PCMS/Flashing Arrow Panels (PCMS/FAP)

Portable changeable message signs (PCMS) and Flashing Arrow Panels (FAP) are traffic control devices that are frequently used by Traffic Engineers to inform motorists of unusual driving conditions and to guide traffic through work zones. Typically, a PCMS is housed on a trailer or on a truck bed and can be deployed quickly for meeting the temporary requirements.

Use of PCMS and FAP are generally defined in the MUTCD(1): “Portable changeable message signs (PCMS) are traffic control devices with the flexibility to display a variety of messages to fit the needs of road and street authorities. Each message consists of one or more displays. PCMS are used most frequently on high density, urban freeways, but have applications on all types of highways where highway alignment, traffic routing problems, or other pertinent conditions require advance warning and information.”

The MUTCD further defines the use of Flashing Arrow Panels (sometimes referred to as “arrow display”) as: “a sign with a matrix of elements. The matrix, capable of either flashing or sequential displays, is intended to provide additional warning and directional information to assist in merging and controlling traffic through or around a temporary traffic control zone. An arrow display should be used in combination with appropriate signs, barricades, or other traffic control devices.

The NTPEP Technical Committee responsible for authoring the Project Work Plan convenes yearly at the NTPEP National (Annual) Meeting. During this working meeting, the Project Work Plan is discussed; changes made, and shortly thereafter balloted for adoption. Improvements are immediately implemented in the next available testing cycle. When compared to other standards development exercises, the NTPEP process is agile, effective, and efficient.

NTPEP Designated Lab:

  • Florida Department of Transportation

NTPEP - PCMS/Flashing Arrow Panels


Committee Name:
NTPEP-Technical Committee on Portable Changeable Message Signs and Flashing Arrow Panels
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Meeting Materials
PCMS FAP_Presentation_NTPEP2012 (PowerPoint)

Work Plan
NTPEP tests products according to a Project Work Plan, which describes the laboratory and/or field test protocols used to conduct the evaluation. The Project Work Plan is a consensus-based document and includes peer review and input from industry experts. Each Project Work Plan is adopted after receiving at least two-thirds affirmative support from 52 AASHTO member states. The Project Work Plan is the basis for host states to conduct their testing and evaluation. When implemented by state DOTs, their own state standard specifications may supersede the NTPEP Project Work Plan. Industry is advised to be aware of state-level requirements, which may supersede basic NTPEP testing.

Project Work Plan for the Field Evaluation of Portable Changeable Message Signs (PCMS) *2-13-13

Project Work Plan for the Field Evaluation of Flashing Arrow Panels (FAP) *2-13-13

User Guides
PCMS Data Usage Guide

FAP Data Usage Guide

Please go to NTPEP DataMine.

Please go to NTPEP DataMine.