Establishing and Managing a Volunteer Driver Pool
Maintaining a well trained, enthusiastic driving staff is key to the success of any volunteer transportation program. Whether a driver uses an agency-owned vehicle or their own vehicle (POV), he/she is responsible for the safety of all riders.
There are two important features to remember when developing or managing a volunteer driver workforce. Those are:
- It is important to recognize that all drivers, whether using agency vehicles or their personal vehicles, should be appropriately trained to safely carry out their responsibilities.
- All volunteer drivers who operate agency vehicles should follow the same policies and procedures as paid drivers (if any) operating similar vehicles for the Sponsoring Organization.
Sponsoring Organizations have the responsibility of assuring that transportation volunteers and staff have the tools necessary to be successful in their positions. Success depends on proper selection and management of volunteer and paid drivers including quality program orientation, training and evaluation.
Sponsoring Organizations should ensure that all volunteer recruiting, screening, interviewing and selection processes are objective and free from discrimination. Potential volunteer drivers should begin the process by filling out three initial application forms. [Form 5a: Driver Application; Form5b: Vehicle Registration; Form 6: Availability]
To protect the safety of passengers, minimum volunteer driver qualifications should be established. These include but are not limited to:
- The driver should be at least 21 years of age.
- Possess a valid driver's license appropriate for the type of vehicle to be operated.
- Provide a minimum of two excellent references. [Form 7: References]
- Be able to operate the assigned equipment.
- Willing to attend required training courses and to follow the Sponsoring Organization's policies.
- Not have a history of crimes against a person.
- Have a self declared ability to physically carry out the essential job functions as listed in the job description. [Form 8a: Medical Forms - Self-Declared Medical Condition]
- Not have an uncontrolled chronic illness such as epilepsy, diabetes, heart or respiratory problems. When indicated, a driver must be willing to provide a physician's statement qualifying him/her as physically able to drive. Suggested form is the one that goes with acquisition of a Commercial Drivers License (CDL). If the driver does not have medical insurance, the Sponsoring Organization may choose to pay for the physical exam. [Form 8b: Medical Forms - CDL Medical Examination with Doctor's Description; Form 9: Medical Release]
- Not abuse alcohol, drugs, and/or medication.
Driving History Requirements
To protect the Sponsoring Organization, and the passengers they serve, minimum driving history information should be gathered. To determine the eligibility of volunteer drivers, based on driving history, the following guidelines may be used:
- Paid or volunteer drivers are eligible to transport riders when their three-year unrestricted driving history (as recorded by the Department of Licensing) totals no more than four points on the rating scale. [Form 10a: Selection Guidelines, Form 10b: Selection Standards]
- Drivers are required to inform the sponsoring agency if they no longer meet the eligibility requirements due to moving violations and/or collisions that may make them ineligible.
- The driving history should be re-checked annually, for cause, or because of reasonable suspicion.
As a provider of services to vulnerable populations, the Sponsoring Organization is responsible for following a proper selection process. This will minimize the chance of being challenged about those processes. The driver selection process should include the following:
- Prospective volunteer reads and becomes familiar with the job description. [Form 11a: Driver Job Description; Form 11b: Essential Functions]
- Applicant completes a position application at the Sponsoring Organization's offices. [Form 5a: Driver Application]
- Applicant completes a Statement of Understanding. [Form 12: Statement of Understanding]
- Manager reviews the application.
- Manager conducts a personal interview.
- A report from the Department of Licensing is obtained. [Form 13: Driving Record Request; Link 6 - Department of Licensing: www.dol.wa.gov/]
- A Criminal Record Check (WATCH) that covers the maximum time period possible. Two types of checks can be done through WATCH (Washington's on-line system) or by mail. The first check, done under the Criminal Records Privacy Act (Chapter 10.97 RCW), costs $10. The second, done under the Child and Adult Abuse Information Act (RCW 43.43.830-.845), also costs $10, but is free to eligible non-profit organizations. Checking by mail takes from three to ten weeks, while checking through WATCH is instantaneous. If fingerprints are included with checking by mail, the costs increase to $25 for each check. There is no waiver of fees. [Form 14a: 3000-240-569; Form 14b: 3000-240-430; Attachment 3 - Criminal History Records; Link 7 - Washington State Patrol: www.wsp.wa.gov/index.htm]
- A Federal Bureau of Investigation National (FBI) Criminal Records Check should be done if the applicant has not lived in Washington for three (3) years. The FBI check should be done in addition to WATCH. It is suggested that local law enforcement agencies be used to properly complete the fingerprints. The FBI blue form (FD 258) is available through law enforcement authorities, but is not downloadable. The FBI will not take copies. The current charge is $24. The FBI provides information that the person has, or has not, committed disqualifying crimes. [Form 15: Request for FBI Records Check]
- If the driver will be using his or her own vehicle, the applicant's proof of insurance (Accord Form) should be checked for compliance with program standards. A copy of the Accord Form should be placed in the driver's file (when established).
- If the prospective driver does not own an automobile then he/she must have an insurable record.
- Once all steps have been completed, the applicant is selected and a driver file is established.
Occasionally, a new volunteer will be unable to successfully complete the required training courses, or a tenured driver will fail to maintain prescribed rider relations or safety standards.
Complete, objective, written documentation is an essential part of any disqualification process. Sponsoring Organizations must be able to objectively defend their decisions when challenged.
Disqualifications that prevent hiring, include but are not limited to:
- Not in possession of a valid, appropriate, drivers license and/or insurance.
- Physical restrictions preventing safe and proper handling of riders based on essential job functions listed in the job description.
- Criminal history includes disqualifying crimes. [Attachment 4 - Disqualifying Crimes]
- Inability to read/comprehend written materials, including road maps.
- Reporting to training/work under the influence of a controlled substance, alcohol or medications that affect driving abilities.
- Unwillingness to perform essential job functions.
- Failure to adequately respond to instructions.
In the event that a driver is involved in a moving violation and/or a collision the manager must be notified. The Manager should determine whether or not a review is warranted. The following process is recommended for review of moving violations and collisions:
- The Manager will request a written explanation about the collision/s.
- The Manager will review the driver's file and collision information and make a recommendation on the driver's continued eligibility or the need for additional training.
- When reviewing eligibility, the Manager considers driving-related complaints or the need for additional training. The suggested maximum is three complaints or fewer, based on the severity of complaints.
- The suggested method of reviewing complaints is to randomly call other riders for comments on the driver being reviewed.
Occasionally, drivers must be suspended or terminated as a result of violations to the Sponsoring Organization's policies or complaints received by riders. Grounds for termination include but are not limited to:
- Any time a current driver does not meet the requirements to be a new driver.
- Reporting to work under the influence of a controlled substance, alcohol, or medications that affect driving abilities, based on the standards of the Drug Free Workplace Act.
- Reporting to work under the influence of medication that has not been reported to and approved by the Sponsoring Organization.
- Violations of the Drivers Code of Conduct. [Form 16: Drivers Code of Conduct]
- Suspension or loss of driver's license or insurance.
- Violation of program confidentiality or conflict of interest policies.
- Repeated collisions or a single serious collision.
- False documentation of program records.
- Violation of Sponsoring Organization's Ethics Policy. [Form 17: Ethics Policy]
- Violation of the Sponsoring Organization's Harassment Policy. [Form 18: Harassment Policy]
A Sponsoring Organization may choose an intervention program for less serious offences than those listed above. Such offences include, but are not limited to:
- Moving violations.
- Acquiring three points on the evaluation scale. [Form 10b: Selection Standards]
- Rider complaint about driving performance or rider relations abilities.
- Staff or driver observation of changes in the ability to perform essential job responsibilities.
- Improper program documentation.
If driving has been restricted for any medical reason, a written physician's release should be required prior to returning the volunteer to driving. [Form 9: Medical Release]
A Sponsoring Organization must have a plan for conducting regular performance evaluations for all volunteer drivers. Evaluations serve as an important tool for both the Sponsoring Organization and volunteer. This provides an excellent opportunity for the manager to provide feedback to the volunteer about their performance; and provide the volunteer an opportunity to address issues they may be encountering. [Form 19: Driver Evaluation] Factors to consider when establishing an evaluation process:
- Sponsors are encouraged to establish a schedule whereby all volunteers and staff receive at least annual performance evaluations.
- The evaluation process should include a road performance evaluation for drivers.
- The Manager or designee should ride along with the drivers while they are performing their duties. Attention should be paid to vehicle operations, rider care and general ability to meet program standards.
- Performance evaluations are essential in securing equitable insurance rates and identifying drivers who may need intervention training or who should no longer transport riders.
- Following a performance evaluation, the Manager and volunteer should meet to discuss the observations.
- The performance evaluation and discussion should be documented and signed and become a permanent part of the personnel file.
- If needed, a plan should be developed and additional training provided. Documentation of improvement should be included in the driver's file.
- "Objective" documentation is always written, and it refers to what was seen, heard or measured. Objective documentation is not what was "felt" or "sensed", which is "subjective". Objective documentation of performance should be an on-going and common occurrence. This documentation is necessary for tracking driver development and for defense in litigation.
- The Sponsoring Organization should establish a program of regular recognition for the volunteers.
A volunteer driver can create the same liability for a Sponsoring Organization as a paid driver. All employees and volunteers should be properly trained, supervised and managed under the same policies. Without proper management, conflicts can arise when volunteers and paid employees do the same or similar work. To avoid these conflicts, the following guidelines have been established for successfully managing volunteers and paid employees in the same program:
- Discuss with staff how volunteers can be placed to improve services without displacing paid workers.
- Assign volunteers and paid staff with the same care and have the same performance expectations of both.
- Provide orientation/training equally to both paid staff and volunteers.
- Establish a clearly defined chain of command.
- Assure that all volunteers and paid staff have clear job descriptions, with accurate descriptions of responsibilities.
It is unfortunate when volunteers leave a program. There are many valid reasons for this occurring: diminished health, increasing age, moving, going on to other volunteer work, etc. When a volunteer decides to leave, the Manager should schedule an Exit Interview. [Form 20: Exit Interview]. The interview can be done over the phone. The interview provides an opportunity to receive feedback about the volunteer's experiences.
Photo identification cards are recommended for all volunteer drivers. The cards should identify the volunteer as a representative of the Sponsoring Organization. The cards assure the rider that the driver is a currently registered driver for the Sponsoring Organization. I.D. cards can be easily made using an instant or digital camera to take a picture of the driver. The resulting card can then laminated or inserted into a simple convention badge blank. The I.D. card should be collected at retirement or termination.