North Dakota law (N.D.C.C § 39‐01‐03) strictly prohibits the private use of motor vehicles that belong to the State. The intent of this statute is clear: state vehicles must be used exclusively for state business. In addition, liability coverage for the state of North Dakota, its agencies and employees is provided through the ND Risk Management Fund (RMF). The RMF is administered according to statute (State Tort Claims Act, N.D.C.C. ch. 32‐12.2) and it specifies that coverage is only for claims against the State and State employees while acting within the scope of their employment. This means that the operation of a state vehicle, other than within the scope of authorized State employment, may expose the driver to: personal liability; employment consequences; and even criminal responsibility for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and misapplication of entrusted property (N.D.C.C. §§ 12.1‐23‐06 and 12.1‐23‐07).
SBHE Policies 611.12 and 512 address the use of state vehicles also, and are aligned with State law. To comply with State law and to control vehicle liability exposures to the State (meaning claims by third parties for personal injuries or property damages caused by the operation of the state vehicle), each institution has responsibility for establishing and implementing a systematic process to determine permitted: 1) activities for which a state vehicle may properly be used, 2) drivers of a state vehicle, 3) passengers within the state vehicle, and 4) type of vehicle an employee is qualified to use.
Regardless of differences in the purpose and mission of higher education in comparison to other state agencies, the same state law(s) and standards that apply to other state agency apply equally to higher education’s use of state vehicles.
Although questions of who may operate a state vehicle and for what purposes are ordinarily straightforward and obvious, there are occasional situations that arise that require a more in‐depth analysis. In these situations, there are essentially four interrelated items to consider:
- Driver must be a state employee;
- The purpose of the trip/travels must be for State business;
- Operation of the vehicle must at all times remain within the scope of employment; and
- Any passengers must be state employees also engaged in official state business or others whose presence is necessary to fulfill state business as determined by competent authority.