Standing in line…waiting. It’s an all-too-common experience for many Texans at driver’s license offices in north Texas this summer. Just look on social media or talk to friends, and you’ll quickly find stories and complaints about hours-long wait times, sometimes even out in the sun.
When taking her son to get his learner’s permit this summer, Julie Anderson was at the Argyle office for almost four hours.
“Everyone in line was miserable. For almost an hour we barely moved forward in the line [outside]. We were a little worried that we would not make it inside the double doors before they closed for the day.”
Stories like these and other complaints caused State Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) to send a letter on August 14 to the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Colonel Steven C. McCraw, asking when the public could expect to see improvements.
“I am writing to express my great frustration that Texans continue to experience excessive delays when visiting driver license offices,” Nelson wrote.
The Legislature approved $212.4 million in new funding intended to help relieve the delays at driver’s license offices, including filling 762 vacancies.
McCraw responded by letter on August 26 with some details of the plans to improve services at driver’s license offices.
DPS plans to hire 702 employees to staff workstations to serve customers. The employees will be placed so that every so-called “Mega Center” is fully staffed, McCraw explained, and also at those “defined as severely crowded offices.”
He expects the addition of these employees to increase the available appointments for non-commercial and commercial license tests.
Statewide, the staff at 194 of the 229 offices will increase, especially in Denton and Angleton, two new offices that were funded in the most recent legislative session.
The campaign to recruit new driver’s license office employees began in April. DPS held 85 open houses and group interviews to find suitable candidates.
Another complaint by customers has been the “get in line” online model utilized by DPS, which closes as soon as the office reaches capacity. Often, customers get online early in the morning to “get in line” only to find the option is unavailable.
A new appointment tool aimed to allow customers to book appointments up to six months in advance is expected to begin in early 2020 as a pilot program, according to McCraw.
DPS also plans to reduce traffic at offices by reaching out to inform customers who are turning 21 that they need not appear in person in order to remove the “Under 21” designation from their license.
This year that will include 434,000 customers, McCraw pointed out.
In response to the letter from DPS, Nelson said, “The Department provided a detailed plan to put the resources we approved into action, and I will be closely monitoring the implementation. Filling the vacant counters must be prioritized, especially in Carrollton and other centers with the longest wait times. We need to see immediate progress.”
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Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.