Estimating passenger car equivalents on level freeway segments experiencing high truck percentages and differential average speeds

Jianan Zhou, Laurence Rilett, Elizabeth Jones, Yifeng Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

In the Highway Capacity Manual (HCM), the passenger car equivalent (PCE) of a truck is used to account for the impacts of trucks on traffic flow. The 2010 HCM PCE values were estimated by the equal-density method using a FRESIM simulation. It was determined that the truck PCE for level freeway segments was 1.5 for all conditions. In the 2016 HCM, the PCE values were based on VISSIM simulation output at 1 min intervals along a three-lane, 13 mile (8 mile level and 5 mile graded) section of a roadway. It was determined that the truck PCE for level freeway segments was 2.0. It is hypothesized in this paper that the HCM PCE values are not appropriate for the western United States, which consistently experiences truck percentages higher than 25%, the maximum truck percentage published in the HCM PCE table. The HCM PCE procedure assumes that truck and passenger cars travel at the same average free-flow speed on level terrain. However, many heavy trucks in the western United States have speed limiters to improve fuel economy, and therefore travel slower than the speed limit. The interaction of high truck percentages and large speed differences may result in moving bottlenecks when trucks pass other trucks at low speed differentials. This may lead to an increased delay for the following passenger car vehicles. The 2016 HCM PCEs are based on three-lane simulations where the PCE is calculated based on near-capacity flows. This approach might not be appropriate for western states where these conditions rarely exist. This paper examines these effects using data from I-80 in western Nebraska. The paper develops new PCE values based on the 2010 HCM equal-density approach using calibrated CORSIM and VISSIM simulation models. It was found that the PCE values in the HCM 2010 and HCM 2016 underestimate the effect of heavy trucks on level terrain freeways that experience high truck percentages, and where different vehicle types have large differences in average free-flow speeds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-54
Number of pages11
JournalTransportation Research Record
Volume2672
Issue number15
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering

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