A Driver’s Guide to Personal Conveyance

April 17, 2020

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Key Takeaways

The FMCSA's personal conveyance regulations can be tricky for fleets and drivers to navigate. In this guide, you'll learn how your fleet can successfully navigate personal conveyance rules to ensure compliance and avoid penalties.

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If you find yourself constantly wondering whether a particular move by your drivers qualifies as personal conveyance, you’re not alone. Personal conveyance, the use of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) for personal use while off duty, has become a source of confusion for fleet managers and truck drivers alike ever since the implementation of the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate and Hours of Service (HOS) rules by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). 

These regulations are a considerable change from previous industry practices. Before the ELD mandate, when hours were tracked manually and often on paper, it was difficult for fleets to report on HOS and hard for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to enforce regulations. With the implementation of ELDs, however, all trailer moves are now required to be electronically recorded. This requirement has become a point of frustration for fleets and drivers trying to understand what types of moves are and aren’t considered  personal conveyance and how they should be tracked. 

Read on to understand what personal conveyance is, who must comply, and how to best utilize your ELD solution to ensure proper tracking to avoid violations. 

What is personal conveyance and who must comply?

All fleets that operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) must comply with Hours of Service (HOS) regulations, which includes personal conveyance. The FMCSA defines personal conveyance as the movement of a CMV for personal use while a driver is off duty that does not benefit the company financially. 

According to the FMCSA, a CMV is a vehicle used for business purposes that is involved in interstate commerce and fits at least one of following criteria:

  • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more

  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more

  • Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation

  • Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation

  • Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity that requires placards

To qualify as personal conveyance, the off-duty CMV movement must not be related to a job. One change to previous requirements is that the vehicle is no longer required to be unladen. The vehicle can now be loaded during personal conveyance. But the vehicle cannot be moved in any way for the commercial benefit of the motor carrier. 

The FMCSA has urged drivers not to overthink personal conveyance. To help drivers navigate this regulation, the FMCSA has provided two helpful questions drivers can use to evaluate whether or not their situation is personal conveyance. These questions are:

  • What is the purpose of moving the CMV? If the reason for the move is purely personal, rather than for the benefit of the motor carrier, then—subject to the limitations listed below—it falls under the scope of personal conveyance. 

  • Is the driver free to pursue activities of his or her own choosing while behind the wheel? If so, then it is personal conveyance.

To further clarify personal conveyance, the FMCSA provides drivers with several examples of appropriate off-duty usage of CMVs that would count as personal conveyance. According to the FMCSA, drivers who find themselves in the following situations are considered to be in use of personal conveyance: 

  1. From temporary lodging to a restaurant: Time spent traveling from a driver’s place of lodging during a trip, such as a motel or truck stop, to restaurants or entertainment facilities is personal conveyance. 

  2. Between home and work: A driver’s journey back and forth between their home terminal and their residence, between trailer-drop lots and their residence, and between work sites and their residence all count as personal conveyance, with the following caveat: The commuting distance and time must be short enough to allow the driver to get enough sleep to return to work in an unfatigued state. 

  3. Travel to a nearby safe location to rest after loading or unloading: Finding a safe place to park and rest is the most crucial element of personal conveyance for drivers on the road. The chosen rest location must be close enough to allow the driver time to get enough sleep before returning to work. The rest location also needs to be the nearest one that's reasonably available, even if that means the trucker will have to drive farther when they are back on duty.

  4. Repositioning of a CMV at the request of a safety official during the driver’s off-duty time: If a driver is required to move a vehicle while off duty, this counts as personal conveyance. 

  5. Time spent traveling in a motorcoach without passengers to en route lodging or to restaurants and entertainment facilities and back to the lodging: The driver, provided they are off duty, can claim personal conveyance for time spent traveling without passengers to a motel or truck stop, for example, as well as from their lodging location to a restaurant. Other off-duty drivers may be on board the vehicle; they are not considered passengers.

  6. Time spent transporting personal property while off duty: If, for example, an off-duty driver takes their CMV to a used auto parts shop and picks up a part for a car they are restoring at home as a hobby, this is considered personal conveyance. 

  7. Authorized use of a CMV to travel home after working at an off-site location: This particular scenario is intended for construction and utility companies that set up base camps near a major job and operate from there for days or weeks at a time. These remote locations are considered off-site locations. Travel between home and that off-site location qualifies as personal conveyance.

What is not considered personal conveyance?

To shed more light on what does and doesn’t count as personal conveyance, the FMCSA also provides several examples of movements that would not qualify as personal conveyance. In each of these examples, the movement is for a purpose that benefits the motor carrier and thus would not be considered personal conveyance: 

  1. Moves to improve the operational readiness of a motor carrier: “Operational readiness” movements refer to those made with the intent of shaving miles off the next day’s work under the guise of being off duty. One example of improving operational readiness would be a CMV driver choosing to bypass resting locations to choose one closer to the next loading or unloading point or other scheduled motor carrier destination. Because this move would benefit a carrier by reducing a driver’s driving time, which can potentially cut labor costs, it would not count as personal conveyance. 

  2. After delivering a towed unit, returning to pick up another towed unit: After delivery, the towing unit no longer meets the definition of a CMV. If the driver is directed by the motor carrier to pick up another towed unit, then personal conveyance does not apply either.

  3. Bobtailing or pulling an empty trailer to retrieve another load or reposition a tractor or trailer: Bobtailing (driving a truck without a trailer) or pulling an empty trailer for a business purpose (such as going to the next loading location) does not qualify as personal conveyance. 

  4. Time spent driving a passenger-carrying CMV while one or more passengers are on board: While driving with passengers on board, the driver is considered to be on duty. If there are only other off-duty drivers on the bus, they are not considered passengers when traveling to a common destination of their own choice so this would count as use of personal conveyance.

  5. Time spent transporting a CMV to a facility to have vehicle maintenance performed: Travel to a repair shop to service a CMV is not considered personal conveyance because such a trip is for business purposes. The situation may seem confusing if the truck was driven home from the truck terminal or work site under personal conveyance. However, the trip to the repair facility for the purpose of servicing or repairing the vehicle is to ensure the truck or tractor-trailer is in top shape and will continue to generate revenue. Since the maintenance visit benefits the motor carrier, it’s not considered personal conveyance. 

  6. After being placed out of service for exceeding maximum on-duty hours permitted: When a driver has reached their 14-hour on-duty limit permitted under HOS regulations, the time spent driving to a rest location does not qualify as personal conveyance, unless directed by a DOT officer or police officer at the scene.

  7. Travel between two work locations: For example, time spent traveling to a motor carrier’s terminal after loading or unloading from a shipper or a receiver does not qualify as personal conveyance.

  8. Motorcoach operation, even with no passengers, if for the purpose of delivering luggage: While there are no passengers on board in this scenario, the bus is still being operated for a business purpose and thus benefits the carrier. As such, it falls outside the scope of personal conveyance.

Why personal conveyance matters to CMV fleets

The FMCSA urges motor carriers to establish a corporate policy on personal conveyance to ensure drivers are always compliant with HOS regulations so motor carriers can avoid violations and potential fines. The policy, along with training and enforcement, should provide guidance to drivers on the correct interpretation of personal conveyance under the law. Within your policy, it may be helpful to lay out particular scenarios and examples that drivers might face on the road for added clarity of what does and doesn’t count as personal conveyance. 

The carrier may also decide whether to allow personal conveyance at all, and to what degree. While personal conveyance is allowed under the law, it is not a requirement.

A fleet’s policy should also address any limits on personal conveyance mileage. There are no mileage restrictions under federal law, but some carriers choose to set a daily limit (for example, 40 to 50 miles). Some carriers also restrict the time of day that drivers are allowed to travel under personal conveyance so that it is not overused by drivers. 

When developing a personal conveyance policy, carriers should consider insurance and risk-management implications with their insurance provider. Fatigued drivers operating their rigs under the guise of “personal conveyance” put themselves, and the public, at risk. Working with the safety department of your insurance agency in creating the policy will put you in a better position to avoid challenges at the time of a claim. 

Some other areas of personal conveyance policy to consider clarifying and specifying in your policy:

  • Safe parking: There have been many claims related to drivers parking in unauthorized areas because they were out of hours. Emphasize to drivers that the primary purpose of personal conveyance, as mentioned above, is to find safe parking. Advancing a load or job is not permitted. 

  • Work with drivers and safety staff to develop a reasonable mileage limit: As a carrier, you should be able to defend the mileage limit you choose. Arbitrarily imposing a limit may result in a claim that is more difficult to defend.

  • Zero tolerance for fatigued driving: Fatigued driving is the leading cause of CMV accidents. A carrier’s personal conveyance policy should stress that drivers should never operate their vehicle if they are fatigued.

  • Owner-operator implications: If owner-operators are employed, there should be insurance coverage to cover any claims that might arise from the personal use of a CMV. Motor carriers should ensure that owner-operators have a bobtail liability policy (non-trucking use). Alternatively, the motor carrier could provide a non-trucking use insurance program. In the absence of driver coverage, the fleet’s policy might have to ultimately respond to a claim.

Differences in personal conveyance guidelines between Canada and the United States

Cross-border fleets and drivers should be aware that Canada’s personal conveyance rules are different from those in the United States. These differences can impact whether enforcement officers view driving time as “On Duty” or “Off Duty.” 

As in the United States, CMV movement in Canada must be for purely personal reasons and not for the benefit of the carrier. There are, however, some important differences. For personal conveyance to apply in Canada, the vehicle must be unloaded and any trailer must be unhitched. In another departure from U.S. rules, personal conveyance mileage is capped at 75 km (47 miles) of daily travel, and the driver must have recorded the odometer reading at the beginning and end of personal use.

Personal conveyance in the United States does not always qualify as personal conveyance in Canada. Canadian enforcement officers will check a cross-border driver’s duty statuses and HOS logs and will evaluate whether they meet Canada’s requirements for personal conveyance. If their logs or status doesn’t meet their requirements, then the time would count toward on-duty hours and not as personal conveyance. US-based drivers using ELDs may need to manually calculate their hours to ensure compliance with Canadian personal conveyance requirements. 

Limiting personal conveyance mileage in HOS rules, as in Canada, continues to be a topic of interest in the United States. Carriers should anticipate further changes in the future. At a February 2020 meeting of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety, one expert argued that personal conveyance guidance is incomplete. In the absence of proving a maximum distance or associated travel time, the present guidance theoretically allows drivers to drive several hours as personal time. This, in turn, increases the potential for driver fatigue and related risks.

How Samsara’s ELD can help you manage personal conveyance 

Hours of Service (HOS) duty statuses, including personal conveyance, are easy to manage with Samsara’s ELD solution, Vehicle Gateways (VGs). Our ELD platform serves as an integrated solution to ensure compliance and improve efficiency across your operations. Our complete platform automatically and accurately tracks HOS and surfaces any unassigned hours in our Compliance Dashboard, making it easy to take actions to prepare for audits and avoid violations. With Samsara, you can take a proactive approach to compliance, which can help decrease back office admin and reduce violations by up to 70%. 

Our ELD solution connects with our Driver App, making it easy for drivers to conveniently complete pre-trip and post- trip inspections, set their duty status, and review and certify their HOS logs. Samsara combines input from our Driver App and GPS and engine data from our VGs to automatically create drive time segments and set statuses when a vehicle is turned on, in motion, or turned off. 

The Samsara ELD solution also includes automated cross-border compliance for Hours of Service in Canada and Mexico. Samsara’s border-check feature allows drivers to preview hours in the other country’s rule set before crossing over. This helps drivers feel more in control of their compliance, gives them visibility into how their hours are accounted for in both countries, and alerts them to any concerns of violation prior to crossing.

Our ELD allows you to easily and efficiently track and accurately record HOS to ensure compliance and avoid violations. Contact us today for a free trial or demo to see how our ELD solution can help you improve your operations.

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