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Volunteer Drivers Guide - A Guide to Best Practices

Agency Council on Coordinated Transportation
Volunteer Drivers Guide

This guide will assist organizations that provide passenger transportation services to persons with special transportation needs, with developing and maintaining volunteer driver programs. The guide is a tool kit that provides the framework for developing and maintaining volunteer driver programs.

Table of Contents


What is the Volunteer Drivers Guide?

This guide will assist organizations that provide passenger transportation services to persons with special transportation needs and help them develop and maintain a volunteer driver programs. 

This guide will help agency’s navigate through the complex requirements imposed by Washington state law and various funding organizations. This guide will give agencies the information to help meet those requirements. In addition, the guide contains recommendations, best practices, and sample forms as well as informational attachments and resources.

Why Was This Guide Developed?

Many parts of the state rely heavily on volunteer drivers to transport persons with special transportation needs. As counties developed their coordinated special needs transportation systems, they found that volunteer driver programs might be the solution to filling transportation gaps in the community. For this reason, the Agency Council on Coordinated Transportation (ACCT) compiled Volunteer Drivers – A Guide to Best Practices.

Note: In Washington state, “Persons with special transportation needs” are defined as: “Those persons, including their personal attendants, who because of physical or mental disability, income status, or age, are unable to transport themselves or to purchase transportation.”

How Was The Guide Developed?

A Guide to Best Practices was developed with broad input from model programs currently operating in Washington state and in other parts of the United States. The Guide represents a collection of common practices. The goal is to strengthen existing programs and to serve as a guide for development of new programs.

What formed the foundation of the guide?

Certain facts and assumptions were used to form the foundation of these guidelines. Those are:

  1. An organized volunteer driver program should be in place whenever public funds are used for reimbursement of a driver's expenses and/or to offset organizational costs related to providing volunteer transportation to persons with special transportation needs. [Attachment 1a- RCW 81.66 Special Transportation Needs]
  2. Volunteer drivers should perform their duties under the direction of a legally constituted Sponsoring Organization.
  3. Whether volunteers use their vehicles on organizational business or drive the organization's vehicles, the volunteers are legally agents of the Sponsoring Organization.
  4. These guidelines do not apply to the operation of commuter ride sharing or flexible commuter ride sharing as defined in RCW 46.74.010 Sections 1 & 2. [Attachment 1b-Ride Share RCW]

Who developed this guide?

Under the direction of ACCT the Program for Agency Coordinated Transportation (PACT forum) established a workgroup comprised of representatives from:

  1. Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)
  2. Agency Council on Coordinated Transportation (ACCT)
  3. DSHS Aging and Adult Services Administration (AASA)
  4. CTED Office of Community Development (CTED)
  5. DSHS Medical Assistance Administration (MAA)
  6. Washington State Transit Insurance Pool (WSTIP)
  7. Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC)
  8. Agencies that run volunteer driver programs including:
    1. Catholic Community Services of Western Washington
    2. Lewis Mason Thurston Area Agency on Aging
    3. Olympic Community Action
    4. Council on Aging and Human Services Transportation
    5. Senior Services for South Sound
    6. Intercity Transit
    7. Pierce Transit

What Definitions Are Used?

To clarify information in this guide, the following definitions were used for specific terms:

  1. Agent: A person authorized by an organization to represent or act for the organization.
  2. Legally Constituted Organization (Sponsoring Organization): Organization that is responsible for all aspects of a volunteer program. Could be public, private, non-profit, or private-for- profit.
  3. Standard of Care: The level of legal responsibility for conduct by an organization's staff members. The level differs based on the Sponsoring Organization's legal status. For a public organization, the standard is "highest and greatest;" for a private or non-profit organization, the standard is "reasonable and prudent."
  4. Volunteer Drivers: Those who volunteer to drive their own cars or organization owned vehicles.
  5. Volunteer Auto Transportation (Volunteer Escort, Personally Owned Vehicles (POV)): Transportation provided by volunteers who drive their own vehicles. The volunteers may be reimbursed expenses by a Sponsoring Organization. This mode of transportation may be used as an alternative to regular specialized transportation or to supplement paid services.
  6. Manager: The term Manager is used throughout the Guidelines to designate the person who is ultimately in charge of the day-to-day operations of the volunteer transportation program.
    In addition to the definitions listed above, there are many standard terms and acronyms used in the public transportation industry. The Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) has developed a list of those terms and acronyms. The both the CD ROM and online versions of this glossary contain numerous hotlinks related to the defined terms. [Attachment 11 - NTRC Glossary, Link 20 - CTAA:]

Why Are Goals Important?

Goals are an important element for the success of any program. The same is true for a volunteer program. Established goals provide focus and clarity for the organization and for employees, including volunteers. Examples of program goals are:

1. Efficiently increase the availability of transportation services for persons who meet rider eligibility criteria and have needs for special transportation solutions.
2. Provide services that are safe, reliable and sensitive to individual needs.
3. Augment the existing transit and paratransit options through additional cost effective and cooperative community transportation alternatives.
4. Encourage continued support for community transportation.
5. Provide opportunities for individuals or programs to participate or sponsor community transportation.
6. Pursue cost savings through vehicle sharing, insurance pooling and other operational efficiencies.