Volunteer Driver Programs (VDPs) Serving Rural and Low Density Communities

People in rural and low-density areas are more likely to have limited transportation options than people in populated and developed areas. In the United States, a confluence of demographic changes, centralization of services, and other factors have exacerbated the effects of limited transportation options. Volunteer Driver Programs (VDPs) have been shown to help address these unmet mobility needs. The current body of knowledge regarding VDPs is largely anecdotal, with little research-based exploration that provides actionable findings and recommendations for state departments of transportation (DOTs). There is potential for state DOTs to support VDP success, identify opportunities to remove state-level barriers, provide effective technical assistance, and elevate innovation to close transportation gaps with VDPs. There are opportunities for VDPs to be implemented and improved on a more coordinated basis to provide low-cost transportation for unserved and underserved people. However, the history and growth of VDPs has largely been community-based, with inconsistent support from state DOTs. State DOTs are the audience for this research because they have important responsibilities for planning, funding, and overseeing transportation services in rural and low-density areas.  The objective of this research is to develop a resource for state DOTs to provide assistance to mobility providers in rural and low-density areas of the United States to plan, implement, and sustain VDPs as an option for responding to transportation gaps. The resource should include, but not be limited to:  (1) VDPs models. Define VDPs and identify examples in rural and low-density areas in the United States that illustrate a range of models and key attributes. This information will help identify models that may be best suited for different demographic and geographic factors and program goals. (2) Risk management and liability. Examine how risk management and liability of VDPs may be effectively addressed by state DOTs. This information will provide state DOTs with methods, procedures, and best practices to address risks and liability (e.g., insurance) for VDPs, their drivers, and their passengers. (3) Funding. In addition to traditional federal and state sources, identify nontraditional funding, including public and private sources, used to support VDPs. Identify the key attributes and administrative requirements of the funding. This will support state DOT’s funding coordination and technical assistance efforts. (4) Driver recruitment and retention.  Identify successful ways that state DOTs can leverage their resources to assist VDPs to identify, recruit, vet, train, and sustain a stable volunteer driver pool. The resource could present examples of state practices and policies around licensing, vetting, and training volunteer drivers. This will inform state DOTs of innovations, effective practices, and barriers. (5) Regulatory and compliance requirements.  Present examples of common regulatory and compliance requirements that pertain to VDPs; identify tools and guidelines for adherence.  Topics may include safety, risk management, eligibility of mobility providers to receive and use public funds, reporting, Title VI, and ADA implications.  This will help state DOTs provide needed technical assistance and support VDPs in navigating the regulatory environment. (6) Opportunities and challenges.  The resource should synthesize key opportunities and challenges facing VDPs in rural and low-density areas.  This will help state DOTs understand factors supporting VDP success, identify opportunities to remove state-level barriers, provide effective technical assistance, and elevate innovation to close transportation gaps with VDPs. 


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  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $350000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 08-183

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    Federal Highway Administration

    Office of Planning, Environment and Realty (HEP)
    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Schwager, Dianne

  • Start Date: 20231220
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01902710
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 08-183
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Dec 19 2023 7:45PM