Carpooling Policy

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    For a variety of reasons there are fewer drivers of snow worthy vehicles within the club. This has become a significant issue. On a recent overnight tour, there were 12 participants and no one wanted to drive. Eventually this was sorted out but it was sorted out by the leader spending over $1,000 to accelerate repairs to his car and by renting of a 4WD vehicle by four. Note that while the trip leaders help coordinate carpooling, ultimately, it is the obligation of each member to arrange travel to the overnight destination. Inability to do this is not grounds for a trip refund.

    The optimal solution is of course to carpool and share the driving expense. Regarding expenses, current ONC policy is as follows:

    Each passenger contributes 15 cents per mile. For three or more passengers, the maximum total contribution by all passengers is limited to 45 cents per mile.

    At first glance, given that gas prices are at historic lows, the above policy seems to be a boon for drivers but I’ll try and make the case that the opposite is true and that drivers are subsidizing other members of the club.

    The starting point is the cost per mile for a vehicle. There are a number of cost associated with owning and operating a car including: depreciation of initial purchase price, regular maintenance, repairs, gas, insurance and licenses. What do all these costs come up to on a per mile basis? The accepted standard for this cost is the IRS Mileage Rate. As of January 1 2016 this rate 54 cents/mile (down from 57.5 cents/mile in 2015). Clearly the gas cost is only a small portion of overall vehicle cost. This rate is used as the reimbursement rate by most large employers and government organizations (e.g. State of Oregon uses this rate).

    I would argue that this rate is low for snow worthy vehicles. The 54 cents is an average across all vehicles and all states. Ski driving often requires larger 4WD vehicles, snow tires, purchase of ski racks/ski boxes, sno-park passes, etc. Additionally there is greater accident risk/wear when driving on snow covered roads (coming back from my last trip a rock was thrown up and I now have a cracked windshield). One could certainly debate this point but, in part to make the math a little easier, I’ll assume a cost of 60 cents/mile for snow worthy vehicles.

    If there is an owner/driver and 3 passengers in the car then, per current policy, the vehicle owner gets 45 cents per mile from the passengers. As noted above, when all expense are considered, driving the vehicle costs the owner 60 cents a mile so the 15 cents difference is being picked up by the owner. The owner does not write a check to anyone but that is 15 cents/mile of wear, deprecation, etc. which is not being covered. In this case, basic costs are shared equally with everyone contributing directly or indirectly 15 cents a mile. This is certainly not a boon for the owner. The owner is effectively paying the same rate as all the other passengers but they are often saddled with doing the majority of driving and have to clean out their car at the end of the trip. As someone who often drives on trips, I would jump at the chance to relax as a passenger and pay 15 cents/mile.

    Unfortunately, the above is a best case scenario for the driver. More typically we drive with less than fully occupied vehicles. For example, if there are only two passengers then the driver is reimbursed 30 cents a mile. Of the 60 cents per mile to operate the vehicle, the driver is then picking up 30 cents/mile themselves for the pleasure of driving other skiers up to the mountain. This hardly seems fair.

    The board is evaluating if our carpooling policy should be revised for next year. Several ideas have been considered including (1) not having a fixed carpool fee per person but dividing the operating cost (60 cents/mile) equally among everyone in the vehicle (2) staying with a fixed per person fee but increasing per passenger contribution to 20 cents/mile up to a maximum of 60 cents/mile (3) keeping current policy but providing more education on this issue. No decisions have been made yet. These changes are being considered in hopes of providing a more equitable sharing of costs and encouraging more people to make their vehicle available for trips. If you have input on this topic then please provide feedback to one of your hard working ONC board members.


    Scott Diamond
    ONC Board Member

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