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Understanding trucking’s unicorn

Whether you use paper logs or ELDs, personal conveyance is often misunderstood

As the industry prepares for the December enforcement of the electronic logging device rule, there remains one area of the law that continues to create confusion for drivers – personal conveyance.

What is personal conveyance? Simply, it’s the use of a truck for personal convenience.

A Q&A on FMCSA’s website offers the following guidance:

“A driver is relieved from work and all responsibility for performing work, time spent traveling from a driver’s home to his/her terminal (normal work reporting location), or from a driver’s terminal to his/her home, may be considered off-duty time. Similarly, time spent traveling short distances from a driver’s en route lodgings (such as en route terminals or motels) to restaurants in the vicinity of such lodgings may be considered off-duty time. The type of conveyance used from the terminal to the driver’s home, from the driver’s home to the terminal, or to restaurants in the vicinity of en route lodgings would not alter the situation unless the vehicle is laden. A driver may not operate a laden CMV as a personal conveyance. The driver who uses a motor carrier’s Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) for transportation home, and is subsequently called by the employing carrier and is then dispatched from home, would be on-duty from the time the driver leaves home.”

Currently, drivers using paper logs simply note when they are “off-duty.” ELDs, though, will still record the movement and miles of the vehicle, so a driver must select the “personal use” category on the ELD device. If not, they would be in violation of hours-of-service regulations.

Annette Sandberg, principal of TransSafe Consulting and a former administrator of FMCSA, relays that the law itself is fairly straightforward, but the length of trips is what could trip up drivers.

“Personal conveyance is use of a truck for ‘personal use,’” she says. “The driver cannot have a full load attached, must not be under dispatch, must be moving towards a load or doing any work for the motor carrier. It must be truly off-duty and using the truck for personal errands or use. Typically, DOT would question any ‘long’ trips unless the driver can articulate how it is truly personal.”


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It seems simple enough, but as J.J. Keller points, out, personal use and conveyance remains one of the “fuzziest topics regarding hours of service (HOS). This is because there is no regulation, and only one interpretation, pertaining to it. What is allowed is often a matter of enforcement,” the firm says.

According to the company, the interpretation of personal conveyance only covers two instances: a driver’s commute to and from the normal work location; and short personal trips from a driver’s en route lodging. J.J. Keller than cross-referenced that interpretation with what is in existing law and determined that personal conveyance would apply under the following conditions:

  1. The vehicle is unladen.
  2. Movement is of a “short” distance solely for personal use.
  3. The driver is relieved from work and all responsibility for performing work.
  4. The driver is relieved of all duty and responsibility for the care and custody of the vehicle, its accessories, and any cargo or passengers it may be carrying.
  5. The driver must be at liberty to pursue activities of his/her own choosing.
  6. No work should be done until the driver is ready to return to duty.

If a driver chooses the personal use selection on the ELD, the device will record any driving during that time as personal conveyance until the driver deselects the option. And this is where the problems could begin. The law does not stipulate how long that condition is allowed.

“The FMCSA didn’t set a threshold of distance or time, but officials can and will use the data from the ELD to determine whether the special category was appropriately used by the driver,” says David Heller, vice president of government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association. “In other words, if the driver selects personal use and [enforcement] notices that the driver is running for an hour under that, then that would trigger a possible red flag of sorts that there may be a problem. The issue is not new, it is just one that is much easier to track because of the ELD, much like yard moves.”

J.J. Keller notes that things like fueling the vehicle – even during the weekend – would count as on-duty time “even if it’s the weekend and the driver used the ‘personal conveyance’ exception to take the truck home” unless the driver could successfully argue that the entire tank of fuel was for personal reasons.

“Personal conveyance [is really] the unicorn of the FMCSRs because nobody ever truly knows how it works,” says Heller. “The simple way to decipher the problem is that if the driver is operating ‘under dispatch’ then it would not be deemed personal conveyance.”

Ultimately, it is the company’s responsibility to authorize use of a vehicle for personal use, and the driver’s responsibility to ensure it is recorded correctly and the time recorded as “personal use” can be justified to enforcement.

The days of simply “adjusting” the paper log to reflect personal use of a vehicle are about to come to an end.

Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at [email protected]