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FMCSA Issues Guidance on Personal Conveyance

On May 31st, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued new regulatory guidance to clarify the agency’s regulations on personal conveyance with regards to records of duty status. It’s the first time since 1997 that this particular topic has been altered or expanded. In issuing this new guidance, the FMCSA sought to provide additional clarity on the use of personal conveyance as a type of off-duty status, provide more details to determine if a particular movement of a commercial motor vehicle is an appropriate off-duty usage, and foster greater uniformity in the enforcement of hours of service rules.

The most notable change in the personal conveyance related policy is that the FMCSA now allows personal conveyance even when a commercial vehicle is laden, in some circumstances. This is provided that the commercial motor vehicle is not being transported for the commercial benefit of the carrier. Under the new guidance, examples of appropriate uses of a commercial motor vehicle for personal conveyance include:

(1) Time spent traveling from a driver’s en route lodging to restaurants or entertainment facilities;

(2) Commuting between the driver’s terminal and his/her residence, between trailer drop lots and his/her residence, and between work sites and his/her residence;

(3) Time spent traveling to a nearby, reasonable location to obtain rest after loading or unloading;

(4) Moving a commercial motor vehicle at the request of a safety official during off-duty time; and

(5) Time spent transporting personal property while off-duty.

The FMCSA has also provided additional relevant scenarios that would not qualify as a personal conveyance, including:

(1) The movement of a commercial motor vehicle to enhance operational readiness of a motor carrier. Operational readiness includes any on-duty movement that provides a commercial benefit to the motor carrier;

(2) Time spent transporting a commercial motor vehicle to a facility to have vehicle maintenance performed; and

(3) Time spent traveling to a motor carrier’s terminal after loading or unloading from a shipper or receiver.

While the vast majority of the roughly 380 commenters wrote in support of the new guidance, critics believe that the standards are now even more blurred than before when attempting to determine whether the usage of a commercial motor vehicle can rightfully be labeled as a personal conveyance. Specifically, the critics argue that by allowing laden vehicles to be driven under personal conveyance, the FMCSA is replacing an objective standard with a subjective one, making it more difficult for law enforcement to assess a driver’s intent to determine if the commercial motor vehicle is being properly used for personal conveyance. The FMCSA responded by pointing out that the guidance actually provides additional details and factors to be used in making this determination and therefore makes the distinctions clearer.

It is important to remember that it is up to the individual carriers to decide whether they wish to grant drivers the privilege of driving under the personal conveyance designation at all. Regardless of the carriers stance on personal conveyance, carriers must keep in mind that their own policies on personal conveyance can only serve to mirror or tighten the FMCSA rules and cannot ignore the rules or provide that their drivers need not abide by them. If you have any questions about personal conveyance, hours of service, or other regulatory issues, please contact Kevin Coghill at Setliff Law at (804) 377-1273 or kcoghill@setlifflaw.com.

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