The clampdown on hours of service with the mandated use of electronic logging devices underscored a critical need for some flexibility for truck drivers. Within two months of the hard enforcement of the logging mandate, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration loosened some wording in the enforcement guidance regarding the use of personal conveyance.
And, while the flexibility and intention was appreciated by truckers, it created another wave of confusion throughout the industry.
FMCSA’s director of enforcement and compliance, Joe DeLorenzo, understands the confusion and took some time to visit with Land Line Now Senior Correspondent Terry Scruton about the revised guidance. That segment is now available via podcast.
DeLorenzo told Scruton that before you talk about the ins and outs of the guidance, the place truckers need to start is to look in the regs.
“It’s really not a regulatory term, it’s a term of art. It’s a term to describe that time when the driver is using the truck but isn’t on duty and what the driver is doing is for personal reasons,” DeLorenzo said.
He explained that the original guidance came out in 1988, but with the advent of the electronic logging mandate the need for change really came to light.
“When evaluating that duty status, a driver just has to ask themselves, ‘Am I moving my commercial motor vehicle for my own personal purposes and not for the commercial purpose of moving this load.’ If so, then that can be considered off duty or personal conveyance,” he said.
Scruton went on to ask common questions being fielded by OOIDA’s Business Services Department. Those questions and DeLorenzo’s answers, which are edited for brevity, are detailed below.
Question: I’m a one-truck motor carrier and relieve myself from duty when I unload at a receiver. Can I use personal conveyance to go home?
Answer: No. This answer applies to any driver, company or owner-operator. It’s important to know when you are making a trip that the trip is both the delivery and the return. Even if the return is empty. So wherever you started from and return to, that makes the complete interstate trip. That time is considered on-duty or on-duty driving.
Question: How far can I run on personal conveyance and under what circumstances?
Answer: There is not a specified limit. You go back to the basics. What is personal conveyance? It’s personal time. So if you’re off-duty and the movement of that commercial motor vehicle is for your personal purposes, there really aren’t any limits on time or distance.
There’s a caveat: before you go back out on the road, make sure you have adequate rest.
Question: Do I have to keep the guidance and interpretation in the truck with me when I am taking advantage of personal conveyance?
Answer: Not necessarily. What is recommended to drivers when they are talking to an officer during a roadside inspection is to communicate it clearly that you are on an off-duty period for personal use when the electronic log is showing the truck moving during that time period.
Question: My ELD doesn’t have a personal conveyance option. How do I log it?
Answer: As part of the ELD spec, there is required to be a function call “authorized personal use.” However, at the carrier level, they have to activate the use of that function. Owner-operators need to talk to their ELD vendor, and company drivers would have to talk to their company about policy and procedure to get the function activated.
The other alternative is to remain logged out of the ELD during the time of personal conveyance. When you log back in, the ELD will ask about these unassigned miles, and you would reject those miles and put a note in saying you were operating under personal conveyance.
Question: I load in Dallas going to Little Rock. I am going to take my reset over the weekend. I live in Texarkana. I run out of hours two hours from home. Can I use personal conveyance to get home and take my 34-hour restart? What if I’m just wanting to take a 10-hour break?
Answer: One thing you cannot do with personal conveyance is use it to extend your duty time. Even though the driver is going by his or her home on their way to deliver, when they are out of hours, they are out of hours wherever that happens to be.
That movement, that additional two hours from the point where the driver ran out of hours progressing toward the destination of the load, is considered on-duty time. It doesn’t matter if you were planning on taking a 10-hour rest break or a voluntary 34-hour restart.
Bottom line, you cannot extend your on-duty driving time by using personal conveyance.
Question: I began to look for safe parking with an hour or two left on my clock, but I ran out of hours while traveling from truck stop to truck stop looking for safe parking. Can I continue to drive on personal conveyance until I find a safe place to rest?
Answer: This is a tough situation, and FMCSA recognizes how hard it has gotten for the drivers. In the described case, technically speaking, you cannot continue on under personal conveyance.
Drivers should be reminded that everyone understands this situation, and the one good thing about that is the ELD will demonstrate where you were and what you were doing. So, if you did wind up in violation, then it would be obvious what you were doing. I also recommend that drivers make an annotation if they wound up over their 11 hours of on-duty driving time because they were looking for parking. Put a note in when you are at a truck stop and can’t find a spot before you proceed to the next place. Those notes are helpful.
Question: If personal conveyance is only discussed in the guidance section of the FMCSR, how confident can I be that an inspection officer will allow it and not place me out of service even if I am following the guidance?
Answer: Go back to the basics again. Make sure you know it and understand it. But also know that as much time as FMCSA spends with the industry trying to make sure drivers and carriers understand the regs, FMCSA also works with law enforcement partners.
Question: What happens if I’m using personal conveyance correctly but I’m still cited?
Answer: Sometimes mistakes happen. There is a process to challenge inspections called DataQs. There is an online process where you put in the information of the inspection and evidence to support your claim and that will get reviewed to determine whether a change should be made to the inspection.
Question: How does FMCSA define a “nearby, reasonable, safe location,” included in the guidance?
Answer: FMCSA does not define those terms, deliberately. As soon as the agency does define them, then it becomes a little bit more restrictive. FMCSA is leaving that up to the driver to make that call as to what those terms mean.
FMCSA does not want drivers to put themselves into a situation where they feel unsafe because they are somewhere without adequate lighting, facilities or whatever the case may be.
It’s also important to go back to context in the guidance. The example cited is when a driver believes he or she had enough time to get loaded or unloaded at a shipper or receiver but instead runs out of hours. In that instance, the guidance is intended to allow drivers to proceed to the nearest reasonable, safe location for the purpose of getting rest. The reason this is personal conveyance is because the sole reason you are moving your truck is for the personal reason of getting your rest required by the regulations.
What FMCSA does not want is for drivers to “go an hour on down the road to your favorite truck stop.” The point is to get to the closest place that you can where there is adequate facilities and you’re in a place where you can feel safe. If they get stopped, everything will be right there on your ELD. Officers know the area, and they will be able to tell if you’ve passed up a good location where you could have rested.
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