Under normal circumstances, all time spent at the controls operating a commercial vehicle must be logged as driving time (on-duty time if the driver is using one of the exceptions that allows the use of time records).
However, what happens with a driver is using his or her commercial vehicle as a personal vehicle to commute to or from a personal destination?
The concept of “off-duty driving time” is not actually in the regulations; however, it is discussed in the interpretations to Part 395. Interpretations are guidances published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to provide a better understanding of the rules.
It can be done if you follow the rules
To be able to log personal conveyance time as off duty, there are several conditions that must be met. These conditions are the same whether a company driver is taking his/her company truck home or an owner-operator is taking his/her truck home (or to another personal destination).
First, you must be relieved of all responsibilities and conduct no on-duty activities. No work for the company is allowed during the personal conveyance. For example, you cannot bring the truck in for maintenance and call the trip personal conveyance.
Second, the trip and destination must be purely personal in nature. Moving to pick up your next load, bringing the truck into the terminal from your last destination, and running to the parts store for parts cannot be considered personal conveyance. You must be commuting to a personal destination, such as home, a restaurant, or a motel, and back.
Third, the vehicle must not be “laden.” In other words, you cannot be carrying any freight during the personal conveyance. If you drive a tractor trailer, this means not even pulling a trailer.
Fourth, you must not be “repositioning” the equipment. If you go from your company’s terminal to home, and then are dispatched to go get a trailer somewhere else, you have repositioned and cannot call the trip personal conveyance.
Fifth, you cannot be using the vehicle as a personal conveyance if you have been placed out of service for an hours-of-service violation.
Finally, the personal conveyance distance needs to be “reasonable.” You are not allowed to travel several hundred miles and call it personal conveyance. One definition of reasonable is, “Could the driver get 8 hours of sleep after arriving at the personal destination if the driver only took 10 hours off?” If the answer is no, then the distance may not be considered reasonable.
The Canadian regulations are a little more specific in this area. A driver in Canada cannot use the commercial vehicle for personal conveyance for more than 75 kilometers per day.
But they’re not paying me!
In certain situations, carriers may tell their drivers or owner-operators that they can just “head for home.” In many cases, when the carrier does this they do not pay the driver or owner-operator for their time or miles.
Does this change the situation? No, it does not. Pay is not a determining factor in whether a driver is on duty or off duty. The driver’s activity is what determines whether the driver should be logging on or off duty. If the driver is not relieved of all responsibilities, does work along the way, has a laden vehicle, or is repositioning equipment, the driver cannot claim the time is personal conveyance and the trip must be logged as on-duty and/or driving.
The only time pay is an issue when it comes to logging is if payroll records can prove that the driver was on duty. An example of this is paying a driver for loading or unloading. If the driver was specifically paid to load or unload, then the driver should have logged the time as on-duty time.
As you can see, there are several conditions that must be met to consider a trip with a commercial vehicle to be “personal conveyance.” The best advice is that when looking at the trip, if you are not sure you can meet one of the requirements, your best bet is to just keep logging the “regular” way.
Thomas Bray is Sr. Editor – Transportation Management for J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc. He spent more than 20 years in the motor carrier industry prior to joining J.J. Keller’s Transport Editorial Team eight years ago. His industry experience ranges from over-the-road driver and trainer to claims manager, lead instructor, and safety director.