The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has been pressed to provide a clearer definition for the term “personal conveyance” as it pertains to commercial vehicle regulations.
Last week, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) asked the FMCSA to provide new and more specific guidance on what qualifies as “personal conveyance.”
The CVSA noted that term “needs to be defined with the maximum distance and/or time a driver may operate for personal conveyance.”
Current FMCSA guidance on personal conveyance is below:
FMCSA guidance for § 395.8, Driver’s record of duty status currently states:
Question 26: Under what circumstances may a driver operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) as a personal conveyance?
Guidance: A driver may record 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 use of a CMV for personal conveyance purposes, imposing a distance limitation on personal conveyance, or prohibiting personal conveyance while the CMV is laden.
In a letter to the FMCSA, the CVSA points to several reasons for adding concrete limits to the use of personal conveyance:
Under the current guidance, a driver could, in theory, drive hundreds of miles over the course of several hours all under the designation of personal conveyance. This presents the opportunity for increased driver fatigue and risk on our roadways, as drivers may decide to travel hundreds of miles in order to strategically relocate to an alternate location after driving a full day. Without a maximum daily distance and/or time limit, the guidance presents a legal way for drivers to significantly extend their driving time and the furtherance of their load while recording personal conveyance. The hours-of-service limits exist to mitigate the impacts of fatigue on highway safety. Allowing significant extension of driving time with the use of personal conveyance undermines the goals of the hours-of-service regulations.
In addition, the lack of a defined maximum daily time or distance makes it difficult for law enforcement to determine if a driver is genuinely operating under personal conveyance or attempting to circumvent the hours-of-service regulations. The guidance provides some parameters for the use of personal conveyance, all with the goal of ensuring the trip is for personal use. These parameters, however, are extremely difficult to verify during a roadside inspection, particularly when the personal conveyance has been utilized on previous days and/or trips in the record of duty status, making enforcement of the misuse of personal conveyance very difficult. These challenges were exacerbated by the change in the guidance to allow laden vehicles to be used under personal conveyance. That change has opened the door for drivers to falsely claim the use of personal conveyance when they are really attempting to further their trip and extend driving time.
The CVSA previously requested that the FMCSA provide new guidance on personal conveyance in 2018, but the FMCSA denied the request, which the group says is resulting in an uptick in log book violations. “Since our original petition, inspectors are seeing an increased misuse of this provision. In some instances, inspectors are able to identify this misuse and cite a driver for false record of duty status. As a result, the number of false log violations are increasing. In 2021, false records of duty status violations represented the 3rd most documented driver violation, as compared to it being the 6th most frequent violation in 2019,” the CVSA stated.
The CVSA also argues that some drivers are misusing the personal conveyance provision unintentionally because the current definition is so vague. The group says that a clearer definition will allow more drivers and motor carriers to responsibly use the provision.