Rental Cars for Government Travelers

» Posted by on Nov 1, 2014 in Industry Postings | 0 comments

In support of E-Gov Travel, our Bureau staff has to know a great deal about travel policy in order to assist callers to our Help Desk.  Not only do we answer questions about our E-Gov Travel vendor’s product, but we have to know about travel policy as well.  One area we receive questions about is rental cars.

First and foremost, rental cars must be approved in the authorization by the approving official.  The approving official must take into account if there is a Government vehicle available for use, or if the employee has a GOV assigned to them (if the TDY is within driving distance), or the approver selects that mode of transportation.  If the TDY is out of the driving area, the approving official must think about the need for the car as compared to the availability of public transportation or shuttle service.  Certainly if the traveler is going to a conference three thousand miles away and will be staying at the conference hotel, there should be no need for a rental car, especially if just driven from the airport to the hotel and will be parked for a week and incurring parking charges.

In our particular case, we are located outside of a major city with the only cost effective airports being 2 to 3 hours away.  We had some approvers that would authorize a rental car at the duty station to drive to the large city airports to be parked while on TDY.  We ended up recommending one-way rentals to reduce the daily and parking costs for week or more TDY trips.  The additional one-way cost was still cheaper than paying for rental and parking for a car not being used.

Another question we receive is from employees wanting to use an authorized rental car at the TDY location to go shopping, visit friends or relatives, or go to dinner.  The FTR is very restrictive when it comes to using a rental vehicle for personal use.  Section 301-10.453 states employees are responsible for any additional costs resulting from the unauthorized use of a rental vehicle. We recommend employees state up front to inform the car agency what days/times of the trip are for official business, and what are for personal use so the contract can be written accordingly.  For example, if someone is going to take personal time in conjunction with official travel (permitted), and will be coming back say 4 days after the official TDY, the car rental contact for those 4 days should be separate.  The car rental company may or may not provide the government rate to the employee and certainly will offer insurance as the rate will not be the SDDC rate that include insurance.

An approving official should also not authorize a rental car based on employee personal preference.  For example, if the normal mode of transportation between Washington, D.C. and Miami, FL is by air, the approving official should not authorize a rental car (or POV) because the employee wants to take family and stop along the way to visit relatives.

Employees should also be aware of how rental car results are displayed in the ETS and DTS systems.  In ETS (GovTrip), there is an indicator for airport or off-airport locations.  This can be very important to a traveler with a limited time frame from a flight arrival to a meeting time if they have to travel to an off-airport location.

Then there is the question of the type (class) of car that can be rented.  This is left to the agency discretion per the FTR.  We found it very interesting that our policy on this was about 10 years old and limited the class of car to a mid-size.  Since then, cars have become smaller, and the mid-size designation no longer fit what was available in the industry.  We had to update our policy other categories of cars now exist such as economy, compact, etc. which changed what kinds of cars were in the mid-sized category.  As such, our policy is now:

The traveler should select a car size that is sufficient for the number of employees on official business. A single traveler should not rent a car larger than full-size. Approving officials may authorize rental of a van when four or more travelers will be riding together. Four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicles may be approved when necessary due to weather. Such special authorizations should be noted in the comment section of the authorization.

Generally, agencies should not permit travelers to rent luxury-class automobiles for official government travel. Travelers will be reimbursed for the rental of a luxury car only if an acceptable written justification is submitted to the approving official citing medical/handicap problems or verifying that no appropriate-sized vehicle was available.

The traveler should pay separately for gasoline and itemize it separately on the travel voucher. Reimbursement for charges incurred as a result of returning the car with a less than full tank of gasoline may be reduced to a more reasonable gasoline rate.

By Daniel Carozza

“The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Bureau of the Public Debt, or the U.S. Department of the Treasury.” 

Submit a Comment