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Volunteer Drivers Guide - Section 2

Agency Council on Coordinated Transportation
Volunteer Drivers Guide

How to be a Sponsoring Organization

There are certain things a Sponsoring Organization should do as a standard part of operating. This section provides an overview of requirements and best practices for Sponsoring Organizations.

Characteristics of a Sponsoring Organization

The Legally Constituted Organization (Sponsoring Organization) is the key element in the development and operation of a volunteer driver program. A Sponsoring Organization:

  • Should assure that the Sponsoring Organization itself is protected and that it has sufficient organizational strength and structure to manage a volunteer driver program. [Attachment 9 - Staying Out of Trouble]
  • May choose to limit the exposure of their volunteers, their governing board, and their staff. Under Washington State law, Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 24.06.035, it is possible for a Sponsoring Organization, private for-profit or non-profit, to amend its Articles of Incorporation to indemnify Directors and Officers, staff and agents (including volunteers) and to shield their personal assets from judgments in lawsuits for negligence. [Form 1a: Liability, Standards, and Indemnification; Attachment 2a - RCW 24.06.035 Indemnification]
  • Must carry public liability insurance in order for RCW 4.24.670 to limit liability of volunteers. Under this RCW, a volunteer of a nonprofit organization or governmental entity shall not be personally liable for harm caused by an act or omission of the volunteer as long as they are performing within the scope of their duties. The harm cannot have been caused by willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or a conscious, flagrant indifference to the rights and safety of the individual harmed by the volunteer. [Attachment 2b - RCW 4.24.670 Volunteer Liability]

Limiting Financial Exposure Related to Risk

The following are options for limiting the financial exposure of a Sponsoring Organization for risks associated with Volunteer Driver Programs. [Attachment 2c - Limiting Liability; Attachment 2d - Insurance Issues; Attachment 2e - Volunteer Auto Liability]

  1. Purchasing Insurance, see "Insurance" below.
  2. Waivers, Releases, Agreements to Participate, and Indemnification: These are all processes that a Sponsoring Organization, public or private, can use to limit and/or share program risks with riders and referring authorities. These procedures may be used when requested transportation is deemed to have special circumstances or risks.
  3. The information and forms are samples only and should be reviewed by local attorneys with experience in this area of law. [Form 1b: Waivers, Releases, & Agreements to Participate, & Hold Harmless; Form 1c: Trip Description; Form 1d: Volunteer Driver Release]

What Type of Insurance is Needed?

As described in the previous section, insurance is an important part of limiting the financial exposure due to the risks associated with operating a passenger transportation program. Sponsoring Organizations should consider the information below when deciding what type and level of insurance they should carry.

Auto and Business Insurance

The Sponsoring Organization should maintain insurance coverage or self-insurance coverage that essentially covers the exposures addressed by the following policies:

  1. Comprehensive General Liability: Coverage shall include, but is not limited to, contractual liability, products and completed operations, property damage, and employer's liability. Names of individuals insured should include directors and officers, employees, representatives, agents, and volunteers. Properly structured, this coverage will include employment practices, errors and omissions, directors and officers, and volunteer's personal liability. Coverage should be set at a minimum $1 million for each incident.
  2. Business Auto Liability: The volunteer's own automobile insurance is primary. The Sponsoring Organization's business auto liability would be secondary. The Sponsoring Organization should be sure that their policy covers non-owned and for hire vehicles. Generally this policy would be in equal million dollar limits. Business Auto Coverage for any auto no less than $1 million each accident is recommended. All Washington State non-profit transportation providers are required to have coverage of $1.5 million.
  3. Umbrella/Excess Liability: General liability and auto liability can be included under the umbrella. Many non- profit organizations are currently carrying $5 million of umbrella excess liability coverage.
  4. Volunteer/Employee Dishonesty: This insurance covers theft of funds and/or supplies by volunteers or staff. Most organizations will already have this coverage, sometimes called "bonding." Policies should be checked to insure each volunteer even though the risk may be low.
  5. Directors and Officers Liability Insurance: If not covered by General Liability Insurance, Directors and Officers (D&O) coverage or Errors and Omissions (E&O) coverage can be purchased. This coverage should include liability due to employment practices, which can involve treatment of volunteers. Included in the coverage can be all past, present and future directors and officers, employees, volunteers, trustees, committee members, and the entity itself.
  6. Volunteers' Liability Insurance: As an alternative to, or in addition to other existing liability coverage, the Sponsoring Organization should consider participating in a volunteers' liability insurance program. This insurance typically provides coverage for medical treatment when the volunteer is injured during their volunteer services.

Medical Insurance

It is important that the Sponsoring Organization recognize that vehicle insurance does not cover injuries that may happen while the volunteer is involved in activities separate from operation of the vehicle. Many volunteers are retired persons who may have inadequate or no medical insurance coverage.
The risks to the volunteers can be covered by a variety of methods. Medical or accident insurance provides excess accident medical coverage directly to a volunteer when he or she is injured traveling directly to or from, or participating in, volunteer activities. If Medicare covers the volunteer, the coverage would be in addition to that coverage. If the volunteer has no other coverage, the policy would be primary.

Consider the following information when deciding the type of medical insurance your organization should use:

  1. Under the RCW 51.12.035-1, state agencies and their subsets are required to document all volunteers' hours for the purposes of reporting to the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). There is a small hourly charge (currently $.06). The hours are reported monthly on the form that an organization submits to L&I. The coverage is restricted to treatment of injuries, including therapy.
  2. Under RCW 51.12.035-2, other public entities and non-profit organizations in Washington can elect to extend L&I coverage to their volunteers. The reporting mechanism and coverage is the same as for state agencies. A Sponsoring Organization that elects this option must pay for coverage for all volunteer's hours donated, not just the hours spent working in a particular job, e.g., volunteer driving.
  3. Excess coverage (over and above volunteer's personal coverage) can be purchased from private insurance companies that have designed policies for this market. Like the Washington L&I coverage, most companies require all volunteers to be covered, not just those that are volunteering in one program, like transportation. Coverage is typically limited to $25,000.

The Importance of Community Relations

The drivers for the Sponsoring Organization will influence the opinion and image that people in the community have of the Sponsoring Organization. The way each volunteer driver performs his or her duties will contribute, either favorably or unfavorably, to the Sponsor's image. The reality of providing public transportation service is that the public expects proficient driving, they take good performance for granted, and are quick to complain about poor performance. Well-defined and communicated policies can assist with public perception.

What Types of Personnel Policies Should Be in Place?

Many funding agencies require Sponsoring Organizations to have specific written policies in place. These policies apply to volunteers as well as paid employees. The following policies are recommended:

  1. Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Operation of a volunteer transportation program may trigger responsibilities for compliance of Title III of the ADA. Those responsibilities depend on the legal status of the sponsor and/or the types and modes of other transportation services that are operated. Persons with certain disabilities cannot be transported in private cars. However, those persons may need to be referred to appropriate alternate service providers. If the POV service is on a donation basis, any costs related to the alternative services may need to be absorbed by the Sponsoring Organization.
  2. Ethics
  3. Code of Conduct
  4. Drug Free Workplace
  5. Harassment
  6. Confidentiality
  7. Reporting Suspected Abuse, Neglect, Abandonment, and Exploitation.
  8. Drug Testing. Drivers, including volunteers, of vehicles that have been manufactured to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, must have a valid commercial drivers license (CDL) with a passenger endorsement. Note that drivers holding a CDL, must be included in a drug alcohol testing program that complies with U.S. Department of Transportation regulations. [Link 3 - Commercial Drivers License:; Link 3 - Part 40 - Procedures For Transportation Workplace Drug And Alcohol Testing Programs:

Note: While all of the above policies are recommended, many of the policies are required by various funding sources. Sponsoring Organizations should check with their funding agencies to determine what policies are required.

Payment and/or Donation Policies

The following information should be considered when developing and implementing Payment/Donation policies. [Form 35: Donation Policy]

  1. A copy of the Sponsoring Organization's Payment and/or Donation Policy should be available to the POV volunteer and a copy posted in organization owned vehicles. The policy should also be included in brochures and advertising materials.
  2. Programs should design a system that respects the individual's anonymity. Some Sponsoring Organizations request the support from the community and the riders in the form of donations, yet do not pressure those who cannot afford to pay.
  3. Drivers should be well informed about the donation policy.
  4. It is not appropriate for drivers to demand donations from riders.
  5. Many riders prefer to mail a check to the Sponsoring Organization once a month rather than make a donation each time they ride.
  6. In order to avoid misunderstandings and protect the rider's anonymity, a collection system that does not require drivers to handle cash is preferred.
  7. When the Sponsoring Organization plans recreational trips outside of regular service hours, riders can be charged a fare in order to recapture some of the costs associated with the trip.

Are Volunteers Reimbursed?

Most Sponsoring Organizations reimburse volunteers for mileage and other authorized expenses. The Sponsoring Organization should have a form to be used by POV volunteers to document mileage and other expenses. The reimbursement should be based on the same current mileage rate used for paid employees. Reimbursement for other expenditures, such as meals, should be based on the actual expense the volunteer incurred or on a per-diem rate. [Form 36a: Reimbursement Voucher, Form 36b: Meal and Expenses Policy]

What About Funding?

Sponsoring Organizations should carefully weigh the contractual requirements of available funding sources. Many potential transportation-funding sources are currently difficult to administer in relationship to the operation of a volunteer transportation program. Potential problem areas are related to drug testing, driver certification, required training, record keeping, billing, accounting and audit procedures. Resolution of these issues is possible, but those solutions are beyond the scope of these guidelines.

Agency Council on Coordinated Transportation (ACCT) staff members and others involved in this project can provide technical assistance related to specific problem areas. Additional technical assistance may be obtained from other Sponsoring Organizations.

Can the Services Be Subcontracted?

A Sponsoring Organization may elect to contract with other organizations that provide volunteer transportation. Most funding agencies require prior approval of all subcontracts. Subcontractors will also need to comply with all of the funding agency's requirements including, but not limited to:

  1. Non-discrimination
  2. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  3. Driver training.
  4. Sponsoring Organizations should check with their funding agencies to verify all of the requirements that apply to volunteer driver programs.

Are Disabled Parking Privileges Available?

If a Sponsoring Organization meets the criteria of RCW 46.16.381 (3) it can apply to the Department of Licensing for disabled persons special license plates and placards. The application is available and any DOL office. [Form 37: Organizational Application for Disabled Person Parking Privileges]

Sponsoring Organizations should consider the following when using disabled plates and placards:

  1. Sponsoring Organizations must report on the status of each permanent disable parking placard or disabled person special license plate by April 30th each year.
  2. Disabled parking privileges may only be used while providing transportation to persons with disabilities. Sponsoring Organizations should develop policies regarding appropriate use of the placards including a requirement for their return when a volunteer is no longer registered with a program.

What about Operating Across State Lines?

If a program operates vans across state lines and receives funding for those operations the program must complete the Federal Registration process. Completion of this process may affect the levels of insurance that the Sponsoring Organization must carry and require other changes in the operation of the volunteer driver program. [Attachment 13 - Federal Interstate Registration Process Outline]