Volunteers Behind the Wheel: What You Should Know

Volunteer organizations face certain risks and liabilities when engaging volunteers as drivers for events or long term roles. While volunteers aren’t treated the same as employees – and often not qualified for worker’s compensation benefits – they still have the potential to damage themselves, the organization, and even the people they serve. For example, in many states a volunteer driver won’t be held liable in an accident. While the specifics are different from state to state, this could leave your organization liable.

Many different types of organizations have volunteer drivers, whether they make the connection or not. Of course, there are the drivers who volunteer specifically to assist those who can’t drive themselves. Think about liability and risk, these types of drivers fit neatly into that category. However, there are others who also fit into this category. Schools may have volunteers provide transportation for events. Mentors may occasionally need to drive their protégé for an off-site activity. Anyone who drives while on the clock as a volunteer should be considered a volunteer driver for this discussion.

 

Managing risk in your volunteer driver program

In a volunteer driver safety article published by the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), the organization provided best practices tips for managing risk with volunteer drivers. The first step in mitigating risk is to identify common risks associated with roles that involve driving. There will always be additional risks that are specific to your organization. For these, you will need to spend time establishing what they are. However, most risks fit within the four bullets listed below.

  • Accidents while driving in traffic
  • Accidents caused by inclement weather
  • Diminished driving skills in the elderly
  • Non-traffic accidents

Other ways to mitigate risk include providing safety training for your volunteers that will be driving and maintaining a high level of accountability in following those safety standards.

Lastly, it is important that you select your volunteers for driving roles based on risk avoidance. The key is establishing a selection process that identifies individuals that have red flags based on the risks you’ve identified related to the driving responsibilities for your organization. In the same article, the CTAA recommends using Motor Vehicle Records (Driving Records) to help identify these risks and screen volunteers for driving based on the information provided.

 

Understanding driving records

If your organization isn’t familiar with driving records, this is a good place to start.

volunteer drivers license

In a driving record, you are receiving information associated with an individual’s driver’s license. This will include basic identification information, license classification, and endorsements. It will tell you if the license is valid or expired, if they have any traffic violations, fines, suspensions, collisions, etc. This information can then be used to assess if a volunteer would be an unnecessary liability to your organization as a driver.

 

Learning to read a report

Reading driving records can sometimes be a challenge for those who are not familiar with them. If a report includes information like driving convictions or points against a license, they may reference citation or violation codes. These codes are different for each state and would require a huge spreadsheet to help you decipher all of them.

Fortunately, the background screening provider you contract to run your driving records should be well versed in interpreting these reports. If you don’t understand something or are not completely confident that you are reading it correctly, reach out to your provider to clarify – that’s what they’re there for. The last thing you want is to misinterpret information that ends up costing someone a position.

 

Limitations

Before delving into driving record information, there are a few limitations and circumstances that you should be aware of. Driving records include information from an individual’s driver’s license. As such, it only includes history associated with the current license because there is little overlap between state driving record databases.

While this may leave a gap in information in rare circumstances, the limitations are minimal. If you are looking for a more comprehensive option, look to supplement the information with criminal record searches. Information like DUI convictions would show up on criminal record searches even if it didn’t show up on a driving record because of a reporting limitation.

 

Fair Credit Reporting Act Compliance

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) compliance is an additional step that you should be aware of before implementing driving records into your screening process. If you use a third party to provide driving record information on your volunteer applicants, you are required to follow the compliance steps of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The FCRA provides protection for job applicants by regulating the use of background checks for employment purposes. While in many circumstances volunteers don’t fit within the definition of an employee, they are provided the same rights under the FCRA. Because of the highly technical nature of FCRA compliance, it is highly recommended that you consult with an employment attorney when creating your compliance procedures and policy.

 

Conclusion

Driving records will help your organization’s volunteer program to be safe and successful by avoiding unnecessary risks. If your organization hasn’t used any form of background check for volunteers in the past, the process of implementing a screening program may seem daunting. However, the benefits far exceed the initial learning curve.