[FoRK] billing for travel days?

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Fri Nov 14 19:04:56 PST 2008

Travel related to Federal / DoD contracts has a somewhat fuzzy rule that 
travel that takes a significant amount of a day constitutes a "travel 
day".  Usually, you do some work on that day, however most of the day 
when you are traveling is imputed to the project as normal project 
time.  On busier projects, and where it is possible, I'd be working much 
of that time anyway. 

For shorter travel, the rule is that normal travel to and from your 
regular place of business is personal and any other travel is accounted 
for as project work time.  One way this is handled is for people to 
drive to work and then carpool to a meeting and back.  This is very 
clearly work time.  Sometimes, although pretty limited usually, flex 
time can be used.

The only quirky part is that if you perform the travel on a weekend, it 
is less appropriate to charge it to the project, hence the tendency 
avoid staying over a weekend, unless it is in a destination that holds 
some personal interest.  In that case, you can often justify getting an 
extra night or two of hotel / rental car / per diem paid for because it 
often is more than offset by the lower airfare.  There is a strange rule 
around taking a day of vacation next to a holiday or related shifting of 
hours you have to watch out for.

When I was living in Ohio and consulting in Manhattan, I, my partner, 
and a zillion other people would fly into the City on Monday morning and 
fly home on Friday afternoon, using two half days of project time.  In 
those days I billed by the day or fraction thereof anyway and had an 
unlimited expense account.  I ate so much top-tier steak in 3 months 
that I didn't eat steak again for 2 years.

I think that the gist of all of that is that you don't charge for 
"driving to work" time, but anything else is normal project time.  This 
is in what you might call a "class A" consultant / contractor / 
employee-like situation.  If it's more of a "class B" (vendor or 
maintenance service call), it is expected that you are doing a lot of 
that kind of service and A) can do other work on the same trip and/or B) 
have built in enough margin to deal with it.  Service rates for Cray 
support are a good example.  The confusion, especially with accounting 
departments, probably has to do with misunderstandings in this 
division.  Or knowledge that the former category even exists.


Ken Meltsner wrote:
> It's a contractual issue for our professional services, but we try to
> get the customer to pay for the first 8 hours worked per day -- if you
> can do it in a day trip, for example.
> If you were a roofer or plumber, you'd probably charge for travel time.
> Ken
> On Fri, Nov 14, 2008 at 6:41 PM, Lucas Gonze <lucas.gonze at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Dear forkie, any suggestions on how I should bill for a day of travel
>> on a consulting job?
>> This is a consulting project on an hourly rate.  The client needs me
>> to go to a meeting from 1-4 in norcal.  By far the majority of time
>> for that will be spent dealing with the plane.
>> Obviously I'll bill for travel expenses, but I'm not sure how to
>> address the hours spent not in the meeting.  Anybody have experience
>> that would shed light on standard practice?
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