Volunteer Transportation Program: the Details

Success is the sum of Details

Harvey Firestone - ironically, the tire guy! - had it right when he said, "Success is the sum of details."  Now that you have determined the need, scope, partners and commitment to your volunteer transportation program or project, you need tools to make it a success.  This section helps you to consider all of the details necessary to set you on the road to a success Volunteer Transportation Program - things you'll need in terms of policies and procedures; funding; drivers; and riders.

Note: Below, and throughout our site, underlined text indicates a live link.

Polices & Procedures

Even with a small, more casual program, there need to be decisions made about how the program is run. These decisions should be in writing.

The following programs have graciously shared their policies & procedures documentation with us.  Click on the logo or the link to view their materials and get some inspiration!


Some volunteer transportation programs can run with zero funds, but they are few - some level of financial support definitely helps your program go further!

Expenses that MAY need to be covered are:

Phone Service

Unless there is a volunteer willing to use their personal phone number or a non-profit that has someone to answer the phone, you will need a phone with a direct line for riders and others to reach you. The best option is to get a cell phone with a dedicated number. This can be passed around by volunteers or given to a staff person. 

Another option is to keep the phone in airplane mode so that calls go directly to voicemail, and someone can check that a couple of times a day. This way, no one  has to be “on duty” 24/7.  Google Voice will give you both a voice recording and a written transcript so that someone has those details before returning the call. This is free through Google if you sign up as a personal user.

Driver Mileage or Recognition

As mentioned previously, many people drive as volunteers to give back to their community and/or connect with their neighbors and are not looking for any monetary benefit. If you don’t have or want funds to reimburse for mileage, you will certainly find those in your service area that wish to drive without any kind of payment.

Volunteer recognition can come in many forms, some of which may require funds and others that don’t. You may be able to find local businesses or crafters to donate goods for an annual recognition event such as a luncheon or picnic.  You may wish to purchase a gas card as an annual “thank you” for your drivers. 

If you are thinking about reimbursing your drivers for their mileage, you can choose the amount based on miles driven or a certain amount of money per trip to cover some gas. The amount per mile can be entirely up to the Committee or can be based on the IRS standard by year.


Many volunteer transportation projects work with just volunteer staff. Others hire a coordinator to recruit, vet and train volunteers, schedule rides, keep records and report data.

Tracking Program

When your program is small, you can use a simple spreadsheet to keep track of your ride matches - and we've included a sample that can help get you started.  

As your program grows, you will find that using a web-based tool will really be helpful in both ride matches and data collection. The prices will vary depending on the tool you use. Check out AssistedRides and ITMCountry as examples.

Background Checks

Conducting background checks on drivers is a good idea to assure that you are keeping your riders safe. Background checks can include DMV records, criminal records, and researching the Maine sex offender registry.  Often, if your program is associated with the city/town, your local police department might be willing to do these checks for you. Sometimes, if you have a larger public transportation program in your area, they are already doing background checks for their drivers and may be willing to include your volunteers for free or at cost.  

To do your own background checks, you can do so directly for a charge of $31 for each criminal record at the Maine Criminal History Request Service; the Maine Driver Record Check charges between $7-$12 (depending on how many years you want to cover) for each driving record.


If you are checking a lot of criminal records (10 or more per year), you might want to consider asubscription through Infome which will take the price for a criminal check down to $21 each. There is an annual cost for this service ($95), as well as a per report price. 


There is not a legal requirement for volunteer drivers to be insured beyond what is required for all Mainers to drive.  There are insurance plans, though, that cover volunteer liability beyond that. Official Age-Friendly Communities with volunteer drivers have free access to insurance for their drivers. Contact Patricia Oh with the Maine Office on Aging for more information. Volunteer driving insurance, whether accessed via Age-Friendly or on your own, can be found via https://www.cimaworld.com/.  


More and more people are using the internet to research services. It is recommended that you either set up your own website or ask a related entity (municipality, another non-profit, transit company, etc.) to include information about your program on their website.

If you decide to pursue funding, check out this list of potential funding sources and a sample budget for a volunteer transportation program to get started.

Getting Drivers ready

More and more retirees and other at-home folks are volunteering in their communities. Driving neighbors where they need to go is a fulfilling way to be active and “give back”.  Volunteer recruitment, vetting, training, retaining and supporting are key components to a successful program.  Read on for more information on these key topics!


Getting the word out about your program in general and volunteer recruitment specifically will draw in those people who are interested in joining your efforts. Read more about recruitment in our Preparing for Your First Riders section.


A Volunteer Application form will provide a way for you to gather lots of information in one place. On the form, be sure to ask your potential driver for their license number, auto insurance carrier, contact information, emergency contact information and three references who can speak to their driving and character. This would also be a good place to ask for their schedule availability and a description of their interest in volunteering as a driver. 

As mentioned above, doing a background check on your volunteers is at the discretion of the organization. If you do decide to do a check, put a signature line on the application form to get their permission to do the check.


It is imperative that your drivers understand the organization and its mission. They are out in the community representing you, after all. Other important agenda items for orientation include a description about how the drivers are matched with the riders, volunteer guidelines and expectations, safety information, confidentiality and more. 7a. through 7i.

Some programs require on-line driver training. Here are some options to consider from the Community Transportation Association of America

After the orientation and/or training, if you are still interested in having the applicants as volunteers and if they are still interested in volunteering, call their references and do the background check. This takes time, so ask your potential drivers to be patient with the process. 

Rentention and Support

Orientation is the first step in providing support to your drivers as information is an excellent form of showing your volunteer drivers that they are an important element to the program. Additional information sessions can be held throughout the year. Discussion topics can include how to keep your rider safe, what should you do if you run into a concern about your rider and anything else that comes up. You can invite a speaker to talk about dementia, driving safety and a plethora of other relevant topics.

Supporting your volunteers in other ways will assure them of your appreciation. Check out this list of ways in which you can recognize your team of drivers.

PREPARING for your first riders

Once you have determined the demographics of those you wish to serve, the next step is to recruit, screen and on-board your new riders.


Much like recruiting drivers, getting the word out is critical to finding your riders. Word of mouth always works, as do posters, flyers, newspaper and newsletter articles, brochures in public places as well as at  dental and medical offices, community announcements, facebook and other social media outlets. You will find that many family members or neighbors might see your publicity materials first and alert their loved one about the service.


Just as you want to know your drivers before they are part of the program, you want to know your potential riders.  Work with prospective riders to complete a Rider Information Sheet and a Rider Agreement.  A one-on-one meeting with a potential rider will allow you to meet them in person, get a sense of what might be their living situation and any specific needs they may have, and ask them the questions on the form so that they do not have to fill it out themselves. 

As mentioned previously, you may match your rider and driver through a software system or you may do so using your own system. Though the match itself shouldn’t take too much time, there may be several back-and-forths in the process.  

If there are any concerns about the safety of a driver (i.e., aggressive dogs) or the physical or mental ability of the rider, this would be a time to assess that.

Getting Your Riders into the System

The next step after interviewing your rider is to put their relevant information into whatever tracking system you are using. The driver will need the rider’s address, a description of the house and which door to use, a phone number, emergency contact information and details about the specific ride for matching and assignment purposes. If the rider has specific needs – such as needing arm assistance or if the rider is visually impaired – this will go into the records, as well.