Is personal conveyance an administrative burden or a key driver of operational efficiency? There are several rules, making compliance a little tricky. But it also provides a framework that clearly separates the gray areas between commercial travel and personal use.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) oversees regulations that impact more than 6.5 million commercial vehicles on US roadways. They enforce strict industry regulations that are essential for personal safety across US roadways.
Unfortunately, the rules aren't always clear-cut, making compliance a headache for companies and drivers. Let's take a closer look at personal conveyance rules to bring your fleet up to speed on current compliance needs.
What is personal conveyance?
Personal conveyance refers to the operation of a commercial vehicle during off-duty time. During a commercial route — whether it's multiple deliveries or pickups during a single shift or a long-haul trip — drivers need to attend to personal needs like traveling to nearby restaurants for food or going home to rest.
Since the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) monitors driving hours and restricts the movement of commercial vehicles, it's important to differentiate between commercial travel and personal travel.
USDOT personal conveyance standards
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is a division of the US Department of Transportation and is directly responsible for the enforcement of personal conveyance standards for CMVs.
They provide guidance and enforcement for the USDOT personal conveyance standard, which outlines acceptable uses of personal conveyance for commercial motor vehicles. This is part of a system that tracks mileage and use to ensure compliance with other regulatory standards that limit the number of hours a CMV can be operated by a single driver, including mandatory periods of rest.
Compliance with these standards is enforced through a variety of activities like roadside inspections, audits, and complaint investigations.
Who must comply with personal conveyance rules?
According to FMCSA, personal conveyance rules apply to CMVs categorized either by size and weight of the vehicle, like large trucks, or occupant capacity, like busses. This includes more than 500k commercial trucking companies, 4k interstate bus companies, and 4 million individual drivers holding a commercial driver's license (CDL).
FMCSA says that a CDL is required to operate:
- a truck with double or triple trailers
- a truck with a tank
- a truck carrying hazardous materials
- a passenger vehicle
More than two-thirds of the freight that fills our supply chain, making it possible to buy grocery staples at a local retailer or get consumer goods shipped to your doorstep, are all transported by commercial motor vehicles. In total, there are 6.5 million CMVs on US roadways, making compliance a big task.
Using personal conveyance
When a shift employee takes a break, they typically grab their lunchbox and head to a designated breakroom for thirty minutes of off-duty rest. But for millions of commercial drivers, that's not an option. These drivers can stretch their legs at a rest stop, climb in their sleeper cab for a quick nap, or often drive a few miles off the highway to grab something to eat.
It's those few miles between the designated route and the restaurant that fall into the personal conveyance category. To make sure that mileage is appropriated correctly, drivers have historically kept detailed logs of these trips. However, technology has made tracking miles a lot easier.
For example, most commercial vehicles are outfitted with an electronic logging device (ELD) that can track mileage automatically, allowing the driver to enter different modes.
Personal conveyance rules for CMVs
These rules are intended to draw the line between operating a commercial vehicle for work and personal reasons. It seems clear, but when you start to look at specific instances, the lines can easily get blurred.
Operating a commercial motor vehicle
Drivers operate commercial motor vehicles for many different reasons. Surprisingly, making deliveries and driving routes make up just a portion of the miles traveled on a given day. For example, driving a load from a pickup terminal and delivering it to a warehouse is a clear commercial intent for the travel.
But what if that route is from Chicago, Illinois, to Tampa, Florida? That's more than 1k miles on the road and much further than a driver can travel in a single shift. Suddenly, a trip from point “A” to point “B” has some gray areas.
If the driver has to pull off the highway to refuel and the closest diesel station is 14 miles off the interstate, does that travel count towards commercial intent? What if the driver is primarily traveling the 14-mile distance to visit a specific food establishment and happens to refuel for convenience during their stop?
According to the FMCSA, commercial drivers are required to take a 30-minute driving break following eight consecutive hours on the road. Is a mandated break commercial intent or personal time?
Rules and restrictions for CMVs
Why is it so important to draw a clear line between the two? The FMCSA enforces more than personal conveyance — they're the primary regulatory enforcement mechanism for the Department of Transportation (DOT), meaning that they also enforce regulations that restrict consecutive hours behind the wheel and mandate periods of rest.
Collectively, all of these regulations are intended to keep US roadways safe by ensuring that drivers who are responsible for transporting freight and passengers on commercial vehicles are maintaining an appropriate balance between driving and rest.
Rules and regulations enforced by the FMCSA include:
- 11-Hour Driving Limit for Freight (Property) CMVs
- 10-Hour Driving Limit for Passenger CMVs
- 14-Hour On-Duty Limit for Freight (Property) CMVs
- 15-Hour On-Duty Limit for Passenger CMVs
- 30-Minute Driving Breaks
- 60/70 Hour Limits
- Sleeper Berth Provisions
- Adverse Driving Conditions Provisions
- Short Haul Exceptions
Proper use of personal conveyance
Personal conveyance rules provide just enough flexibility to allow commercial drivers to attend to personal needs without risking non-compliance with the rules and regulations enforced by the FMCSA.
In other words, it allows drivers to track off-duty time appropriately so that it doesn't interfere with driving limits and reset periods. While tracking additional time adds some administrative burden, ELDs make it easier to keep track of everything in one convenient dashboard.
Personal conveyance applies when:
- Traveling from enroute lodging to the main route.
- Commuting between the terminal, drop lot, or work site and the driver's home residence.
- Traveling to a nearby, safe rest area.
- Moving a CMV at the request of a police officer.
- Time spent transporting personal property while off-duty.
- Using a CMV to travel home following a shift.
Improper use of personal conveyance
With the pressure to meet deadlines and make deliveries, it's tempting to misclassify drive time. Be aware of these gray areas that can result in the improper use of personal conveyance:
- Bypassing available rest areas to get a little closer to a destination before stopping.
- Traveling with an empty trailer or with the intent to pick up/tow a load.
- Non-driving time spent in a passenger vehicle while other passengers are present, as in a secondary driver.
- Traveling to a facility for CMV maintenance.
- Any travel (including to a rest area) exceeding maximum on-duty limits unless specifically directed by law enforcement.
- Return travel to a terminal after delivering a load.
- Time spent operating a motor coach to deliver luggage or complete other necessary tasks in preparation for travel after passengers disembark.
STOP acronym for personal conveyance rules
The STOP acronym can provide an effective reminder to help drivers keep the rules for personal conveyance straight. Using this acronym, drivers can easily identify the four primary categories of qualifying travel.
STOP stands for:
- Safe Location
- Terminal Location
- Police Request
Under FMCSA's rules, travel to a safe location typically refers to pulling off of a designated route to park for the night in a rest area or parking lot. For example, if a driver is traveling through a rural area on a highway and the interstate-accessible rest stops are full, the driver may need to travel several miles to access a safe location.
Drivers are expected to proceed to the nearest accessible, safe location. This means they can't pass up a parking lot for another spot that's 30 miles down the road to get a little closer to their destination before stopping.
Image Source: Screenshot from Google Maps
Travel to or from a terminal location typically refers to movement after unloading or dropping a trailer, or returning home from a route. For example, if a driver lives 12 miles from their employer's terminal and they're authorized to drive their CMV home, time spent traveling to and from work all count.
When a driver is off-duty — either for a designated 30-minute break, a mandatory period of rest, or at the end of a shift — miles traveled may count as personal conveyance. For example, if the driver finishes a shift and then uses their vehicle to drive home, the miles between their last stop and their home count as personal conveyance.
Sometimes commercial drivers interact with law enforcement, and may be asked to relocate their vehicles for personal or public safety reasons. When a police officer requests that a CMV be relocated, it’s acceptable to log this movement as personal.
How is this standard enforced?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is responsible for the oversight and enforcement of personal conveyance rules. They primarily enforce these rules using two mechanisms.
The first is by reviewing Hours of Service (HOS) logs during routine inspection stops. The second way that FMCSA enforces personal conveyance rules is through randomized audits. In addition to inspections and audits, complaints filed with FMCSA may result in an investigation which will prompt an audit of a carrier's logbooks.
Penalties for misuse of personal conveyance
Missing or incomplete entries, or discrepancies between driving schedules and mileage entries are considered red flags for misuse — prompting officers and agents to take a closer look at a driver's logs.
If misuse is identified through an inspection or audit, the carrier may be subject to a civil penalty. In cases of gross misconduct, adjudication may also take place. The amount of the fine depends on the type of vehicle and the load they are carrying. For example, passenger vehicles with at least 16 passengers may be subject to a minimum $5 million penalty. In other, less severe instances, the minimum civil penalty is $500 per instance.
In 2022, FMCSA settled 3,513 citations related to Hours of Service violations, including personal conveyance rules. As a result, the administration collected more than $24k in fines from commercial carriers, freight forwarders, and passenger transport companies.
So, the federal government is actively pursuing enforcement of these rules, adding this necessity to a growing list of compliance concerns for US businesses.
Common commercial driving misconceptions
While the rules might seem clear, there's a lot of confusion when it comes to logging drive time. Here are a few common misconceptions about FMCSA's rulings to clear things up.
Does personal conveyance restart the 14-Hour Clock?
No. Using personal conveyance doesn't signal the end of a shift or the beginning of another. Drivers must take a 10-hour driving break to restart the 14-Hour driving limit clock.
What are the limits for personal conveyance?
There are no time-based limits for personal conveyance. FMCSA only states that drivers must be off-duty and be driving a reasonable distance to use personal conveyance. In a densely populated area, a reasonable distance might be less than two miles. By contrast, in a rural area, a reasonable distance might be more than 30 miles.
Does personal conveyance require an empty load?
No. There's no language in the personal conveyance standard that indicates that a driver must drop their trailer or carry an empty load to use personal conveyance. Since this provision is often exercised enroute to a delivery destination, it would be nonsensical to enforce such a requirement.
You need a tracking solution for personal conveyance rules compliance
The bottom line here is that any company that operates a commercial motor fleet, including freight carriers, freight forwarders, transport teams, busses, or delivery vehicles, must maintain compliance with a variety of HOS-related rules.
Personal conveyance rules provide some flexibility, allowing drivers to attend to personal needs for food, rest, or safety while enroute to a destination or immediately following a commercial trip. This flexibility is necessary to ensure compliance with the full spectrum of HOS regulations that impact driving limits and mandated rest periods.
With the threat of civil fines that can vary from a few hundred — all the way up to millions of dollars in fines — carriers and transport companies need a tracking solution for personal conveyance rules compliance.
Electronic tracking devices (ELDs) make logging drive time a seamless integration that takes the administrative burden out of tracking mileage for personal conveyance. There are many technology-enabled solutions that can use GPS to track mileage and location, providing the driver with a user-friendly interface to switch between route time and personal conveyance with ease.
CalAmp provides a fully integrated ELD solution that brings all of your safety and compliance needs together under a single dashboard for added convenience and efficiency.
The CalAmp Application provides seamless integration for transportation, industrial, and consumer fleet applications with custom integrations for a variety of use cases.
Take your fleet management and safety compliance to the next level. Book a demo for an ELD solution that more than 14k CalAmp customers trust.