Industry and law enforcement members met earlier this month at the annual Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) spring workshop. The forum facilitates discussion on how to best apply the federal motor carrier safety regulations in a fair and reasonable manner. One consistent stumbling block for the group has been how to identify the improper use of a CMV for personal conveyance. U.S. law enforcement has consistently asked for a more straightforward definition of personal conveyance, such as the distance restriction imposed in Canada, believing it would help to minimize hours of service concealment and inconsistent enforcement. CVSA hasn’t suggested time or distance limits it believes are reasonable. FMCSA has thus far resisted the call, maintaining that such a move would require a formal rulemaking. On March 29, 2022, CVSA petitioned for the rulemaking.
STC understands CVSA’s position. It is very difficult to determine the intention of a movement claimed as personal conveyance, especially considering the latest FMCSA guidance allows laden vehicles to move under PC. However, we point to the necessarily limited reach of federal hours of service rules as a fundamental stumbling block. FMCSA has traditionally stayed away from regulating what drivers do in their free time, which is especially important in an industry with so many owner-operators whose trucks might, at times, double as their primary personal vehicle. Restricting the vehicle’s movements while the driver is “at liberty to pursue the activities of his or her choosing” would run contrary to long-standing guidance about how to define off-duty.
STC believes that if FMCSA declines to initiate a rulemaking to define PC, a likely scenario considering they’re still defending the latest changes to HOS in court, CVSA won’t give up. This is their second bite at the apple, spurred on by members who, understandably, want to take the guesswork out of HOS enforcement and identify hours of service concealment. If FMCSA does decide to take the bait, it should tread lightly and focus on the fact that the purpose of existing rules is to mitigate cumulative fatigue and not to restrict CMV operations arbitrarily.
Whatever the solution, it’s clear that personal conveyance is becoming the new “flexibility of paper.” In response to CVSA’s first petition, FMCSA established a new violation code in the roadside inspection software to collect data on the frequency of this violation. As of March 25, 3,475 drivers have received violations in 2022 under new violation code 395.8E1PC, improper use of personal conveyance. Motor carriers should acknowledge this and the growing efforts by law enforcement to crack down on PC and closely monitor their drivers to ensure they’re using PC properly and getting the rest they need.