Six Security Tips for NGOs Renting Vehicles

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NGO Landcruiser driving across desert hills of sand. Safety and Security is a key consideration in renting vehicles.

For NGOs and their employees, safety and security when working and travelling abroad is a necessity. Although many NGOs will have access to their own vehicles and operate their own fleets, rental cars are widely available and have several benefits.


Rental vehicles provide NGOs with a good, relatively inexpensive and flexible way to meet their transport needs. This does not mean they are without drawbacks, however. Often, contracts with rental vehicles vendors are poorly negotiated and recorded, leading to issues such as additional expenditure by the NGO and even lawsuits. In addition, rental vehicles might not be available to the NGO’s required standard that NGOs and their drivers are often not properly trained or understand how NGOs operate.


At Safer Edge, we work with both humanitarian and development NGOs who rent vehicles and have discovered six security that all NGOs should consider. But first, a case study:


Case Study:  An NGO-rented vehicle was travelling in a South Asian country and collided with two motorcycles. The motorcycle riders were injured and taken to the hospital. The rental vehicle vendor was called to deal with the accident, payments and insurance. The NGO assumed he was responsible and dealt with all these.  However, the vendor did not take care of any of the administration. Through his own network, he managed to get the police to release his vehicle and was aggressive toward the victims’ relatives who sought compensation for their hospitalisation and medication due to the accident.  Unable to get compensation, the victims’ relatives contacted a local political party which called a protest in front of the NGO’s office demanding compensation. The police were called to intervene and through negotiation, the NGO compelled the vehicle vendor to compensate the victims for their medical care.  An important lesson was learned that the renting organisation needs to remain engaged following security incidents involving rental cars les they become more serious and lead to additional incidents or a reduction in their community acceptance.

So how can NGOs avoid similar security incidents?


Use a reputable vendor

Depending on where your team is based, there is often a wide variety of rental car companies available. These range from individuals who own several cars and rent them out, to large and well-established rental vehicle businesses, to security companies who rent armoured vehicles. When selecting a rental car vendor make sure to learn about them before you rent their vehicles.


While the cost might be cheaper, NGOs should refrain from renting vehicles from individuals due to the increased liability for the NGO should something unfortunate occur. It is also difficult to follow appropriate procurement processes when dealing with an individual, especially in proving that there is no relationship between the person with the vehicles and staff in the organisation.


The rental car vendor should have been established for at least a year, be registered as a company and be registered to pay tax. If an NGO is establishing in a new area, the best place to start finding legitimate vendors is to speak to other organisations who are/have operated in that area previously.

Take care when entering into a contract

The same care should be applied to rental vehicle contracts as to other contracts that the organisation enters into. Specific things to note whilst reviewing your rental contact include:


  • Duration of the contract: Is the vehicle being rented for a special occasion only, or is it a year-long contract?

  • The exact price and inclusions/exclusions: Does the rental contract price cover petrol? The driver’s salary and benefits? Insurance? Collision damage? Regular maintenance? The contract should be explicit on who is responsible for every aspect of the rental.

  • Taxes & VAT: This should be included in the contract if it applies to the price.

  • Payment Details: How often/to whom are payments made, and if there are additional payments (e.g. to the driver, for petrol, etc.), how are these tracked?

  • Vehicle Rotation: Will new vehicles be provided regularly? If there is a problem with a vehicle, how quickly will it be replaced?


Get our free rental car checklist by clicking here.

Avoid risk - be responsible for your insurance

Depending on the country, your organisation is working in, car insurance may not always be compulsory. Because of this, it should not be assumed that the rental vehicle vendor will have or provide it for you. Therefore, before agreeing on or signing for your vehicles, your insurance must be negotiated into the contract. Note that, in most cases, only the owner of the car can apply for the insurance.


There are two common types of vehicle insurance you can obtain:

  1. Comprehensive: In case of an accident, this insurance type covers damage to the rental vehicle and any other vehicle involved in the accident.

  2. Third-party: In case of an accident, this insurance type covers damage to other vehicles only.


In general, injuries sustained during a vehicle accident are covered by health insurance rather than vehicle insurance. This means that if a rental vehicle is involved in an accident and they are at fault for the injury or death of another party, then it can become very costly.

Check the vehicle before use

Vehicles that the rental company provides should be checked before their use. This is to ensure that they are properly outfitted to the standard required by your organisation. When visiting hostile environments, the risk of vehicles not having adequate seat belts and missing spare tires increases and this may not be readily evident without a thorough examination. It is better to examine each vehicle using a checklist to ensure that it is in good working order. A free vehicle safety checklist can be downloaded here to assist with your vehicle review.


Vehicle tracking devices are a requirement for many NGOs but few rental vehicle vendors provide this. If this is the case, the NGO has two options – find a vendor that offers vehicle tracking in their vehicles or find a company that is prepared to outfit their rental vehicles with tracking devices. Unfortunately, not all vehicle tracking companies are willing to do this.


Be clear on who will be driving

In most cases, vehicles can be rented with or without a driver. It should be clear in the contract whether a driver is provided, who pays that driver, and what benefits they should expect from you. Benefits that will need to be considered include who will be providing medical care, food, what breaks are expected, what happens if the driver is on sick leave, and the drivers’ work hours.


Whoever is driving the vehicle, whether that be drivers provided by the rental or NGOs staff, should have a valid drivers license with them at all times. This licence should be valid for the country they are driving in and must be obtained before the vehicle is hired. In addition, staff driving rental vehicles should be well informed of how to respond in case of a Road Traffic Accident (RTA) and should always travel with pertinent emergency phone numbers for their specific area – including the NGO’s emergency contact details hospital and law enforcement telephone numbers.


Drivers should also have received some training from the rental organisation, which is detailed in the contract as to what they can/cannot do, how they will be managed when they will be paid, and to whom they are responsible. NGOs should additionally take time to brief rental car drivers about specifics related to working for NGOs. Rental car drivers should know what the NGO does and where.


Know what to do in case of an accident or security incident

Knowing how you will respond in the case of an incident involving rental vehicles and rented vehicles drivers is critical to an appropriate and timely response.

Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs)

Each driver should be fully informed on how to behave in an RTA and what they should/should not do. This might include leaving or staying at the scene of an accident and whether involving the police in some locations is advised in that specific location.


Vehicle Theft/Snatching

No matter what country the vehicle is being rented in, there will still be a possibility of theft. A contract with the vendor should be explicit about who is responsible for what if the vehicle is stolen. The NGO should be clear with both the vendor and staff who might be driving the vehicle, where the vehicle will be kept overnight and how the vehicle should be locked both in and out of use.


Security Incidences

When NGOs work in areas where the threat of attack (ambush, shooting, IEDs, etc.) is possible. Then, there should be some mention of responsibility made in the contract as this can become very expensive after the fact.


While rental vehicles are a convenient and inexpensive way for NGOs to meet their transport needs, all the six points above should be considered before using them. If the recommendations in this article are followed, NGOs will likely have less trouble in managing their rental contracts and a clear way forward in case of unforeseen incidences involving rental vehicles.


Our free rental car security checklist can be downloaded here for extra peace of mind when hiring your vehicles




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