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Drivers using their own vehicles in their voluntary activities should tell their insurers. They should make it clear that they will only receive out-of-pocket expenses, to make it clear that this is not commercial use of the vehicle.
There shouldn’t be higher premiums for this, as volunteering should be regarded as part of the ‘social, domestic and pleasure’ use of the vehicle (some insurers may see volunteering as a business use, but they should not raise the premium).
The Association of British Insurers has a list of insurers that have said they will not charge volunteer drivers more.
Organisations should make sure that volunteers have told their insurers about their volunteer driving. A simple way to do this is to give volunteers a standard letter with a return slip for the insurance company to complete. ‘Contingent motor liability insurance’ may be available to cover organisations if there is an accident and there is a problem with the volunteer’s insurance.
It is good practice for drivers’ expenses to be paid back, but organisations should be careful not to give amounts that could be seen as going beyond a reimbursement of actual expenses. HMRC sets limits on how much mileage allowance can be paid back tax-free for travel costs, so that people don’t make a profit from these payments. These are upper limits on how much can be reimbursed tax free, not recommended rates for organisations to pay. Some organisations reimburse using lower mileage rates due to budgetary constraints.
The limits reflect costs such as wear and tear and fuel.
Passengers can be paid 5p per mile per passenger (this can be claimed as well as the car and van mileage rates).
Volunteers should keep clear records of journeys taken as volunteers, with the mileage, time/date and purpose of journey.
If a volunteer wants to, and the organisation is able to, they can claim their actual expenses for fuel, insurance, road tax, servicing, repairs and depreciation if they come to more than the approved mileage rate.
The volunteer would need to keep a record of their actual expenses and the number of miles they had driven privately and for the organisation(s) throughout the year. They would then use these to complete a self-assessment tax return.
If an organisation pays more than the approved mileage rate without detailed records a volunteer’s insurance could be invalidated because they could be seen to be making a profit from driving. They and the organisation would also be liable for income tax and if the volunteer is claiming benefits it could have an effect on their payments.
The organisation should ask to see an MOT test certificate if the vehicle is over three years old.
The organisation should be reasonably confident that the vehicle is safe. This can be checked by looking to see if the vehicle has any obvious problems and asking the volunteer what maintenance is carried out.
There are legal requirements for wearing seat belts. It is important to remember that:
By law, a driver must notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if:
The DVLA will then make a decision about the person’s fitness to drive.
Not telling the DVLA about a condition or disability is a criminal offence. The driver could also invalidate their insurance if they do not follow medical advice not to drive.
Drivers should be trained
Drivers should rest for at least 15 minutes every two hours within a journey, and between journeys.
It is a good idea for organisations to consider providing ID for volunteer drivers so that the people they are picking up can clearly recognise them. The identification should include the main telephone number for the voluntary driving scheme.
Drivers should not drink alcohol for at least 12 hours before a journey. This is an issue that you can tackle in training and you may want to have a clear policy on it.
Luggage and shopping should be put in the boot or secured to prevent injury.
Pets can be carried with clients at the discretion of the driver, as long as the animal does not affect the safe running of the vehicle. Guide dogs for blind and deaf clients should be taken in the vehicle unless there are good reasons for not doing so.
The seating capacity of a vehicle as stated by the manufacturer and insurer should never be exceeded.
In the event of an accident, the organisation and the emergency services should be informed immediately. If a client falls ill or is injured during a journey the driver should seek immediate medical help.
NCVO’s volunteering team occasionally receive enquiries about whether volunteer drivers are subject to laws on taxis and private hire vehicles. If your volunteers only receive out of pocket expenses or HMRC-approved mileage allowances, then they will not be receiving a profit and the vehicle should not be described as being ‘for hire’.
The Community Transport Association provides useful information resources on the legal status of Private Hire Vehicles, Private Service Vehicles and Car Sharing Schemes (contact details given below).
For more information about volunteer driver schemes contact the Community Transport Association.
Zurich Insurance is the NCVO Trusted Supplier for insurance. It provides insurance to charities, social enterprises and other not-for-profit organisations. Find out more about the insurance Zurich can provide for public liability, employers’ liability, motor and much more.
Last reviewed: 19 May 2022Help us improve this content
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