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Volunteer drivers

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Insurance

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.

Zurich Insurance is a NCVO Trusted Supplier and provides specialist insurance to charities, social enterprises and other not-for-profit organisations, including motor insurance.

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.

Expenses

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.

Passenger payments

Passengers can be paid 5p per mile per passenger (this can be claimed as well as the car and van mileage rates).

Keeping records

Volunteers should keep clear records of journeys taken as volunteers, with the mileage, time/date and purpose of journey.

Claiming more than the HMRC mileage rates

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.

MOT

The organisation should ask to see an MOT test certificate if the vehicle is over three years old.

Vehicle condition

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.

Seat belts

There are legal requirements for wearing seat belts. It is important to remember that:

  • cars must have front and rear seatbelts and all passengers should wear seatbelts
  • passengers aged over 14 are legally responsible for making sure that they are wearing a seat belt
  • drivers are responsible for making sure that children under 14 years old are using an appropriate child or booster seat.

Visit RoSPA for more information on seatbelts and the law

Fitness to drive

By law, a driver must notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if:

  • they have from a medical condition or disability that may affect their driving
  • they develop a condition or disability
  • an existing condition or disability that may affect their ability to drive develops.

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.

Training

Drivers should be trained

  • if they are carrying elderly or disabled people or children, particularly in picking up and setting down passengers;
  • in disability awareness and customer care.
  • For further advice, contact the Community Transport Association. There are also useful safety resources available from ROSPA and Think!.

Breaks

Drivers should rest for at least 15 minutes every two hours within a journey, and between journeys.

Identification

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.

Alcohol

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

Luggage and shopping should be put in the boot or secured to prevent injury.

Pets

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.

Seating capacity

The seating capacity of a vehicle as stated by the manufacturer and insurer should never be exceeded.

Accidents, illness or injury

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.

Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) and the Road Safety Act

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).

Good practice guidance

Driver’s licence

  • Driving licences should be checked when the volunteer starts and regularly while they are volunteering, to make sure that they don’t have any recent or serious driving convictions.
  • Licences should be full and not provisional, preferably without endorsements.
  • If a driver has penalty points on their licence, the organisation will need to decide whether or not they think the driver is be suitable for a role.
  • Some organisations may want to set a minimum requirement for driving experience. Age discrimination should be avoided as long as a younger driver is experienced enough and an older driver is confident driving.

Further information

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 2022

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 19 May 2022

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