Volunteer driver programs can fill gaps in existing transportation services, especially in rural areas where public transit, taxi service and human service vehicles may not be available. Volunteer drivers are worth their weight in gold. Cultivating a cadre of dedicated volunteers for a voucher program will strengthen the program and support its continuity.
Driver recruitment can be done by the customer, through community-wide press releases, during presentations at community and church meetings, and through discussion with community service groups that use volunteers.
Drivers should be at least age 21 years and have a valid driver’s license, a clean driver record, and the required insurance coverage. Their vehicle must be in good condition with working seat belts and have all safety inspection and registration stickers up-to-date. Drivers should also be available to provide rides during the times when transportation is needed. Programs may also want to conduct a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) check or other comprehensive background check on potential drivers.
Reimbursing Volunteer Drivers
The rate for volunteer drivers (e.g., family, friends, neighbors, other volunteers), $0.14/mile, was set by Congress a few years ago. However, depending on the circumstances, some agencies may be able to reimburse their drivers at the IRS-set medical rate, which as of August 2008 is $0.27/mile. It is important to keep the per-mile reimbursement rate below the IRS-permitted rate so that the payment to the volunteer driver cannot be considered taxable income.
In 2008, legislation has been proposed that would increase the volunteer reimbursement rate to the equivalent of the business mileage rate, which as of August 2008 is $0.585/mile. A website describing this bill has been posted: http://www.independentsector.org/programs/gr/Vehicle_Mileage.htm.
Responsibilities of Volunteers
Develop a job description for the volunteer driver position that outlines driver duties, qualifications, and compensation. Driver training should clearly define the role and responsibilities of the volunteer driver. For example, in the case of trips to and from employment or employment activities, the driver’s role is to safely and reliably transport the customer between the trip origin and destination. Drivers are also responsible for keeping track of the transportation they provide, collecting vouchers and submitting invoices with vouchers and other back-up documentation for payment.
Some trips may include a stop at a child day care center. At no time should the driver be left alone with the child. Furthermore, the customer’s guardian should be responsible for attaching the child safety seat inside the vehicle. The driver may also be required to deal directly with the customer when scheduling trips.
Insurance Liability Issues
There are a
few ways to resolve insurance liability when dealing with volunteer drivers. If
the program requires the customer to contact the driver and schedule trips and
travel, and only pays for transportation, the customer is usually required to
sign a waiver. Refer to the "Special Considerations," section on page 27 of the APRIL toolkit for further discussion on
liability.In conjunction with the Travelers Cheque program in Homer, Alaska, the agency is released from any liability regarding selection of volunteer drivers. The program operator notes that in the 7+ years the program has been in operation, drivers' records have never been an issue. The RIDES program in Harris, Texas notes providers are required to have insurance levels specified in the Request for Proposal and the contract signed by the provider.
formal programs, volunteer drivers complete an application, attend an
interview, and authorize reviews of their driver record and background. The
driver is required to obtain a certain amount of insurance coverage as per
state requirements. They may also receive additional insurance coverage from
the sponsor/lead organization. All programs should identify the risks when
using volunteer drivers and establish procedures to follow in the case of an
accident or other troublesome event. Discussions with the lead organization’s
insurer about the risks associated with volunteer drivers should also be held.
In addition to ensuring that drivers are well trained, be sure to recognize them for their services. Consider sponsoring an annual recognition luncheon and or/providing a plaque or gift certificate in recognition of drivers’ services. See the APRIL Toolkit, “Contract with Providers” section, page 20, for additional information on working with volunteers.
“Volunteer Drivers Guide - A Guide to Best Practices.” Washington State DOT. This guide assist organizations with developing and maintaining volunteer driver programs. The guide is a tool kit that provides the framework for developing and maintaining volunteer driver programs. www.wsdot.wa.gov/Transit/Training/vdg/default.htm
“The Support Volunteer Rural Transportation Voucher Program.” Section 5: Organizing Volunteers. Brad Bernier, Tom Seekins and Kitty Herron. Sponsored by the Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities, University of Montana Rural Institute. http://rtc.ruralinstitute.umt.edu/Trn/TrnManual.htm#Section5
“Volunteer Driver TurnKey Kit.” The Beverly Foundation. Available to members of the Supplemental Transportation Programs for Seniors (STP) Exchange at http://www.stpexchange.org/home/index.cfm. Membership is free.
“Solutions Package for Volunteer Transportation Programs.” Easter Seals. This manual was created with the help of many experts in the area of volunteer transportation and other stakeholder groups. Its purpose is to provide guidance and basic information to existing volunteer programs as well as those planning to start new ones. www.easterseals.com/site/PageServer?pagename=ntl_tsc_volunteer