employed an equivalency capacity methodology to estimate PCE. It is hypothesized in this paper that the HCM-6 PCE values are not appropriate for the western U.S., which consistently experiences truck percentages higher than 25%. Furthermore, the HCM PCE procedure assumes that truck and passenger cars travel at the same desired free-flow speed on level terrain. However, many heavy trucks in the western U.S. are governed through the use of speed limiters so that their speeds are considerably less than the speed limit. Thirdly, the HCM-6 PCEs are based on the freeways having three lanes per direction, which might not be appropriate for the freeways with two lanes per direction that predominate in the rural sections of the western U.S. Lastly, the trucks used in the HCM-6 simulation might not be representative of the empirical trucks observed on rural freeways in western states. This paper examines these effects on PCEs using data from I-80 in western Nebraska. The PCEs were estimated using the HCM-6 equal-capacity method and VISSIM 9.0 simulation data under (1) the HCM-6 conditions and (2) the Nebraska empirical conditions. It was found that the PCEs recommended in HCM-6 underestimate the effects of trucks on four-lane level freeway segments that experience high truck percentages having large differences in free-flow speed distributions, and which have different truck lengths.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)529-545
Number of pages17
JournalTransportation Research Record
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


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