Here is the review of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) new guidance for drivers claiming off-duty time for 'personal conveyance'.
As you likely know, the coming of the ELD rule in the U.S. brought personal conveyance to the forefront of the debate in industry circles, regardless of what side of the fence you are on.
Having to account for all movements of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), and how time can be credited under personal conveyance can be the difference between a driver getting home at the end of their trip, or running out of time while in transit.
In the simplest of terms, the use of personal conveyance is merely a tool, used to account for the movement of a CMV while a driver is off-duty. Consequently, there are no changes to the current 11 or 14-hour limitations for truck drivers, the 10 or 15-hour limitations for bus drivers, the 60/70-hour limitations, the 34-hour restart provisions, or any other on-duty status. Nothing changes here!
For your convenience, I have added a link to the guidance https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/regulations/404421/cmv-personal-conveyance-regulatory-guidance.pdf
At first blush, I have concluded that although FMCSA attempted to add clarity to this duty status, the waters continue to be muddy in such cases. The result is that this relaxed interpretation although seen by some as an olive branch to appease drivers that are irate with ELD, did not sufficiently clarify what is acceptable personal conveyance.
Therefore, the void of open and transparent direction has evolved into a subjective standard that will be left in the hands of the driver to interpret, and to the discretion of DOT at the roadside and during a facility audit.
Loaded vs Unloaded Vehicles
One very significant reform initiated by FMCSA is the requirement that a CMV be unladen or empty to qualify is no longer the case. The justification why FMCSA elected to include loaded vehicles may be partially due to a new generation of vehicles where goods and incidental equipment cannot be removed from the truck or trailer. Therefore, whether loaded or empty, the new personal conveyance guidance will now default to the nature of the activity of the CMV to assess whether personal conveyance can be selected by a driver.
Unlike in Canada, FMCSA decided not to provide specific guidance to prescribe any distance and/or time limits for personal conveyance.
That being said, the guidance did provide some examples of how personal conveyance can and cannot be used. These examples and the explanation below does provide some insight into some of the changes.
Drivers who frequently had to wait to be loaded or unloaded would eat away at a driver’s hours of service productive time, yet in many cases, that same driver would be unable to get the required rest on that client’s private property. I have heard repeated complaints from drivers being ordered to leave a premise thereafter.
Under the new guidance, the time spent travelling to a nearby, reasonable, safe location to get the required rest after loading or unloading can now be claimed as off-duty under personal conveyance category.
It is important to note that the driving time must allow adequate time for required rest, and must be to the first resting location reasonably available. One additional point is to ensure that your motor carrier is, in fact, permitting you to use the CMV for personal use, as some carriers have clear policies forbidding such use. Further, who determines what is a first resting location reasonably available remains up for debate.
The guidance goes on to say that if the driver cannot park at the nearest location, they should annotate this fact in the remarks section of the log. My recommendation is that the driver should always annotate his/her activities under personal conveyance regardless of circumstances. Being proactive will go a long way in minimizing future debates with a safety official after the fact. When in doubt follow the CYA protocol, always!
Request to Move While Off-Duty
The second significant clarification is that personal conveyance also includes moving a CMV at the request of a safety official when a driver is otherwise off duty. In the past, completing such a move whether, whether at the direction of a safety official or not, would be either on duty not driving if off a public highway, or driving on a public highway. In this new world, this move would be done while off duty, and would not require a restart of a driver’s rest period. Again, the CMV cannot be moved any further than the nearest reasonable rest and safe area to complete the rest break.
Q & A
Other types of movements that are described in the guidance as acceptable personal conveyance based on official FMCSA Q & A are listed below:
Under what circumstances may a driver operate a CMV as a personal conveyance?
- A driver may record the time operating a CMV for personal conveyance (i.e., for personal use or reasons) as off-duty only when the driver is relieved from work and all responsibility for performing work by the motor carrier.
- The CMV may be used for personal conveyance even if it is laden, since the load is not being transported for the commercial benefit of the carrier at that time.
- Personal conveyance does not reduce a driver's or motor carrier's responsibility to operate a CMV safely. Motor carriers can establish personal conveyance limitations either within the scope of, or more restrictive than, this guidance, such as banning the use of a CMV for personal conveyance purposes, imposing a distance limitation on personal conveyance, or prohibiting personal conveyance while the CMV is laden.
Can you give specific examples of appropriate uses of a CMV while off-duty for personal conveyance?
- Time spent travelling from a driver's en route lodging (such as a motel or truck stop) to restaurants and entertainment facilities.
- Commuting between the driver's terminal and his or her residence, between trailer drop lots and the driver's residence, and between work sites and his or her residence. In these scenarios, the commuting distance combined with the release from work and start to work times must allow the driver enough time to obtain the required restorative rest as to ensure the driver is not fatigued.
- Time spent travelling to a nearby, reasonable, safe location to obtain the required rest after loading or unloading. The time driving under personal conveyance must allow the driver adequate time to obtain the required rest in accordance with minimum off-duty periods under 49 CFR 395.3(a)(l) (property-carrying vehicles) or 395.5(a) (passenger-carrying vehicles) before returning to on-duty driving, and the resting location must be the first such location reasonably available.
- Moving a CMV at the request of a safety official during the driver's off-duty time.
- Time spent travelling in a motor coach without passengers to en route lodging (such as motel or truck stop), or to restaurants and entertainment facilities and back to the lodging. In this scenario, the driver of the motor coach can claim personal conveyance provided the driver is off-duty. Other off-duty drivers may be on board the vehicle and are not considered passengers.
- Time spent transporting personal property while off-duty.
- Authorized use of a CMV to travel home after working at an offsite location.
Can you give examples of uses of a CMV that would not qualify as personal conveyance?
- The movement of a CMV in order to enhance the operational readiness of a motor carrier. For example, bypassing available resting locations in order to get closer to the next loading or unloading point or other scheduled motor carrier destination.
- After delivering a towed unit, and the towing unit no longer meets the definition of a CMV, the driver returns to the point of origin under the direction of the motor carrier to pick up another towed unit.
- Continuation of a CMV trip in interstate commerce in order to fulfil a business purpose, including bobtailing or operating with an empty trailer in order to retrieve another load or repositioning a CMV (tractor or trailer) at the direction of the motor carrier.
- Time spent driving a passenger-carrying CMV while passenger(s) are on board. Off-duty drivers are not considered passengers when travelling to a common destination of their own choice within the scope of this guidance.
- Time spent transporting a CMV to a facility to have vehicle maintenance performed.