howardnlby Howard Stephenson

Ever had a good experience at the DMV? You will now!

Six years ago I stood in line at the DMV for over four hours just to license a vehicle I purchased from a private party. It was the worst experience of my life in dealing with a government bureaucracy. Salt Lake County Sheriff Deputies stood guard around the dingey room filled with irritable citizens impatiently waiting to be served.
No one was happy. It reminded me of the bread lines in the old Soviet Union.
A few weeks ago I had to register another vehicle at the DMV and I wasn’t looking forward to the experience. Boy, was I in for a surprise.
The location had changed. When I entered the office the place was almost empty. Someone with a smile checked my paperwork to ensure I would be ready when my turn came and invited me to take a number and be seated in a clean, comfortable waiting area. I could see from an electronic readout and hear from an audible speaker system which number was currently being served at one of numerous stations which looked much like bank teller windows. Before I could even open the book I had brought to read during what I expected would be a long wait, my number was up. The courteous teller quickly handled my transaction. Before I knew it, I was out the door.
As I walked to my car I wondered what had just happened to me. This was not the DMV so often joked about by Letterman and Leno. I was determined to find out what had happened and thank those who were responsible.

The Tax Commission Decided the DMV Should Operate Like a Business

In recent years the Tax Commission took back responsibility of the DMV operations from Utah’s five largest counties who were glad to get rid of the headache they had managed for several years. These counties, which include all four Wasatch Front counties plus Washington County, account for 75% of all DMV transactions in the state.
In May of 2001, the Tax Commission’s Division of Motor Vehicles began implementing the Motor Vehicle Administration system (MVA), the major component of the UTAX computer modernization project that was funded by the Utah Legislature. The Division had long been plagued by customer complaints about long office wait times, long title turnaround, and fewer customer service options available to taxpayers needing motor vehicle services. The Tax Commission actually calls the taxpayers they serve “customers” and what they provide them are called “products.”)
Working to balance the need for efficiency as well as improve customer service the division was able to use the MVA system in conjunction with other innovations to meet customer needs in a fiscally responsible way.
My positive experience at the DMV has been validated by a recent Legislative Audit which showed that wait times at DMV counters were 40% faster in 2003 than they were in the year 2000. Legislative Auditors also identified a 10.7% increase in productivity per FTE between FY2000 and FY2003. Using part-time employees to provide extra help during peak periods, the division continues to look for ways to efficiently use the available human resources.
Renewal Express, the Internet license renewal service, implemented in September of 2000, has been a popular product for taxpayers wanting to renew their vehicle registrations in the convenience of their own home 24/7. During fiscal year 2001, 67,534 customers had used this option to renew their registration. For fiscal year 2004, the number of renewals processed through this method was 281,514 — a 317% increase from FY2001.
With the option of Renewal Express, further promotion of the mail program and the promotion of the use of third parties such as independent inspection stations, the number of renewals performed outside of State Branch Offices went from less than 30% in FY2001 to over 40% in FY2004.
A legislative initiative during the 2003 session made it possible for the DMV to begin taking credit cards for most types of motor vehicle transactions. The Division began implementation of credit cards in November of 2003. Since that time, 409,028 transactions have been processed using credit cards collecting nearly $53 million in revenue.
Title turnaround time, which used to take from 8 weeks to 4 months now ensures the vast majority of titles being mailed within 5-10 working days.
The implementation of the Q-Matic system, which orders, prioritizes and organizes customers, in three of the division’s largest branch offices has provided a more convenient process for taxpayers as they are able to take a number and sit and wait for their number to be called. The use of drive-up windows in two of the division’s largest branch offices allows taxpayers to renew their registration while remaining in their car.
Adding additional phone agents in the motor vehicle call center has resulted in getting to more of the calls faster. In FY2002, the call abandonment rate hovered around 40%. Since the implementation of this new process, the abandonment rate has consistently been below 10%.
By promoting the use of third parties such as emissions stations, rental car companies and auto dealerships, the division was able to outsource work that used to be performed by division employees. During FY2004, third parties performed nearly 140,000 sub-transactions. That represents around 14,300 man-hours of work at the DMV counter. This has helped the division handle growth while improving customer service.
A full service motor carrier office was opened in St. George while limited offices were opened up in Price, Vernal and Richfield, providing trucking companies better service and additional options for renewing their fleet registrations.
One of the biggest improvements made possible by the MVA system is better availability of management reports to assist the division in managing workloads and better utilizing resources. Better access to information has made the division more efficient and better able to serve their customers.
Through modernization initiatives as well as a willingness to embrace new approaches, the Division of Motor Vehicles has made significant process in providing better service to taxpayers while handling a growth rate in motor vehicle transactions of over 4% per year. This has been accomplished without additional funding for that growth.
And so, I want to thank the Tax Commission for eliminating one of the biggest reasons for complaints in state and local government. But somehow it seems almost un-American to take away one thing we have loved to hate for so many generations.
Speaking of eliminating long lines, maybe Disneyland could take a few lessons from the Utah State Tax Commission.