FAQ – Trip Model

Frequently Asked Questions

The TRIP model delivers the most transportation assistance at the lowest expense. It allows service programs to be scaled up or down as required by available resources. It empowers passengers, helps build and strengthen social networks, and helps people to continue to live independently in their own homes. It is attractive to funders and endearing to those it serves.

The TRIP model has a record of proven effectiveness over many years, many millions of miles, and millions of volunteer assisted trips. It simplifies volunteer recruitment by helping passengers recruit their own drivers, resulting in low cost and low program risk. Because passengers and volunteers arrange their own rides, scheduling costs are non-existent. It is an extremely efficient method of focusing volunteer effort on an effective transportation solution that will work almost anywhere.

We have included answers to the questions we have previously been asked, but you might have another question that we have not answered, or you might want additional clarification of one or more subjects. We are glad to answer more questions. If you do not find an answer to a question in the information provided, please email us at TRIPforAmerica@ILP-TRIP.org – be sure to ask your question in detail and provide your name, your employer or the organization with which you are affiliated, your position, and a daytime phone number. We will generally respond to particular questions by email, but may call instead if we feel a one-on-one discussion will be more helpful.

Contact Us

6235 River Crest Dr., Suite Q
Riverside, CA 92507

(951) 653-0740


General Questions

Individuals are mostly referred by social workers and other professional evaluators from over 130 non-profit and governmental partners, such as the Department of Public Social Services, Adult Protective Services, In-Home Support Services, and many services providers including transit agencies and managed care. All referrals are by phone to the Information and Referral service of the Area Office on Aging.

A pre-screening process may provide callers with referral to appropriate public or private transportation alternatives. If thought instead to be in need of the special escorted volunteer services they are referred to TRIP. Once the application and medical verification process is complete, the application is submitted to a volunteer Eligibility Determination Committee comprised of members of our board of directors, representatives of funding agencies, and members of the senior and disabled community. The Eligibility Determination Committee examines each request on a case-by-case basis to evaluate the need for TRIP transportation assistance. The basis of every approval for authorizing TRIP service is the determination that needed transportation is not likely to occur without TRIP assistance. The goal of TRIP is to promote independence, not social dependency.

When approved for service, applicants receive a welcome package, recruit volunteer drivers, if they haven’t already do so, travel as needed under the allowances of purposes and mileage determined to be appropriate for their situations, submit mileage reimbursement requests, and receive mileage reimbursement payments which they distribute to their volunteer drivers.

The policy of the TRIP Program in Riverside is that families who were financially able to take care of a loved one should do so without receiving mileage reimbursements for the transportation they provide. In some cases, the Eligibility Determination Committee may make exceptions to the “non-family only” rule. However, this is done only on a case-by-case basis if a determination is reached that the needed transportation is not likely to occur without TRIP assistance. The basis of this policy is a belief that there are familial responsibilities that TRIP should not replace and also to insure that TRIP mileage reimbursements that are paid are for the purpose of actually supporting needed transportation for the underserved and do not function as income supplementation to the recipient.

According to the Code of Federal Regulations of the Office of Management and Budget, all contributions, including cash and third party in-kind, are acceptable as part of an applicant’s cost sharing or matching when the contributions meet all of the following criteria:

  1. Contributions are verifiable from the applicant’s records.
  2. The contributions are not included as contributions for any other federally-assisted project or program.
  3. They are “necessary and reasonable” for proper and efficient accomplishment of project or program objectives.
  4. They are not paid by another Federal award (some exceptions may be authorized under specific Federal statutes).

Volunteer services furnished by professional and technical personnel, consultants, and “other skilled and unskilled labor may be counted as cost sharing or matching” if the service is an integral and necessary part of an approved project or program.

Rates for volunteer services must be consistent with the rate that would be paid for similar work in the applicant’s organization. If required skills are not not present in an applicant’s organization, rates of valuation must be consistent with those paid for similar work in the labor market. Paid fringe benefits that are reasonable, allowable, and allocable may be included in the valuation.

The initial outreach was pretty traditional mass-media, new releases, paid ads, cooperation from local utilities in delivering notices with monthly bills, and so forth. Because TRIP seeks only to serve those who really require assistance, we shifted our outreach to more focused methods, including in-services to those who would best be in positions of making appropriate referrals – health service providers, social workers, the services specialists at the Call Center, public transportation services, and so forth. To this day we tend to focus on a referral process – it helps us to know more about each applicant at the start and it prevents application overload on staff.

Risk and Liability

When using the TRIP model to encourage volunteerism, people enrolled in the TRIP program recruit their own volunteers. The volunteer drivers, recruited by riders who are enrolled in TRIP are “informal” volunteers who are not connected to the TRIP service. Informal volunteering is defined as “unpaid help given as an individual to someone who is not a relative”. On the other hand, formal volunteering is defined as “unpaid help given as part of a group, club or organization to benefit others”.

We asked our attorney to comment on the TRIP model of informal volunteers that receive mileage reimbursement from the rider who recruited them and who they drive for. His response was “Obviously, anyone can sue anyone (but it doesn’t mean they’ll win).” When considering “Actual causation” he concluded that the offer to pay the rider mileage reimbursement to give to volunteer drivers would not be considered the actual cause of victim’s injuries. When evaluating the hypothetical with a “But for” test he gave the opinion that causation is too far removed. When making a “Substantial Factor” assessment that the donation could be considered a substantial factor in causing the neighbor to (presumably) have an accident and injure the rider, he said “I don’t think so – too far removed.”

However, if an organization imposes bureaucratic requirements on the driver, the relationship of the driver being an informal volunteer is diminished and the volunteer is transformed into a formal volunteer as part of the organization that is sponsoring the service. This change of facts may change the applicability of the relevant laws and, when this occurs, a different result can happen.

SUMMATION: Informal volunteer drivers for riders enrolled in the TRIP program, who are recruited by their rider, have no direct contact to the TRIP organization. The mileage reimbursement, provided by the TRIP organization to the rider who then gifts the reimbursement to their friend or neighbor volunteer, would not be considered the actual cause of any injuries that might occur if the volunteer had an accident. A promise to help pay for gas on an outing is too far removed from the cause of an accident and would not be considered as a substantial factor in the causation of an accident or resulting injuries.

Providing transportation will always pose risks related to the service, its drivers, its passengers, and its sponsors. And, providing transportation assistance, especially door-to-door and door-through-door assistance, will increase the normal exposure to potential liability for property damage and bodily injury. There is little evidence of frequent or even infrequent vehicle crashes, or of transportation assistance causing property damage or bodily injury, but such concerns are important when planning a volunteer driver program.

The Beverly Foundation surveyed 225 Faith in Action volunteer driving programs in 2007 and reported a collision liability of 3 percent in the previous 5-year period and concluded that the “low number of collisions that result in legal liability in Faith in Action transportation programs appears to be consistent with other volunteer driver program data. It is believed that such experience results from the fact that volunteer drivers are either safe drivers or that they use especially safe driving methods when driving older people or people with disabilities.”

However, the more closely a program is associated with volunteers, the greater risk to the service sponsor and its funders. The TRIP model, in which passengers select and recruit their own volunteer drivers, helps to limit risk and liability for the service program. Following the TRIP model precisely does not mean that insurance is not needed.

The minimum insurance that should be secured for a TRIP model service program, when passengers recruit their own volunteer drivers and volunteers use their own vehicles and rides are exclusively arranged between the passengers and their volunteers, is commercial liability insurance and non-owned auto coverage. An organization’s existing commercial liability insurance may include coverage of the volunteer service program. The TRIP Program in Riverside coverage includes Commercial General Liability, $1M each occurrence, $1M Personal injury, $2M Aggregate, plus Hired auto and Non-owned auto, $1M.

If a program recruits, screens and trains volunteers and then matches them with passengers and schedules rides, or has owned vehicles or paid drivers, more insurance coverage is called for. This may include increased amounts of commercial general liability insurance, as well as social service professional liability, business auto liability and collision, volunteer insurance, and improper sexual conduct liability.

Insurance underwriters are trained to analyze risk associated with business practices and recommend appropriate levels of coverage. More than one opinion should be sought. It may be constructive also to consult non-profit risk management centers and similar organizations for unbiased assessments.

If I needed to ask someone to volunteer to be my TRIP driver, I would probably ask my good neighbor Floyd if he could help me. We have known Floyd for 20 years – we know what he thinks, what he does, we know so much about him that NO screening could ever hope to uncover! That is the point of the entire “friends helping friends” philosophy. Why would you want to take away my self respect and tell me that I am not capable of determining who would be a good volunteer driver for me, especially since it is MY volunteer? The recruitment relationship is just between me and those I ask – why do you think you should be involved? TRIP respects and empowers its clients to be active and engaged in solving their own problems.

As you correctly understand and state, making the payments to the riders for them to pass on to their drivers is a key element of the TRIP model that underscores the separation that the program maintains with volunteer drivers, who we assert are NOT our volunteers but rather are volunteers recruited by and managed by their riders.

To the degree that separation from the driver is eroded some liability may result.  Still, if it can be successfully argued that the volunteers were not recruited by the organization and that organization does not control their time or match them with riders or schedule the rides that they must give, a case can still be made that they are not defacto “employees” of the organization, which is the desired liability condition.  Perception of drivers that they have no relationship with the organization should also be reinforced, perhaps by notices sent to riders to give to drivers – Something like “Volunteer drivers for riders who are participants in this organization’s transportation program arrange needed trips and drive riders as mutually agreed without any direction or involvement of the organization.”

On occasion it might be necessary have drivers receive checks on behalf of the organization’s client.  This type of arrangement should only be made if the client is unable to handle mileage reimbursement payments themselves (dementia might be a reason).  But in this day and age anyone receiving a Social Security payment must receive the payment electronically.  This is what Social Security says:  “If you get Social Security benefits, you must receive your payments electronically.  You can do so by signing up for direct deposit, which sends payments directly into your bank account.”  So, only cases where clients are not receiving Social Security benefits of any kind might not have a bank account.  According to an article in Fortune magazine, “Americans without access to banking services fell to 7% in 2015.”

There should be a very limited number of situations when a reimbursement check would need to be sent directly to a driver.  If considering such an arrangement include a detailed review of the client’s circumstances.  Verify that they do not have a bank account before making the determination to make the check payable to the driver, document that and then mail checks for drivers c/o the client.  If a person has incompetency issues a copy of an executed Power of Attorney or Assignment of Conservatorship or Guardianship should be required to be provided to the organization and maintained in the file of the client.

Cost to Start and Operate a TRIP Program

TRIP is a low cost, low maintenance service program model. Its operations require limited staff and infrastructure because it is not required to recruit for drivers, nor is it required to train or support drivers, or schedule and arrange for rides. A program can be designed to be operated at virtually whatever level of resources are available.

If a program is added to a menu of services being provided by an existing organization with an established infra-structure, the cost of the new service may be limited to the responsible employee’s time plus whatever amount is allocated to the payment of mileage reimbursements.

Whether operating as an add-on or a stand alone, the greater number of expense line items that can be satisfied through in-kind or volunteer contributions, the lower the cost of the program will be. Also, sharing resources with another organization or a sponsoring agency has the potential to contribute significant cost savings benefits to both organizations.

Please refer to the  Sample Start-Up Budget page of this website for more discussion of this subject.

It is obvious but, sometimes when we think of a somewhat large program, we forget that the start-up was small and it only grew through successful services that won increasing financial support over time. During the first eight months of start-up operation, total expenses were $26,524. Ninety-six passengers were enrolled and received 2,791 rides. The service had two part-time employees and shared space with the Area Office on Aging. The initial cost per one-way trip was about $9.50.

As a service grows, provides more rides, and consciously constrains unnecessary operating expenses, the cost per trip will continue to decline. The budget for the TRIP Program in Riverside last year was $.5M and the cost per one-way trip was $4.96.

Volunteer Recruitment and Training

The TRIP Program that we designed and that we use to provide escorted transportation for clients does utilize volunteers, but the program is rider centered, instead of volunteer driver centered. The rider centered design of the program means that the organization or agency DOES NOT recruit, screen, train, match, or manage volunteers in any way. Each approved TRIP Program client rider is required to recruit their own volunteer driver or drivers from among friends, neighbors, acquaintances, caregivers, or others they know. TRIP staff provides only education about how to recruit one or more volunteers and encouragement for the client’s autonomous effort. When a rider has secured the services of someone to drive for them, all arrangements for travel are made through the mutual agreement of the client and their own volunteer driver without any involvement of the organization or agency. The process and arrangement is analogous to a person asking a friend to take them to the grocery store. It is an independent action that results in the friend providing volunteer hours and service for their friend. The TRIP Program and the organization or agency pays a mileage reimbursement to the client rider, who then distributes the mileage reimbursement to their volunteer(s) to help pay for the gas expense of their friend and incentivize the continued relationship of assistance. The “arms length” relationship that TRIP maintains with volunteers who assist TRIP Program clients has been adjudged by insurance risk managers as insulating ILP and its funders from liability exposure while still motivating a high level of individual volunteerism in the community. In 2009 TRIP was recognized as the best volunteer driver program in the country. TRIP has won many awards over the years for its innovative design.

Passengers recruit their own volunteer drivers in the TRIP model service program. There are a number of reasons that the TRIP model requires passengers to recruit their own drivers:

  • No one is in a better position to know the character of a volunteer. Passengers know their friends or neighbors and ask those they trust to volunteer.
  • It is empowering for a passenger to refocus on helping themselves. Instead of becoming accustomed to giving up personal responsibility and being helped like a small child, requiring and helping passengers to recruit their own volunteer driver helps to encourage an attitude and behavior directed toward self-sufficiency.
  • When passengers reach out to those around them and form closer bonds with them, their support network expands.
  • Because the service program is not recruiting, screening, training and matching volunteers with passengers, the risk and liability potential associated with those activities is substantially limited.
  • This also significantly reduces the expense of operating the program.

A report by the National Center for Transit Research, Center for Urban Transportation Research University of South Florida in 2008 found that the “biggest problem faced by volunteer driving programs is recruiting and retaining volunteers.” In fact, this is not at all true for TRIP model programs.

Most people who enroll in the TRIP program in Riverside do not find it difficult to recruit their own volunteers. Some people initially tell us things like “I don’t know anyone”. There are usual concerns that they will be “imposing”, “begging”, or becoming a “burden”. Some are hesitant to ask friends and neighbors, until they understand that they are not asking for charity. Staff counseling is provided to:

  • Explain that their enrollment in TRIP means that they can offer to help pay for gas, making a request for transportation assistance more of a business arrangement than charity.
  • Help identify people who might be candidates for recruitment.
  • Discuss how to ask people to volunteer and to increase the likelihood of success for their recruitment effort.
  • Establish and schedule task objectives, motivate and then follow-up to help passengers succeed with recruitment.

We also include a “Volunteer Drivers Talk about How They Were Asked to Be a TRIP Driver” flier with each enrollment Welcome Package that we send out. On the reverse of the flier are suggestions of categories of volunteer candidates that have been successful sources of drivers for others enrolled in TRIP.

Many passengers of the TRIP program in Riverside actually have multiple volunteer drivers. At a recent meeting at a senior center with TRIP passengers and their drivers, one passenger attended with her five volunteers! She told us that previous to being on the TRIP program she was pretty much alone, but now her volunteers have become her friends – after the meeting, they all went out to lunch together.

The passengers and their volunteers are friends and neighbors. The arrangements are those of friends. No legal agreements are required any more than they might be if a friend agrees to pick any of us up and take us to the golf course or for us to go to church together, and so forth.

Because we emphasize passengers recruiting their own volunteer drivers, we do not take on many of the responsibilities often associated with other kinds of volunteer driver models. The passenger makes the decision to ask a friend or neighbor to be their volunteer driver. The TRIP program is not a party to the decision to ask someone to be a volunteer or the agreement that is reached between the passenger and their volunteer.

Many functions of other volunteer driver models that are associated with driver recruitment and matching drivers with passengers are not necessary in a TRIP program. TRIP does not recruit, screen, formally train or match volunteers with passengers, and the result is that the risk and liability associated with those activities is limited. This also substantially reduces the expense of operating the program.

TRIP in Riverside does provide a “Volunteer Driver Handbook”, through the passenger. This handbook provides an overview of the program and how it operates, and what is expected of volunteer drivers, including how to complete mileage reimbursement forms.

Our volunteers are spread over a 7200 square mile area and getting them together for a typical recognition event is logistically very difficult. Last year, we organized little events at 10 different senior centers across the county, met and talked with the volunteers who attended, gave them each a really nice portfolio with a TRIPnotes indicia and an opportunity to register at each of the events to receive one of ten $50 supermarket gift certificates that we gave away through a drawing. Of the 750 volunteers that helped program passengers last year, about 100 attended the events.

Consistently over the years, TRIP volunteer drivers have told us they think the TRIP is “great”. We know they appreciate the mileage reimbursement, but we believe that their allegiance and friendship is really tightly bound to their passenger and that is an important part of what keeps them doing it day after day, week after week, year after year. In this model, recognition can be more informal – the satisfaction that comes from intimate engagement with the passengers and seeing how the assistance they provide over time really impacts the well-being of their passengers is a personal reward for volunteerism that a TRIP hosted lunch could never match.

Determining Service Eligibility

TRIP allows service programs to be scaled up or down as required by available resources. Eligibility for TRIP volunteer driver service can be used to provide transportation assistance for just about anyone.

Presumably the impetus to start a supplemental transportation service grew from the recognition that a particular under-served or unserved group of residents required assistance. The size of each particular group identified for service will impact service expenses; the larger the group and the more groups that are included will increase service expense.

A set of agreed upon eligibility criteria should be developed and applicants or referrals for service should be evaluated according to established criteria. We recommend the establishment of an Eligibility Determination Committee, made up of individuals representing the community served, as well as representatives of a service’s funding partners. TripTrakTM software can then be used to control service allowances that are awarded to each individual applicant.

Good question. The short answer is that the TRIP model does allow family members to be reimbursed under some circumstances.

TRIP is a practical and emotional support model designed to serve the most isolated and underserved of the population. Generally is can be argued that people who are receiving care from family members are not isolated, though sometimes they may be. If family is available and living near their family member, they are more likely than not providing needed emotional and logistical support. As you know, almost 30% of the US population are caregivers and a mileage reimbursement service for 30% of the US population or 30% of any area would be, shall we say, cost prohibitive? TRIP can not be an income supplementation program – part of familial responsibility is caring for our mothers and fathers and others when care is needed.If family members are not available, TRIP provides the means for applicants to reach out in the community to help to rebuild a social network and gain the practical and emotional support that is not being provided by family. Occasionally the family is estranged, though present, and support for their family members needs to be purchased by TRIP – sad but true. Under other circumstances, family members are ready to help but actually unable to afford to buy the gas necessary to transport their family member long distances, frequently – for example, a series of treatments may be prescribed three times a week for 6 weeks at a specialty provider in Los Angeles and the travel to and from 3 times a week is from Aguanga and back (117 miles each way, 234 round trip, 702 miles per week, about 3,000 miles for the month).Every case is treated individually, so exceptions are made. The underlying determinant of who is eligible and who is not is “will the needed transportation occur if TRIP does not help”.

The Eligibility Determination Committee approach is important in several ways. Staff from the TRIP Program in Riverside have as much as 45 minutes of intimate conversation with each applicant. Based on the information gathered through the telephone application procedure, as well as status of health assessments provided by physicians and specialists, and follow-up conversations with applicants, staff members then make eligibility recommendations to the Committee at meetings every two weeks.

We encourage Committee membership by representatives of our funders, social workers from community partners, members of the older adult and disability community, representatives of transit services and members of our non-profit governing board.

  • Following the presentation of recommendations by TRIP staff, Committee members ask questions to clarify or sometimes question staff recommendations based on their understanding of eligibility criteria, real life observations that might contradict staff interpretation of the availability of transportation alternatives, or the specific mobility issues of the applicant, or the policies of a funding agency.
  • Multiple heads, experience and expertise help to insure that eligibility determinations fully consider the many variables that might impact an applicant in each individual case. Final determination results from achieved consensus of the review Committee. The process legitimizes decisions that might otherwise be regarded as questionably “subjective”.
  • The Eligibility Determination Committee experience puts a very real face on the needs and capabilities of each applicant and no one leaves these Committee meetings without a deep appreciation of the TRIP Program, the people it serves, and the need for the volunteer services that it provides. The process expands understanding and support for funding and continuation of the service in the community.

Ride Scheduling

Rides are arranged between passengers and their drivers. This TRIP model feature provides the means for wide geographical service in far flung rural areas. It also provides the maximum convenience for passengers and their volunteers in any locale. Rides can be prearranged or spur of the moment, on any day, at any time, as mutually agreeable to the volunteer and the passenger.

Volunteers are not required to be on call and do not need to schedule blocks of time to be available to provide rides as a TRIP driver. Instead, ride scheduling flows naturally from the relationship of the passenger and the volunteer. In our experience, many passengers have developed relationships with multiple volunteers so if one volunteer isn’t able to drive them on a particular day others may be available.

Instead of getting between passengers and volunteers, the TRIP model asks passengers to have their own conversations with their volunteers. The conversation is often more than “I need a ride” – more usually, the conversations are those that normally happen between friends. “How have you been feeling? I’ve been OK, but need to go to the pharmacy pretty soon – do you think we could go next week sometime? Maybe we can stop for lunch too? Oh, that would be wonderful.” The idea of advance scheduling takes on an entirely different connotation.

A very practical outcome of this feature is the elimination of centralized scheduling and dispatch functions, significantly reducing the expense of operating a program.

Mileage Reimbursement

This is a very good question that has been asked many times. It is true that most of us have very big and generous hearts. It is more than likely that we would agree to help a neighbor or a friend if they asked us for a ride to their doctor or the store. At least we would if the requests were occasional. It does seem, though, that the payment of mileage reimbursement functions to sort of cement the assistance relationship of the volunteer to the passenger for repeated and continual assistance. Partly, the volunteer comes to view the mileage reimbursement payment as recognition for the important service they are providing. Also, many volunteer drivers have little if any income over and above Social Security and paying the cost of gas is an important consideration.

For the passenger, the ability to offer to contribute to the payment of gas expense makes it easier and more comfortable to initially ask a friend or neighbor to volunteer to assist with their transportation needs. As the relationship continues, because the passenger is helping to pay for the expense of travel, the passenger comes to feel that on-going transportation transactions are more of an equitable exchange.

We have been asked this question many times. Here is the answer:

Q: “The city, as a government entity, has volunteers to drive senior citizens to various locations and gives the volunteers mileage reimbursement at 0.35 cents per mile, under the allowable IRS amount. Does the city require a W-9 to be on file for each volunteer, and if they exceed the $600 amount, do they receive a 1099-MISC. even if the mileage rate is less then the allowable reimbursement rate set forth by the IRS?”

A: “Mileage reimbursements exceeding $600 annually are not reportable on a 1099, provided that they are made under an “”accountable plan”” and the reimbursement is at or below the IRS mileage rate (currently $0.55/mile). To qualify as an accountable plan, the expenses must

  1. have a “”business connection”” –in this case, that expense (mileage) is incurred while performing services for the city
  2. volunteers must adequately account for the expenses (provide written documentation of their mileage to the city) within a reasonable period of time and
  3. If the reimbursement is made in advance, excess reimbursement or allowance must be returned within a reasonable period of time.

See IRS Publication 463 for information on travel expenses and reimbursements, and Publication 535 on Business Expenses.

You can reach a live IRS agent with information reporting questions at (866) 455-7438. You should document your conversation with the IRS, including the agent’s name and number, as protection. The tax law is very complex and subject to misinterpretation even by IRS agents, but the IRS will honor advice offered by its own agents.”

1. The TRIP informal volunteer driver program pays mileage reimbursements for volunteer drivers who provide needed rides for enrolled TRIP Program participants to medical services and for other subsistence requirements. Mileage reimbursement payments are accurately calculated from detailed reports of travel.

2. Mileage reimbursement payments, made payable to enrolled TRIP Program participants, are required to then be paid immediately to the program participant’s volunteer drivers as mileage reimbursement for the mileage incurred by volunteers for driving participant’s.

3. The requirement that TRIP Program participants payout the mileage reimbursement funds they receive to their volunteer drivers is STRICTLY ENFORCED as a condition of participation in the program. View letter on this subject from the Social Security Administration: https://ilpconnect.org/ssaltr_not-unearnedincome_7-14-2017-1/

4. Per cfr: 416.1123(b)(3) – “We include (as income) less than you actually receive if part of the payment is for an expense you had in getting the payment.” When a payment to an individual is exactly the same amount as the obligated expense for which the payment was received the payment is not included as income.

5. The TRIP Mileage Reimbursement Plan of the Independent Living Partnership is an Internal Revenue Service approved Accountable Plan; mileage reimbursement payments are not considered by the IRS to be income and are not reportable as income on the income tax filings of either enrolled TRIP participants or the volunteer drivers who receive the reimbursements.

So long as the amount placed on the gas card is the exact amount of the verified mileage amount associated with a mileage reimbursement request, the method of paying the mileage reimbursement is irrelevant.

If an amount is placed on the gas card that is unrelated to the actual mileage provided by a volunteer during a period, a method of accounting will need to be developed that meets the requirements of an IRS accountable plan. For example, if a card is issued in the amount of $100, somehow the actual mileage during the period must be reported by the volunteer in sufficient detail required by IRS rules, verified, and any excess over actual would need to be returned.

One of the requirements of an IRS accountable plan is that there is an adequate accounting of the basis for the expense. In order to meet this requirement, the following support information will need to be provided:

1. The date of the travel

2. The location of the travel’s origination

3. The destination of the travel

4. The purpose of the trip

5. The mileage of the trip

Similar details should be provided for the return trip and for all other trips that are reported to justify the request for mileage reimbursement.

The excess could conceivably be carried over to the next period and accurately accounted for by the next mileage request or the next, and this process could continue until the excess on the card is completely used. However, accurately accounting for the ongoing use of mileage reimbursement funds advanced on the gas card may be administratively quite complicated.

Mileage reimbursement request forms are sent to passengers. Both passengers and their volunteers are asked to always record travel on the day of the trip. To complete the form for each trip, the date must be written in, the reasons or purposes of the trip identified, the from and to cities, which are sometimes the same, and then the exact miles driven. Then the volunteer signs to certify that they provided the trip as stated and records the volunteer time that they contributed on that day.

At the end of each month, the passenger, often with help from a volunteer, is required to review the full month’s request and sign the request certifying that the travel took place as stated. Immediately the request forms are then mailed to TRIP.

When received, requests are reviewed for errors and omissions. Sometimes a phone call is placed to the passenger to ask for clarifications of unclear requests. Sometimes they are returned for appropriate review and signatures. Trips for unauthorized purposes are eliminated from the requests. Then we run a machine tape on the miles that are being requested and the data on each request form is entered in TripTrakTM software. The software checks mileage requests against permitted mileage limits and does not schedule payment for mileage that exceeds established limits.

When all data has been entered for all users for the month, scheduled payments are audited against submitted request forms and checks are issued. Mileage reimbursement checks are mailed to passengers with blank reimbursement request forms on the 25th day of each month following the month of reported travel. Checks are always mailed at the same time each month to eliminate inquiries about when checks will be issued.

The TRIP Program in Riverside makes mileage reimbursement payments to program passengers by check.

Payments are made to passengers, instead of volunteer drivers, for two reasons: (1) passengers may, and often do, have multiple volunteer drivers and some also change volunteer drivers somewhat frequently – to pay volunteer drivers is more costly to the program; (2) making the payments to the passengers reinforces the idea that the passenger is a contributing partner to transportation transactions.

Payment could also be made by direct deposit, but many of the passengers in the TRIP Program in Riverside are elderly or chronically ill and of very low income and do not have bank accounts. Offering direct deposit to those who can take advantage of the service might be a cost savings for some TRIP programs, but there could be other complications. One of the criteria for service provision by the TRIP Program in Riverside is that the recipient of service is resident of a particular area – checks can be sent “do not forward”, but direct deposit will go to a person’s account regardless of where they might live.

Program Management and Reporting

The TRIP Program in Riverside has received State, Federal and County government funding since the service was first started in 1993. Many volunteer services have similar requirements.

Working from the idea that complete accountability of government funds is an absolute necessity, TripTrakTM software was designed to facilitate detailed use and accurate tracking of mileage reimbursement payments, with a single or multiple funding sources.

When coupled with professional standard procedures for payroll and other non-payroll expenses accounting, complete and detailed reports of expenses by line item and funding source can be compiled for management, reporting, and audit purposes.

TripTrakTM software allows a service to set monthly allowances on an individual basis, or for all passengers, or for all passengers in a particular group. TRIP in Riverside reviews the actual needs of each passenger and sets individual allowances that range from a low of about $16 per month, up to $150 per month. I would guess that the majority now fall in the $64 to $96 range.

TripTrakTM allows service staff to define and establish separate allowances/restrictions for an individual travel purpose or for a set of permitted travel purposes.

For example, you may want to set-up an authorization for “medical only” travel, or for “medical out-of-area travel only”, or “for any purpose” on “weekdays only”, or “for religious purposes only”, etc. Authorizations of destinations and purposes can be fully managed by service staff.

TripTrakTM allows each software user to produce reports that meet their specific reporting requirements. The TRIP program in Riverside currently runs periodic reports of the number of users, one-way trips and miles of service provided, mileage reimbursement payments and volunteer hours contributed – all by service area and by funding source, as well as program totals for the month, quarter and year.

Reports can also be generated on any set of variables determined by a program to be useful and important. For example, a program might want to know how many medical trips were provided for residents of a specific city, or perhaps how many people receiving service are sight impaired, or a break-down of program users by other controllable variables.

First of all, it is important that a “Request for Mileage Reimbursement” form is used to gather total volunteer time provided by the escort-driver to assist the passenger with each trip. The experience of the TRIP program in Riverside is that, on average, 65 minutes of volunteer driver time has been contributed for each one-way trip provided. This is obviously a variable that will fluctuate from trip to trip and from program to program, dependent on trip distance, the stamina or other mobility characteristics of the passenger, the wait time at doctor’s offices, the line at supermarkets, traffic and weather conditions and probably on other circumstances as well.

The in-kind contribution of volunteer time can be a significant match for service funding. The TRIP Program in Riverside values volunteer driver time at the minimum wage rate. Last program year, the in-kind match of volunteer driver time amounted to $12,688 for a small service funded by a single city. For the full county-wide service, the in-kind match for last year, valued at the California minimum wage rate per hour, was $865,304.

The data gathered for each trip for each passenger can be entered in TripTrakTM. Volunteer hours can be reported for individual passengers, for individual volunteers, for all passengers supported by a single funding source, or for all funding sources by period, as determined by the software user.

No we do not. However, the pure TRIP model requires that passengers recruit their own driver(s) and these tend to be friends and neighbors who agree to be a volunteer driver to support someone they know fairly well who has a huge need for transportation assistance. The friends and neighbor volunteers are generally not in it for the money.

As part of the information we provide to passengers, we advise them that paying for a ride implicitly makes them their driver’s employer and subject to a whole host of possible problems. If a driver is asking for and receiving payment for providing rides, this makes them, in effect, a livery service which can increase their insurance rates and also jeopardize any entitlement status they have. In cases where the “volunteer” asks for more money in addition to the mileage reimbursement, we suggest to the passenger that they get another volunteer.

The national standard transportation data base standard definition is “a one way trip is counted as complete each time a passenger leaves a vehicle”. Cost per one-way trip is a standard transportation performance measure that provides the basis for the comparison of services. Per trip subsidy is another important comparative measure.

Because the TRIP model program is very inexpensive to operate, a comparison of one-way performance measures with other service models will place your TRIP program in a very competitive position when competing for limited transportation funding.

TripTrakTM software makes tracking and reporting one-way trip data easy.

Cost per one-way trip = Total Actual Monetary Expense of the Service (the money it cost) divided by the Total One-Way Trips provided.
NOTE: Donated time is an imputed value. Something with imputed value is NOT A MONETARY EXPENSE.

The purpose of donated volunteer driver time is to REDUCE the MONETARY EXPENSE necessary to provide the service (this is the whole point of motivating volunteerism)
The imputed value of donated time is not reportable to the IRS as income to the agency; it is not monetary. Donated time cannot be claimed as a charitable deduction on a donor’s tax
Similarly, the formula to calculate subsidy per passenger mile is Total Actual Monetary Expense of the Service (money) divided by Total Miles of Transportation provided.

Prevention of Fraud and Abuse

The TRIP Program in Riverside uses several methods to guard against enrollment by unqualified applicants.

We rely heavily on referrals from social workers from other agencies to identify people who are transportation deprived. Those people are then required to initiate application processing by calling and completing an intake through our partner Office on Aging Information and Referral division. Once referred to TRIP, we contact the applicant by telephone and complete an application over the phone so that staff can become very familiar with the applicant on a personal level. Follow-ups to completing the application include research of conditions cited as impacting the applicant’s mobility, receiving verifications of health status from applicant’s physicians, follow-up conversations to clarify or enlarge our understanding of their circumstances, and submission, review and the final determination of eligibility by the Eligibility Determination Committee, which is composed of a variety of professional experts and community representatives.

Subsequent to approval, service histories are monitored relative to expectations of the travel needs and capabilities that have been derived through the application and approval process. Exceptions noted are cause for eligibility review.

Seldom. First of all, based on information gathered in a recent survey of service users, TRIP passengers tend to view the program as something pretty much essential to their well-being and sometimes survival. Based on the criteria established by the TRIP Program in Riverside, most TRIP passengers are chronically ill, frail or elderly and without family to care for them – they tell us they were not able to receive the transportation they needed before being on the TRIP program and now are and they implore us to keep the program operating saying they do not know what they would do without it.

One of the younger people responding to the survey the other day said that she was in need of a kidney transplant and “on the list” at a particular hospital, but had been on the list for a long time and had become less than hopeful that she would survive. She credits TRIP assistance with saving her life by providing her with support to get her to a major transplant center some distance from her home where she received her transplant. These are not people who have much time or any inclination to try to defraud a service they regard with such appreciation.

However, we review all requests for reimbursement with the expectation that some fraud might occur, though mileage reimbursement amounts are so small that it would be a lot of work for someone to go through for so little return. In addition, when a person is determined to be eligible for the service by the TRIP Program in Riverside, we pretty thoroughly vet their needs and capabilities and place restrictions on their use that are individually appropriate and that further limit the amount of reimbursement they can receive each month, which makes the possibility of fraud even more remote.

TripTrakTM software is capable of alerting program operators to possible instances that should be examined for carefully. The TRIP Program has developed specific policies and procedures over the years that are used to identify and prevent program fraud.

No. Your discrete TripTrak™ database is only accessible by your authorized and password protected users through an encrypted virtual private network.