With all the moving parts in the trucking sector these days, in the form of things like carrier pricing power, tight capacity, and the secular driver shortage, things like trucking regulations can get overlooked.
But at this week’s SMC3 Connections event at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, that was far from the case in a session that featured Larry Minor, associate administrator for policy at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and Dan Horvath, director of safety policy for the American Trucking Associations (ATA).
Both Minor and Horvath provided in-depth takes on various industry issues and regulations, like electronic logging devices (ELD) and hours-of-service (HOS), among others, and their impacts on freight transportation and supply chain operations.
But two fairly recent regulatory developments–FMCSA’s recent updating of the “personal conveyance” provision and the recent introduction of the Honest Operators Undertake Road Safety (HOURS) Act-received a fair amount of attention during the session.
Personal conveyance, as defined by FMCSA, is: “the movement of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) for personal use while off-duty. A driver may record time operating a CMV for personal conveyance as off-duty only when the driver is relieved from work and all responsibility for performing work by the motor carrier. The CMV may be used for personal conveyance even if it is laden, since the load is not being transported for the commercial benefit of the motor carrier at that time. Personal conveyance does not reduce a driver’s or motor carrier’s responsibility to operate a CMV safely.”
In late May, FMCSA provided clarity, or “explanatory detail,” on the personal conveyance provision, following a December 2017 Federal Register notice, which proposed regulatory guidance for the use of personal conveyance. Some of the examples of appropriate uses of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) while off-duty for personal conveyance include:
FMCSA’s Minor said at SMC3 that these published proposed changes serve to better clarify under what circumstances can a driver use a CMV for personal conveyance-related reasons.
The key caveat with personal conveyance, he explained, is that when a driver is on the road for under these guidelines, that time does not count, or factor in, to HOS hours counted as time spent driving.
“This new guidance provides additional flexibility without compromising safety to make it easier for drivers to manage their time with ELD and to make it clear it is for personal reasons, as opposed to business reasons,” said Minor. “Personal conveyance also provides drivers with extra flexibility for whatever reason to have the time to find a place to park. If that place is ten miles down the road…now they can mark it [in an ELD] as personal conveyance. We want drivers to be able to park somewhere safe and not somewhere isolated, where something bad could happen to them. We don’t want them to feel like they are under pressure to have to stop anywhere.”
The HOURS Act was introduced earlier this month by Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Arkansas), Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Georgia) and Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Arkansas). If passed, this bill would provide common sense HOS relief and flexibility for drivers while enhancing highway safety and supply chain efficiency, according to the ATA.
And it added that its introduction is timely in that since the ELD mandate took effect last December, there have been some issues relating to the flexibility of the HOS rules.
Some of the key aspects of this proposed legislation include: exempting drivers hauling livestock or agricultural products from the HOS rules within 150 air-miles of the source of their load regardless of state-designated planting or harvesting season; harmonizing the HOS rules for shorthaul truck drivers by providing one set of rules; and exempting drivers from ELD requirements if they operate exclusively within 150 air-miles of their reporting location and complete their workday in 14 hours, ending the current two-tiered system, among others.
“On the agricultural end, the HOURS Act addresses the planning of harvesting season,” said ATA’s Horvath at SMC3. “A driver can only use the agriculture exemption when they are operating within their state designated plating and harvesting season. Unfortunately, not all states have year-round seasons, so there is a patchwork of laws that are different from state to state and may not be covered from one state to another and have exemptions in their favor. We are looking to correct that…it has something that has come up from our members in the agricultural community that want one set of standard operating rules for that. This is addressed in the bill so drivers can use the exemption year-round.”