A Guide to Personal Conveyance
Learn about FMCSA and DOT regulations regarding personal conveyance. Discover how fleet managers can determine appropriate uses for personal conveyance.
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Personal conveyance can be a big gray area for owner-operators offering delivery services.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) defines personal conveyance as the use of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) for personal use while off duty.
This includes time spent commuting from a truck stop to a restaurant in a CMV.
Personal conveyance is supposed to be recorded by a delivery or truck driver when they’re off work.
It sounds so simple — but personal conveyance can be a source of confusion for truck drivers and fleet managers who are left questioning each move.
This is an important issue to address because it can help improve both safety and compliance for your company.
If you want to manage your delivery drivers well, you need to understand personal conveyance.
I’ll take the guesswork out of personal conveyance by explaining what it is and when drivers can use it so you can determine whether your drivers are using personal conveyance correctly.
What is personal conveyance?
Personal conveyance is defined as the use of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) for personal use while the driver is off duty.
This means that a delivery or truck driver who isn’t working (like during their ten-hour break) can use their vehicle to grab some food or go to the store.
But there are some restrictions and conditions.
A driver may only record this time as “off-duty” if they’ve been relieved from work and don’t have any other work-related tasks.
This means that if your driver is on their ten-hour break but you ask them to do something related to work, the driver can’t record that time as off-duty.
Even if a CMV has a load, they can still use the vehicle for personal conveyance as long as the goods aren't being transported for the commercial purpose of the motor carrier.
This is an important distinction because it means that even if your driver has a load in their vehicle, they can still use the vehicle for personal use as long as they’re not using it to transport the load for work.
However, personal conveyance doesn’t limit a driver’s or carrier’s responsibility to use a CMV safely.
So, even though your driver might be using the work vehicle for personal reasons, they’re still responsible for using it safely.
What is a commercial motor vehicle (CMV)?
A commercial motor vehicle (CMV) must meet at least one of the following:
- Have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), gross vehicle weight (GVW), gross combination weight (GCW), or gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 10,001 pounds or more, whichever is greater
- Be designed to transport more than eight passengers (including the driver) for compensation, such as a city bus that accepts a fee from passengers.
- Be designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) and not used to transport passengers for compensation, such as school buses.
- Have to transport hazardous materials in quantities requiring the vehicle to be placarded (in other words, have signage identifying the hazard class)
If your delivery vehicles don’t meet any of these criteria, they aren’t CMVs.
Businesses with CMVs must comply with the FMCSA’s Hours of Service (HOS) regulations.
What are considered “off-duty” activities when operating a CMV?
The use of personal conveyance relies heavily on duty status.
On-duty drivers can’t use personal conveyance. It only applies to off-duty drivers.
But what are “off-duty” activities while using a CMV?
Here are some specific examples of off-duty activities that fall under the personal conveyance guidance.
- Commuting between home and work. When your drivers travel back and forth between your warehouse or a work stop and their home, this is considered personal conveyance.
- Traveling between temporary lodging (such as a truck stop) to a restaurant or entertainment facility. As long as the driver is off-duty and not completing travel related to furthering the business, the time they spend traveling from their temporary lodging to a restaurant or entertainment facility can be considered personal conveyance.
- Traveling to a safe location to rest after unloading or loading. Sometimes, drivers have to travel to a nearby safe location to get enough rest. The rest location must be close enough to allow the driver enough time to sleep before returning to work.
- Moving a CMV at the request of a police officer or safety official during the driver’s off-duty time. If a driver is asked by a police officer to move the vehicle while they are off-duty, this is considered personal conveyance.
- Transporting personal property while off duty. If an off-duty driver takes their CMV to an auto parts shop and picks up a part for their personal vehicle or for a car they’re restoring at home as a hobby, this is personal conveyance.
- Traveling home in a CMV after working off-site. This situation refers to the authorized use of a CMV so drivers can travel home after working at an off-site location (like in a base camp near a construction job).
When can drivers use personal conveyance?
The rules may seem fairly straightforward, but confusion has grown largely from the use of electronic logging devices (ELDs).
For example, before the ELD mandate, drivers manually tracked their hours — often on paper — and it was more difficult for companies to keep track of HOS and personal conveyance.
Now, all trailer movement is recorded electronically and must be allotted for and properly categorized for drivers and companies to stay compliant.
This has led to some confusion over which types of driving should be classified as personal conveyance and when it can be used.
One of the main questions you can ask yourself is, “Is the driver moving a commercial motor vehicle for purely personal reasons?”
To be considered personal conveyance, the off-duty driver’s use of a CMV can’t be related to the job or contribute to the commercial benefit of the motor carrier.
The next question you can ask yourself is, “Can the driver do activities of their own choosing?”
If the driver is free to choose their own activities while off-duty, this can be appropriate for personal conveyance.
Keep in mind that the vehicle can be fully loaded and the movements may still qualify under the personal conveyance policy.
Ultimately, though, it’s all based on the nature of the movement — not whether the vehicle is laden or unladen (such as an empty trailer).
How to know if drivers are using personal conveyance correctly
You don’t have to overthink personal conveyance.
Here are some tests that delivery and fleet managers, the Department of Transportation (DOT), and even law enforcement use to determine whether drivers are using personal conveyance.
- Is the driver fatigued or ill and unable to safely use the vehicle? Do they need to travel to a safe place to rest to comply with HOS regulations? Travel time to find a safe place to rest is considered personal conveyance.
- Is the driver off-duty? The driver must have an off-duty status for their movement to be considered personal conveyance.
- Is the move purely personal with no benefit to the business? If the purpose of moving the CMV is personal and doesn’t benefit the company, it may fall under the scope of personal conveyance.
- Is the move to seek the closest, safe place to park? If the driver is looking for a safe parking place where they won’t block traffic or become a hazard, this is likely considered personal conveyance.
Examples of appropriate uses of personal conveyance while off-duty
Here are some examples of when it’s appropriate to use a CMV while a driver is off-duty:
- A driver is off-duty and wants to go to a restaurant for dinner
- A driver is off-duty and wants to go to a movie theater
- A driver is off-duty and wants to visit a friend
- A driver is off-duty and running a personal errand
- A driver is off-duty and a police officer requests that the driver move their vehicle
Examples of CMV use that doesn’t qualify as personal conveyance
These are some instances when using a CMV doesn’t qualify as personal conveyance:
- A driver is on-duty and wants to go to a restaurant for dinner
- At the direction of the motor carrier, the driver moves their vehicle to accommodate other traffic
- A driver wants to visit a friend who lives 100 miles away
- A driver wants to go sightseeing while on their delivery route
- A driver wants to use personal conveyance to extend their driving time
How personal conveyance affects your business
If you have a delivery logistics company, it’s good to be aware of personal conveyance rules and how they may affect your business.
For example, if a driver is on their way to a delivery and gets stuck in traffic, they might use personal conveyance to reroute and avoid being late.
This could mean the driver arrives early and can complete their delivery sooner than anticipated.
This could impact your delivery schedule.
Personal conveyance is a tool that can help your drivers comply with HOS rules while still getting their job done.
Since personal conveyance involves a driver’s personal time, it doesn’t count toward their HOS.
This means that drivers can use personal conveyance without affecting their on-duty status.
When used correctly, personal conveyance can help your business by:
- Reducing the risk of HOS violations
- Increasing driver productivity
- Making sure drivers have access to food, fuel, and other necessities
- Allowing drivers to commute between work sites
However, personal conveyance can also affect your business if it’s not used correctly.
For example, if a driver uses personal conveyance to extend their driving time, they could be putting your business at risk of an HOS violation — which can add up to thousands of dollars in fines.
How to prevent misusing personal conveyance
Here are a couple of ways to help prevent your drivers from misusing personal conveyance.
Develop a “personal use policy”
Set clear rules and expectations with your truckers or drivers.
Let them know what’s considered personal use and what isn’t.
Use DOT regulations, ELD rules, and trucking industry best practices to shape a policy that works for your business.
Discipline any deviation from your policy
Make sure you offer adequate training for your drivers and answer any questions they may have about your personal use policy.
If a driver violates your personal use policy, take disciplinary action.
This could include anything from a verbal warning to being let go, depending on the severity of the infraction.
Final notes on personal conveyance
As you can see, personal conveyance can be a complex issue, and it’s important to make sure you understand the appropriate uses and regulatory guidance.
Misuse can get you in hot water with the DOT and impact your delivery management because your drivers are using company vehicles improperly and could be at risk of violating HOS rules.
The goal goes beyond just staying compliant, though.
Ultimately, you want to help your drivers be more efficient and productive.
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