Passenger vehicles share the roadways with millions of big rigs. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) there are more than 130 million commercial trucks in use nationwide. California and Texas have the most trucks with a combined total of about 25 million. Millions of trucks can make driving on our roads more dangerous. Trucks are required to follow federal and state regulations. However, there are some differences in the rules when drivers are not on duty.
What is Personal Conveyance?
Personal conveyance (PC) is the personal use of a commercial motor vehicle. This is the time spent driving by truck drivers when they are not actually on the clock. Drivers are allowed to drive big rigs for personal conveyance as long as they follow the rules set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Carriers are not required to allow their drivers to use the trucks for personal conveyance; however, if they do, they must enforce the rules.
There are some appropriate uses of a truck for personal conveyance which include:
- Traveling between the driver’s home and work locations
- Driving from overnight lodging to a restaurant
- Driving to a safe location for a rest stop for off-duty periods required by law
- Moving a truck for a safety official
- Traveling in a motorcoach without passengers while off duty
- Transporting personal property while not on duty
There may be additional uses that are appropriate. In addition, there are some personal uses that do not qualify as personal conveyance. For instance, the driver cannot count the time as PC when driving to a location for rest after he or she has already exceeded the maximum driving period under the law.
What are the Important Personal Conveyance Enforcement Considerations?
The interpretation of Hours of Service (HOS) is complex and sometimes confusing. The driver must always follow the law and therefore may not be allowed to use the truck for PC at certain periods of time based on his or her use.
At the heart of PC time are the two basic questions as to whether driving the truck was for personal benefit alone and whether the driver was relieved of all work responsibility and able to participate in personal activities. When a truck driver is driving under personal conveyance, the issues of liability and authorization are important.
The company is ultimately responsible for determining PC and for authorizing a vehicle for PC use. Generally, the company must determine insurance policy coverage issues and give drivers detailed instructions so that they understand how they are allowed to use the truck for personal conveyance.
Time the driver spends driving for PC counts toward their break time under the law. Drivers must have a 10-hour break or a 34-hour restart in order to obtain restorative rest. If the PC time significantly reduces this rest time, the driver may actually be driving while fatigued.
Importantly, the law allows drivers to drive during their rest time but prohibits PC driving while fatigued or when sick. This leaves the PC time to interpretation should an accident occur.
CDL drivers are required to log their driving time electronically under the Electronic Logging Device mandate. The ELD logs the status of drivers and provides documentation of the hours of service that are recorded by each driver. Carriers are not required to provide a special category for drivers to record personal use time, although some do.
The law is extremely complicated regarding the use of trucks for personal conveyance. If you were injured in an accident with a big rig, it is important to seek guidance from an experienced truck accident attorney. The records of the truck driver and company must be obtained to determine whether the driver was operating the vehicle safely and in accordance with the law.
Contact our Houston truck accident law firm to discuss the details of your case today. Call (281) 893-0760!