Follow-up Response Re ‘Note to Office of Management and Budget’

Author Robert Benson wrote an article this week on the use of a privately owned vehicle while conducting business on behalf of the federal government. The article generated numerous comments. Rather than responding to each comment, here is his overall response to those readers who took the time to send in their reaction to the article.

Editor’s Note: Author Robert F. Benson wrote an article this week on use of a privately owned vehicle. The article was entitled A Note to the Office of Management and Budget. The article generated numerous comments. Rather than replying to these comments individually, here is Mr. Benson’s response.

Most of the comments on A Note to the Office of Management and Budget had to do with three topics.

1. “Profit”

Clearly, this was the wrong word to use – it aroused passions. Call it something else. Regardless of what you call it, the 50 cents per mile you are paid is nearly always greater than the incremental cost of the driving itself. Consider this: the last time you drove 100 miles on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, did it really cost you $50 more than if you had stayed home? Let’s be honest about this.

2. Insurance

I asked a Government attorney about this issue. She said that when a Government employee is driving a vehicle on Government business, then the Government is liable. Period. It makes no difference who owns the car. Private insurance is not involved.

Moreover, it goes beyond liability. A Government employee using his own vehicle had a breakdown on the highway and had to have the car towed. The agency asked GAO if they could pay his related expenses. Answer: yes. Reference: Decision B-256331 at

3. Depreciation

Depreciation is a function of time. The use of a privately owned vehicle does not increase depreciation. Other things being equal, an eight-year old car is worth less than a two-year old car. How they were used, or how many miles were driven, has nothing to do with depreciation.

Readers with objections seemed to miss a central point of the article, which was the program for committing to use your own vehicle would be voluntary. This means if you do not want to participate, you are not obliged. Voluntary.

About the Author

Robert Benson served 35 years in various Federal agencies, as both a management analyst and IT specialist. He is a graduate of Northwestern University.