After months of complaints from the public over poor customer service, the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Wayne Goodwin says that the state’s DMV is going to test installing kiosks in grocery stores and other places around the state that would allow drivers to, among other things, print license-plate renewal stickers.
Twenty of the kiosks are part of a pilot program starting in the third quarter of 2023. They will be in grocery stores, government agencies, military installations, and other locations. There will be a transaction fee to use the kiosks, which would cover their costs. The kiosks are already being used in Virginia, Georgia, Indiana, California, and other states.
“Indiana reported that in the first year 50,000 transactions were through their kiosks, and Indiana is a smaller state than us,” Goodwin told committee members.
From June to August this summer, 16 offices across the state will begin offering Saturday hours from 8 a.m. to noon.
LONG LINES AND FRUSTRATED LAWMAKERS
Goodwin says these changes are part of an effort to address growing customer complaints from drivers who are waiting months for an appointment. Currently the Skiptheline.ncdot.gov site, shows the most immediate appointments available are in April.
The backlog has lead to hours-long lines and frustrated drivers across the state. Members of the committee said they get calls from constituents regularly complaining about the DMV.
Lawmakers in the the N.C. General Assembly have for years included funding to update the DMV’s decades-old computer system. A glitch led to more than 81,000 N.C. drivers having an incorrect record in the DMV system. On Thursday, the DMV’s chief information officer, Rena Henry, said replacing the system was still being studied.
“We continue to look at market research to see, is there an application out there that could replace our entire DMV application system, as opposed to pull out the heart, replace it and put in back,” said Henry.
The explanation did not sit well with some lawmakers who’ve been tracking the issues with the department.
“I am frustrated with DMV’s progress for modernization of their services,” said Sen. Vickie Sawyer, R-Iredell. “The General Assembly has invested in improved technology for the agency for the last decade, and we saw today that they are no further in their modernization efforts than they were when they presented two years ago.”
Goodwin blamed the problems and wait times on lack of staffing. A former legislator himself, Goodwin said Thursday was the first time the DMV has presented to a legislative committee in two years. In that time, the DMV’s open positions have climbed from 11% in 2019 to 20% in 2022.
They’ve begun offering recruitment and retention bonuses and instituted preferential hiring practices for veterans.
“We are hiring,” said Goodwin. ‘If you know someone who is looking for work and would like to work for the state and is a people person, they need to come see me and the DMV, because we need you.”
“Other states have improved their customer service delivery systems to include acceptance of forms online, electronic titles and virtual ID’s,” said Sawyer. “I was disappointed to hear their focus is on hiring more staff instead of streamlining their work processes to more efficiently serve constituents.”
Goodwin has also implemented a new policy that appointments at the DMV are only in the morning and afternoons are walk-in service.
“Come visit Gaston County, Mr. Commissioner. We will get coffee and a doughnut and wait in line with the masses,” said Rep. Donnie Loftis, R-Gaston. “We will do a DMV day and let you talk to folks who are waiting.”