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“Can I drive the city vehicle home?” is a question often asked by employees who operate vehicles on behalf of the city. Whether it’s a benefit to the employee or a job necessity, cities and towns grapple with decisions surrounding employee take home vehicles. Balancing these request can create several challenges. In addition to allowing employees to drive the vehicles, careful consideration must be given to other issues that can create liabilities for the city if they are not addressed ahead of time.

A city employee may ask if it’s acceptable to transport a family member while in route to and from work in the city vehicle. Cities should evaluate their insurance policies when making these decisions. If an employee is injured and unable to work while operating a city vehicle, or if the city’s vehicle is damaged, the employee could possibly receive compensation under workers’ compensation through the cities workers’ compensation carrier or the at fault party’s insurer. Damages to the city vehicle may be covered by the city’s insurance carrier or the at fault party’s insurer. What happens to the non-employee passengers claims is dependent upon the cities insurance policy.

It’s important for all parties to know the medical coverage limits the city’s insurance carrier has for nonemployee passengers so neither party is caught off guard in the event of a claim. Elected officials will often drive their spouses to events in city vehicles. If the spouse is injured as a result of an accident, then a limited medical payment benefit may be available. Med Pay is no-fault coverage and will only pay items like deductibles and out of pocket expenses after all other insurance coverage has been paid.

If occupants of a city vehicle are hit by another vehicle that is uninsured, SCMIRF provides minimum Uninsured Motorist Coverage ($25,000 bodily injury per person/$50,000 bodily injury per accident/$25,000 property damage) for any non-employee passengers. A $25,000 limit of bodily injury per person may not go very far if there are major injuries and the non-employee passenger would have to rely on their health insurance.

In addition to understanding the city’s insurance coverage, officials must establish rules so employees understand the vehicle maintenance requirements and their responsibility to obey traffic regulations while operating the vehicle. Will employees be allowed to stop by the grocery store on the way home? Can they buy alcohol in a city vehicle? How should city vehicles be secured at an employee’s home? How many miles can city vehicles be driven outside of city limits? All of these questions should be answered before cities allow employees to take vehicles home.

Payment of wages is another area that cities need to discuss ahead of time. If an officer is on the way home from work and stops at the bank, but then is called back to assist with an emergency or call for service, the officer could become eligible for pay. Include the city’s labor attorney in this discussion to avoid any Fair Labor Standards Act violations.

Police departments will assign take-home vehicles based on departmental needs such as emergency response, community visibility, and other needs. Risk Management Services members have access to a vehicle use policy to assist officials with decision making to ensure vehicles are used towards the mission of the department. For copies of the police vehicle take home policy contact Todd Williams, public safety loss control consultant, at 803.354.4764 or twilliams@masc.sc.