Penn State - Travel
Transportation must be arranged at the least possible cost to meet the business purpose of the trip. University travelers are required to comply with the rules of a number of sponsoring agencies, and transportation is a particular focus of those regulations.
The choice of flying versus driving is influenced by distance, time, cost, and one's preference. When flying is the economical choice but one chooses to drive and the round trip mileage is 750 miles or more, the reimbursement may not exceed the cost of the lowest available air transport for the same points of origin and destination. The traveler must provide appropriate price quotes from either Travel onLion or an acceptable travel agency, obtained at the time of the decision to drive vs. fly, to document the appropriate airfare for comparison.
When travel by car or train rather than flying extends the length of travel, one night's lodging and one day of per diem, equivalent to a reasonable travel day, may be reimbursed for the trip in each direction. If circumstances warrant additional reimbursement, the traveler should discuss the situation with the responsible Budget Administrator and Financial Officer. The goal of this provision in the policy is not to require travelers to fly against their will, but to ensure that expenses for the longer trip are not incurred unnecessarily. If the traveler is unable or unwilling to fly, then special arrangements must be negotiated.
Airfare is to be purchased at the lowest available commercial economy fare that meets the business purpose of the trip. When multiple coach fares exist, the lowest available commercial economy fare must be selected. The purchase of upgraded business or first-class airfare requires written approval from the Corporate Controller in advance of the purchase. If the traveler has doubts about the suitability of his or her plans, advice must be sought from the Financial Officer before purchasing the tickets.
If the traveler purchases airfare and flies from another airport, other than the one closest to the person’s primary work location, and the change in location results in incurring and claiming additional travel costs to reach that airport, comparison costs for flying from a closer airport are needed, unless the cost per person (for those traveling for business purposes) of the additional travel costs to reach the airport are $50 or less (roundtrip).
Travelers have several options for booking airfare. Use of Travel onLion is NOT required. Refer to the Airfare Booking Options and Services table, which provides a consolidated view of the options available and the requirements for each.
Booking Airfare with Travel onLion, the University’s Online Booking Tool
As an available option to travelers, the University Department of Purchasing Services provides an online booking tool, “Travel onLion”, which complies with the required standards of OMB 2 CFR 220. The use of Travel onLion for air transportation meets the contractual obligation to provide the traveler with lowest available airfare and is accepted by the governmental audit agency. Therefore, when flights are booked with Travel onLion, no comparison documentation is required, even if the travel is federally sponsored..
Booking Airfare With External Travel Sources
University employees are permitted to purchase the lowest available commercial economy airfare from external sources, with documentation required as follows:
FEDERALLY FUNDED TRAVEL: If the airfare will be charged to federal or federal pass-through grants or contracts, comparison documentation showing that the fare obtained was reasonable is required. This documentation can be obtained by printing out comparable and contemporaneous fares from Travel onLion at the time of purchase, as comparative data. If the comparisons show that the fare obtained was higher than the documented comparison fares, the traveler will be reimbursed at the comparison fare based on the information available at the time of comparison or the cost of the airfare from the external source, whichever is less.
NON-FEDERALLY FUNDED TRAVEL: If the cost of the airfare is $1000 or less, no comparison documentation is required, unless business and personal travel are being combined (See Combined Business and Personal Travel Section). For airfare costing more than $1000 per trip, travelers should print comparison airfares from Travel onLion at the time of purchase to provide the documentation that the purchase price is reasonable. Final determination if the cost of a flight is reasonable and can be appropriately charged to restricted or general funds lies with the Financial Officer. If the airfare cost does not appear to be reasonable (especially in situations where the cost is higher than others traveling to the same destination) and/or comparable fares are lower, the difference in price may either be charged to an unrestricted gift fund, or not reimbursed to the traveler.
The purchasing card can be used to purchase airfare or the traveler can choose to use a personal credit card for their individual airfare.
NOTE: When booking airfare through an external travel source, Travel onLion Staff will not have access or authorization to assist with any changes in flight times, destination, or adjustments to the ticket in any manner. In addition, travelers need to be aware that booking trips with multiple carriers carries a higher risk for travel interruption, lost baggage, and difficulty in obtaining refunds than booking through a single carrier, where possible. In addition, reusing an unused ticket involving multiple carriers requires that all carriers be utilized on the new reservation, which can be very difficult.
When travel requirements arise during international travel, it is permissible for the employee to purchase air travel without comparisons if the traveler believes the fare is reasonable. The traveler must provide an explanation as to why it was necessary to purchase airfare during the trip rather than prior to departure.
Use of travel packages is discouraged because of the lack of detail regarding the various components of travel (airfare, lodging, transportation). There may, however, be occasions when a travel package consisting of airfare and hotel will result in a lower overall cost than booking each item separately. The policy regarding required documentation of comparisons listed above for federally funded travel and other travel applies to travel packages as well.
When a travel package includes a rental car, there must be a demonstrated need for the car, and the car rental agreement must meet the insurance requirements of our car rental policy. If a car is not needed, then the package price should be compared to the price for individually purchased air and hotel.
A consolidator ticket is an international ticket sold by a wholesaler at below-tariff costs. Although consolidator tickets may be lower priced, they carry more restrictions regarding changes and cancellations. Travelers should be aware of these restrictions prior to purchasing a consolidator ticket. They should weigh the potential savings with the risk of these added restrictions.
When a trip is postponed or cancelled, the original priced itinerary sent by the travel source should be retained. In addition, it is recommended that the employee notify the travel source of the unused ticket so that it can be placed in the traveler’s profile for later use (if that service is offered).
Note: Most airline tickets are valid for reissue by the same-ticketed traveler provided the trip is cancelled prior to the date and time of departure. Otherwise, the ticket has no value for future travel. Rules for reissue vary from airline to airline and fare to fare. Travelers need to understand the rules related to the particular booked airfare. In some situations, especially where travel is tentative, the traveler is advised to consider the rules regarding reissuance as a cost of the travel. Travel Services can be consulted as needed.
The charge to the University general funds budget from the initial transaction will stand when a ticket is not used. If the charge is to a restricted account, special terms and conditions may apply, and should be discussed with the Financial Officer or Research Administrator to determine allowability.
If the ticket is eventually used for another trip, a reissue fee and any increase in airfare will be charged. Unused refundable tickets may be fully refunded, or reissued at the current applicable fare.
This policy addresses the standard rules of cancellation and reissue. Travelers should consult with whatever travel source booked their trip to understand any unique rules that apply to their particular transaction.
Itinerary Change Fees: When a traveler changes airline travel reservations and incurs itinerary change fees, a valid business reason for the change to the itinerary must be provided as substantiation for the charges. The traveler must contact the Financial Officer to determine whether or not additional fees due to such changes may be directly charged to restricted or general fund accounts or if the additional costs must be charged to unrestricted funds. Change fees incurred for personal reasons will not be reimbursed.
Luggage Charges: The University will not reimburse for additional luggage charges (second checked bag or overweight) unless there is a reasonable business explanation for the charges. Receipts are required for reimbursement of baggage handling fees. Travelers can check-in for their flights and check their bags online for a lesser fee than if bags are checked at the airport at the time of departure.
Other Fees: The University will reimburse for any fees charged by the airlines which can be substantiated as business-related. Charges for food or beverage services are NOT reimbursable as those charges would be covered by the per diem meal allowance. Fees for aisle or window seats that cannot be reserved until 24 hours prior or upgrade fees at the time of departure are also not reimbursable, unless there is strong substantiation for incurring these fees.
The University will reimburse the cost of train fare. Receipts are required. Reservations may be made at the option of the traveler. Should a sleeper car be requested, the Budget Executive must provide approval, since the sleeper car is considered an upgrade in travel accommodations.
The University generally will not reimburse for travel costs related to seminars and conferences offered on-board cruise ships. Reimbursement for the costs of cruise travel is taxable to the employee. Travel aboard a cruise ship must be pre-approved by the budget executive and the Office of the Corporate Controller, and the amount reimbursed must be submitted to Payroll for tax purposes at the conclusion of the trip.
NOTE: Charter Travel is addressed below.
Use of local transportation, such as subways, metros and buses, is often economical, but receipts are not generally available given the use of electronic cards, tokens, and debit cards. Receipts are not required for use of local transportation, and the expense is not to be considered as a miscellaneous expense.
Taxis and shuttles used for business purposes are eligible for reimbursement, and receipts are generally available. If receipts are not provided, then the expense must be itemized as miscellaneous and subject to the $5 per day provision for miscellaneous expenses.
Any licensed vehicle used in the commission of University business may only be driven by a University employee, regardless if the vehicle is owned by a University department, University Fleet Services, a commercial car rental agency, or an individual. All drivers must be 21 years or older, and hold a valid driver's license issued by a state of the United States or by a province of Canada. Students (including college work-study students) are normally not permitted to drive University-owned vehicles; however, they as well as family members may act as relief drivers when accompanying a faculty or staff member on a long (4 hours or more each direction) trip. In the case of a rental vehicle, the relief driver must be properly insured for the vehicle being driven. A student can only serve as a driver for University business (other than a relief driver as described above) if they meet the requirements above AND if they are acting as an employee as part of the trip and driving a vehicle is part of their University job description. Employees under the age of 21 may only drive University vehicles only if:
Any accident involving a vehicle (owned, leased, rented or personally-owned) driven on University business, must be reported by the driver to the Risk Management Office within 24 hours, using the Vehicle Accident Report Form. If a rental or personally owned vehicle is involved in an accident while used on University business, no matter how minor, it must be reported to the Risk Management Office. The Vehicle Accident Report Form may be found in the visor pack of fleet-serviced vehicles. For other vehicles, a copy of the form can be accessed on-line at http://www.controller.psu.edu/Divisions/RiskManagement/claims.html (see the "Auto Liability" section).
If the driver is involved in an accident in which someone is injured or killed, or if any vehicle is damaged to the extent it cannot be driven, the driver must immediately notify the local or state police. In the event of a serious injury or a fatality, please call the Risk Management and Privacy Office at 814-865-6307. If an accident occurs as a hit-and-run incident in which the other vehicle leaves the scene, police must be notified at the time the driver becomes aware of the accident.
The cost for renting a GPS unit as part of a rental vehicle is reimbursable if there is a business purpose which clearly indicates a need for such a device, such as travel to multiple locations in an unfamiliar location. Generally, GPS units would be not reimbursed for conference travel, where adequate directions to reach hotels are provided and shuttle services are available for use. Departments have the authority to determine that GPS units are not appropriate expenditures.
Reduced rental costs for GPS units are part of the Big Ten contract with National Car Rental and are available at the time of reservation or rental.
Parking fees will be reimbursed if receipts are provided. If no receipts are provided, parking expenses must be itemized as miscellaneous subject to the $5 per day provision for miscellaneous expenses.
Many hotels charge separately for parking. Valet parking is often the only option offered and is also the safest choice to the person unfamiliar with the city. It is not recommended that the traveler attempt to find alternative city parking to avoid hotel rates or valet parking. The traveler is asked to use judgment to assess his or her choices, and determine the best choice available factoring in safety, security, and convenience.
Tolls are eligible for reimbursement, and receipts are not required. The traveler may be required to provide an explanation of the tolls incurred.
Traffic Violations, Parking Fines, and Towing
All fines and penalties resulting from operation of a vehicle are the responsibility of the driver. No reimbursement will be made for payment of fines and citations, or resulting towing expense.
Any vehicle used in the commission of University business may only be driven by a University employee, regardless if the vehicle is owned by a University department, University Fleet Services, a commercial car rental agency, or an individual (see “Guidelines Applicable to All Drivers"). The University retains the right to periodically check drivers' motor vehicle records and establish criteria to exclude employees from driving on business.
Vans for 15 or More Passengers
An employee driver must be at least 25 years of age (exceptions can be made by Transportation Services for those individuals 21-24 who have completed a "hands-on" van-driving course or who hold a Commercial Driver's License). The driver must have successfully completed a Web-based training and testing module on van operation from Transportation Services.
Overnight Use of University Vehicles
University vehicles are not to be parked at an employee's home overnight. Exceptions may be granted if the vehicle will be used for an early departure (prior to 7:00 a.m.) or a late return (after 7:00 p.m.) and/or the individual would reduce driving time to or from the final destination by taking the vehicle home the evening before or returning it the next day. Exceptions must be approved by the Budget Administrator whose budget will incur the University-owned vehicle charge (or the Budget Administrator's immediate supervisor if the Budget Administrator is the one using the vehicle). Even if an exception is granted, the vehicle cannot be used for personal use.
Insurance for University-Owned Vehicles
The University maintains liability insurance on its vehicles ( includes departmental, college, and campus-licensed motor vehicles) as required by the Pennsylvania Financial Responsibility Act. Vehicles are covered while operated in the United States and Canada.
Rental vehicles may be used when the overall cost of the rental is less than the cost of other reasonably convenient means of transportation, such as taxi or airport shuttle, or when there is no other means of transportation. Travelers should determine the type of vehicle (class) to rent based on expected business purpose, and must provide an explanation if a higher cost vehicle class is selected (such as luxury, convertible or SUV). The same guidelines as to who may drive apply to a rental vehicle as to other vehicles used for University business.
Contract Car Rental Agency - National - Code XZ40034 / Enterprise - Code XZ40034
The University has negotiated a sole source contract for rental vehicles, which is currently with National and/or Enterprise Car Rental. Use of National and/or Enterprise Car Rental is advised due to the superior insurance provided by the negotiated Big Ten contract, and the history of positive claim settlement with National and/or Enterprise Car Rental in the event of an accident. When accidents occur in the United States, or out-of-country, it has proven to be a significant benefit to partner with National and/or Enterprise Car Rental in resolving legal issues. Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) coverage is provided by National and/or Enterprise Car Rental for the full value of the car both domestically and internationally. Liability insurance is included in the contract provider's rental price for domestic rentals and insures the driver for injury to passengers or others involved in an accident. Liability coverage is provided internationally based on the minimum requirements of that country’s government. Workers' compensation covers University employees for injuries sustained while engaged in University work. Price comparisons are not required when booking with National and/or Enterprise.
The University's contracts with National and/or Enterprise Car Rental include primary auto liability and collision damage to the vehicle itself and Supplemental Liability coverage. The University has elected NOT to purchase "personal property" or Personal Accident Insurance (PAI) coverage which is an option available to the renter, and for University business the payment of this expense is NOT reimbursable.
If National and/or Enterprise Car Rental is not available, the traveler must select from one of the other reputable nationally known rental agencies listed below. The traveler must provide a written explanation of why the alternative rental car agency was used.
In the event that an alternative car rental agency is sought, for whatever reason, the University traveler must select from one of these nationally known reputable agencies. This requirement is stipulated by the Risk Management and Privacy Office and is to ensure that any vehicles rented can be deemed safe, and that any resulting insurance issues can be addressed with a reputable nationally known corporation. It should be noted that Alamo, although a part of the Enterprise and National organization, is not included in the Big Ten contract and should be treated as any other non-contract supplier.
Comparing Car Rental Prices
If the traveler chooses to compare rental prices, the cost of both Collision Damage Waiver and supplemental liability insurance must be added to the alternative rental rate before determining which agency is cheaper. After comparing prices (including both Collision Damage Waiver and supplemental liability insurance), if the traveler can justify the alternative and selects an alternative reputable nationally known rental car agency, the traveler MUST provide printed documentation to accompany the request for travel reimbursement. The National Car Rental and Enterprise Rent a Car rates, as well as direct Penn State links to both companies,can be obtained online at www.travel.psu.edu/rentalcarinfo.shtml or from one of the contract travel agencies. In the event that an alternative rental agency is used and the rate for the alternative rental exceeds the National Car Rental rate, the traveler will only be reimbursed an amount equivalent to the applicable National Car Rental rate. Should the traveler select another car rental agency, it is incumbent upon the traveler to be fully insured and purchase both Collision Damage Waiver coverage for collision and supplemental liability insurance. The traveler will be reimbursed for the cost of the insurance provided the fully insured rental does not exceed the cost of renting from National Car Rental. As directed by the Risk Management and Privacy Office, travelers are not permitted to rely on their personal car insurance coverage or a personal credit card coverage on University business rentals.
National Car Rental utilizing group contract XZ40034
Enterprise Rent a Car utilizing group contract XZ40034
Other Reputable Rental Agency Travel within the United States
Collision Damage Waiver provided
Supplemental liability insurance provided
Required to purchase Collision Damage Waiver
Required to purchase supplemental liability insurance
Insurance and Additional Drivers
Collision Damage Waiver coverage and liability insurance are provided for all University employees when driving a National or Enterprise Car Rental vehicle within the 50 United States. Spouses, partners, children over 21 years of age living with employee and non-University employees/guests of the University whose expenses are being paid by Penn State are covered by the vehicle’s insurances as both passengers and drivers and are permitted to act as relief drivers with no additional fee charged. All others traveling in the rental car are covered only as passengers. If they intend to act as a relief driver, they must be listed on the rental agreement as an additional driver and pay the additional driver fee. All drivers of any vehicle rented outside the 50 United States, when renting from a company other than National or Enterprise, must be registered with the rental car agency.
In the event an employee can justify using a rental company other than the contract agency, the employee is encouraged to pay for the rental with the University's Purchasing Card. The Purchasing Card provides Collision Damage Waiver coverage for the full value of the car worldwide. It does not provide supplemental liability coverage, so supplemental liability coverage should always be selected.
All employees contracting with a rental car agency other than National or Enterprise Car Rental outside the continental United States MUST purchase the Collision Damage Waiver and supplemental liability insurance. See below chart for insurance coverages.
Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) coverage is provided by National and Enterprise Car Rental for the full value of the car in the United States. Outside of the U.S., deductibles may apply; the renter should purchase whatever coverage is available to reduce the deductible. The University will centrally absorb any remaining collision deductible after all buy-downs have been purchased. Liability insurance is included in the contract provider's rental price for domestic rentals and as required by the law in all other countries except Canada and Mexico. This insures the driver for injury to passengers or others involved in an accident. Some countries may also have a liability insurance deductible that must be paid by the University in the case of an accident after all buy-downs have been purchased. Some countries offer insurance coverage to waive the deductible and should be purchased when available. Workers' compensation covers University employees for injuries sustained while engaged in University work. Any accident involving the vehicle MUST be reported to the local police, no matter how minor the accident may be.
National Car Rental utilizing group contract XZ40034 Enterprise Rent a Car –utilizing group contract XZ40034 Other Reputable Rental Agency Travel outside the United States Collision Damage Waiver for the full value of the car and Supplemental Liability provided as required by the law in the country of rental. (Middle East, Africa, Asia, the Pacific Basin, Latin America and the Caribbean only.)
Collision Damage Waiver for the full value of the car and Supplemental Liability provided as required by the law. (Europe only)
Collision Damage Waiver and Supplemental liability insurance are not provided.
Required to purchase Collision Damage Waiver
Required to purchase supplemental liability insurance
The University's Purchasing Card provides Collision Damage Waiver coverage for the full value of the car worldwide. It does not provide supplemental liability coverage.
When trucks need to be rented on University business from commercial vendors such as Budget, Ryder and Penske, please refer to University Policy BS20 for details.
Use of personal vehicles is reimbursed on an actual mileage basis for the business portion of the trip. Reasonable mileage must be calculated for the most direct route plus the required business travel while at the business site. The mileage rate is set in accordance with that established by the federal government. The mileage rate currently in force is listed within the Lookup Planning Tool on GURU. Mileage allowances cover all operating costs, including repairs, insurance, fuel, depreciation, towing, and other auto-related expenses. The reimbursement rate includes a component for liability and collision insurance, and therefore the University will not reimburse employees for the deductible incurred in an accident on University business.
When flying is the economical choice but one chooses to drive and the round trip mileage is 750 miles or more, the reimbursement may not exceed the cost of the lowest available air transport for the same points of origin and destination. The traveler must provide appropriate price quotes from either Travel onLion, or from an external travel source to document the appropriate airfare for comparison.
When an employee's personal vehicle is driven on University business and the vehicle is involved in an accident, the vehicle owner's insurance policy will be primary, and the University's auto liability coverage will be secondary, if the accident is serious enough to exhaust the primary coverage. Employees driving personal vehicles on University business are responsible for reporting all accidents to their insurer, since there are serious coverage consequences for failure to report an accident. The employee is also required to complete the Vehicle Accident Report and submit to the Risk Management and Privacy Office.
When commercial transportation does not accommodate the specific schedule and needs of a group of travelers, there are approved methods and vendors to be used to secure charter transportation. The Risk Management and Privacy Office and Purchasing Services are both involved in ensuring that requirements concerning insurance, safety, and reliability are met. More information is available at http://www.controller.psu.edu/Divisions/RiskManagement/.
The charter of any non-University owned aircraft presents serious liability issues to the University. All aircraft charters must be coordinated through Purchasing Services. Federal aviation regulations must be met in addition to University requirements concerning safety, insurance, and reliability. The Risk Management and Privacy Office must give final approval for all aircraft charters.
Bus companies are reviewed by the Risk Management and Privacy Office to certify that the carrier has adequate insurance. Only bus companies on this list are approved for University use. This list is available on the Risk Management and Privacy Office website under "Accepted Charter Bus Lines."
Ship and Boat Charters
The chartering of boats and ships is excluded from the University's general liability insurance, and therefore all requests for use of such vessels, excluding small watercraft such as canoes and rowboats must be submitted to the Risk Management and Privacy Office.
Privately Owned Aircraft
No University employees are permitted to fly privately owned aircraft, unless approval is obtained from the Risk Management Office.
For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the Office of the Corporate Controller.
Most Recent Changes:
Revision History (and effective dates):