Musings: 2021 Issue 1

Musings: 2021 Issue 1

What changes did you implement during the pandemic that you can see being permanent changes to your jurisdiction’s operations?

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Terry Walsh, Office of Public Affairs, Wisconsin DMV

The pandemic has dramatically changed the way Wisconsin DMV conducts business with customers and within our internal operations. New safety protocols to protect our customers and staff drove many of these new innovations.

The shift to online services for all vehicle transactions. Since the beginning of the pandemic, no in-person vehicle transactions are allowed. This is to help to maintain social distancing, and because every vehicle transaction can be done online, by mail and/or through a third party in Wisconsin. While at the end of the pandemic we will resume all services in-person, we believe that this period has allowed hundreds of thousands of customers to realize that they can complete vehicle transactions less expensively and/or more conveniently via self-serve options. As a result, we expect to see a permanent reduction of in-person transactions, which will reduce wait times for customers who are required to visit a DMV office.

Cross-training of DMV staff. With the elimination of in-person vehicle transactions, DMV personnel working at in-person offices have been cross-trained to answer phones and emails, along with how to process mailed-in transactions. This cross-training will ensure that all staff has adequate work whether or not there are customers in the offices. This also creates flexibility for future staffing decisions.

Wisconsin DMV has implemented two pilot programs during the pandemic, which could become permanent with legislative action. The first pilot program, online driver license renewal, allows most customers between the ages of 18 and 64 to renew their license online. In less than one year, 70,000 people have renewed online and avoided an in-person visit. The other pilot program allows parents of drivers under age 18 to elect to waive the in-person road test and obtain their child’s Probationary License online. In Wisconsin, 98% of drivers under age 18 passed their road test on the first or second attempt. This demonstrates that they were well prepared and had sponsorship guidance. Currently, about 85% of parents, more than 35,000 parents, elected the waiver option. The DMV will study the results of this pilot to be sure there are no negative safety impacts.

Susan Sports, Georgia Department of Driver Services

The Team at GA Dept of Driver Services (DDS) has viewed this emergency period as an opportunity to develop efficiencies including:

  • Increased Telework Opportunities

DDS had a telework policy that was quickly expanded at the beginning of COVID-19 by each team members’ job function. Most divisions have a schedule of telework and in-office hours to limit the number of people present at the same time. Productivity has increased across the agency, and we will continue to identify positions that can benefit from the telework procedure.

  • Age 64-and-over Remote Renewal

Customers age 64-and-over are now able to renew or replace their driver’s license without visiting a DDS center in person. A recent DDS rule change allows the required vision exam to be submitted with their application remotely as long as it has been completed by a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist. While this was on the DDS future enhancement list, it was quickly bumped to the top during COVID-19 as it affects one of the most vulnerable populations for disease transmission.

  • Appointments for Counter Services

DDS has had a successful Online Services Appointment System on our website to allow customers to schedule road tests (i.e. vehicle, motorcycle and commercial).  We were able to quickly expand this application soon after the pandemic health emergency was declared to allow customers to secure an appointment for counter service. This new process allows for improved efficiency as well as realizing COVID-19 protocols including social distancing and customer capacity limits. While DDS had considered this expansion of appointments in the past, the pandemic was the ideal time to implement this addition to our already expansive set of offerings. Customers that are unable to secure an appointment online are not turned away if they arrive at our CSCs but worked are in as time allows.

  • Modified Contactless Road Testing

DDS instituted contactless road testing. To eliminate the need for a driver examiner to ride in the vehicle, a parent or responsible adult is required to accompany the applicant. The driver examiner gives instructions from points outside the vehicle. The test is completed on DDS property utilizing the same road skills testing as previously administered and the exact scoring sheet. In the future, we will be introducing mobile technology to allow for…

  • Safety Improvements

DDS will continue to expand and improve safety measures. Many of the improvements are permanent improvements like the installation of glass partitions to separate team members and customers in the CSCs and Contact Center. The availability of hand sanitizer, social distancing and mask-wearing are changes that have had a positive outcome on stopping the spread of germs in addition to Covid-19-like colds and flu.

Richard D. Holcomb, Virginia DMV Commissioner and AAMVA Board Treasurer

In Virginia, 2020 taught us a lot about what is possible. We had to reinvent our DMV service delivery model virtually overnight, a seemingly impossible feat in itself. Some aspects of our response will remain in one form or another moving forward. We anticipate that our appointment system will continue as part of our model in some way because our customers love the convenience. Online commercial driver’s license renewals, another feature necessitated by the pandemic, will also stay with us.

One initiative that is definitely permanent in Virginia and elsewhere is our third-party CDL testing program. In April 2020, Virginia asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to grant us a waiver allowing nongovernmental third parties to conduct CDL knowledge testing to address the urgent need for qualified drivers to deliver life-saving medical supplies and help keep the economy moving. We were proud to learn that FMCSA would grant this waiver for all U.S. jurisdictions, paving the way for similar programs nationwide. We quickly stood up our program with Virginia community colleges and driver training schools, and it is here to stay.

Marla McHughes, Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, Revenue Division, Office of Driver Services

Arkansas has remained “open for business” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our employees have stayed positive and worked hard to serve the citizens of our jurisdiction. Like many others, we implemented the use of Zoom meetings during this time of social distancing.

This has allowed us visual contact with our employees across the jurisdiction. During these challenging times, Zoom meetings have provided us with a method to assist our customers and strategize new processes, and a way to work together to solve day-to-day challenges. These meetings have also allowed us to provide support to those who are performing necessary services across the state.

While we are all anxious to be able to gather together in the same room once again, I see many more Zoom meetings in our future, as I believe this is a technology we will continue to utilize beyond the pandemic.

Ashley Millner, Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration

1. CDL Online Renewals/Corrections/Duplicates

In March 2020, all MDOT MVA branches were ordered closed by the Governor. During the closure, MDOT MVA continued to provide emergency appointments to allow commercial drivers to continue the process to move goods and services through the region. MDOT MVA implemented IT system upgrades in May to make it easier and more convenient for commercial drivers to obtain new or replacement copies of their licenses. Commercial drivers with proper documentation on file can renew, correct or order a duplicate driver’s license through the MDOT MVA online store or at a 24-hour kiosk.

2. First Stop Tool

First Stop is a new tool to help customers navigate the many services we have available online. When a customer visits the MDOT MVA website, First Stop prompts them to enter their information, such as a driver’s license number or tag and title number. With one click, the customer is provided with their own unique menu of transactions that they are eligible to complete online.

3. Correspondence Lookup Tool

MDOT MVA launched a new web feature in January that allows customers to view all correspondence associated with their vehicle since July, after the deployment of Customer Connect.  Customers can access the information from anywhere—phone, tablet, computer—at any time by entering their personal and vehicle information. The feature will give customers easier access to items, that in the past may have required a visit or phone call to get a copy of a letter/receipt.

4. Vision Screening

For customers required under state law to take a vision test to renew their driver’s license, the MDOT MVA implemented a new process that no longer requires people to touch the machine in order to complete the test.  MDOT MVA’s Medical Advisory Board developed the process to test visual acuity, field-of-vision screening and color-vision screening for commercial drivers.  This new process helps keep our customers safe by minimizing the need for physical interaction.

5. Appointments

Prior to the closure, MDOT MVA only offered appointments for REAL ID and vehicle-related transactions at branch offices. The MDOT MVA is currently open by appointment only for all transactions to ensure the health and safety of employees and customers. While a final decision has not been made to keep the MDOT MVA appointment only permanently, the agency has received positive feedback from both customers and employees about possibly continuing this structure post-pandemic.

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