Recently, the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued revised guidance on the use of a commercial vehicle as a personal conveyance. While it’s always great to have further clarification of the rules, especially surrounding hours of service, sometimes these clarifications can generate more questions than answers. Such as is the case with FMCSA’s guidance. There are two situations that haven’t yet been addressed, not because administration doesn’t care, but because they’re slightly outside of its purview.
One situation involves cross-border carriers that may have drivers using personal conveyance on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, and another issue that surprisingly has very little to do with hours of service.
Here’s what you may need to consider:
Cross-border personal conveyance
In the U.S., a driver may record the time operating a commercial vehicle for personal conveyance as “off-duty” only when the driver is relieved from all responsibility for performing work by the motor carrier, regardless of whether the vehicle is laden. Before this guidance was issued, drivers could only log themselves off duty for personal conveyance if the vehicle was unladen.
In Canada, commercial drivers subject to the hours of service regulations are limited to 75 km of personal conveyance per day (logged as off-duty) if the vehicle has been unloaded and trailers have been unhitched. That 75 km is the actual distance traveled, not radius distance, too. Drivers are also required to keep track of the personal conveyance’s starting and ending odometer readings, and subtracting that distance from the total distance traveled for the day.
See a difference here? Clearly, Canada and the U.S. have different personal conveyance requirements, as Canada requires the vehicle to be unloaded and trailers unhitched. And Canada limits the personal use to 75 km per day.
If you’re a cross-border carrier, ensure your drivers are aware of the differences between personal conveyance requirements in Canada and the U.S. before claiming the personal conveyance allowance. Also, be sure to communicate to your drivers any policies or procedures surrounding personal use of your company’s commercial vehicles — on both sides of the border.
IFTA and IRP
While there may be some differences between Canada’s and FMCSA’s interpretations on personal conveyance allowances, one thing is certain: when a driver is operating a commercial vehicle for personal use, the driver is off duty. But there’s another issue that has been largely overlooked when it comes to personal conveyance on both sides of the border — the distance tracked for the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) and the International Registration Plan (IRP).
When considering kilometers or miles traveled for IFTA and IRP purposes, the distance traveled during personal conveyance must be tracked. Under IFTA, all distances are considered taxable, unless specifically exempted by the province or state. The driver’s time may be logged as off-duty under both Canadian and U.S. hours of service regulations, but under IFTA and IRP this distance must still be tracked and reported.
Remember, IFTA and IRP are tax and registration credentials, not safety regulations. IFTA and IRP are concerned with the vehicle moves rather than driver moves.
Drivers regularly using the personal conveyance allowances must ensure they have a method to track the traveled distances for IFTA/IRP reports. If using an electronic logging device, this means you must ensure the device is equipped to handle distance tracking even if drivers are logged off duty. If you’re using paper, it’s a matter of driver awareness and training to record personal conveyance distances on the trip report, just as you would for any other trip.
Separate rules, separate applicability
The hours of service rules and the IFTA and IRP rules are administered under completely separate agencies in Canada and the U.S. These agencies are concerned with personal conveyance for different reasons. The hours of service rules are in place to manage a driver’s work hours and fatigue, while IFTA and IRP rules are in place to manage vehicle tax and registration compliance.
A driver may be off duty under certain circumstances, but under those same circumstances, the distance they travel in the commercial vehicle must be tracked for IFTA and IRP.
Drivers could run into trouble if they don’t fully understand the personal conveyance hours of service rules on both sides of the border. If you’re subject to an IFTA or IRP audit, and the auditor discovers that you’re missing personal conveyance distances in your records, the assessments and penalties can be steep.
As with many rules affecting the transportation industry, each rule needs to be considered separately to ensure compliance.