Facing long lines and crowded offices, the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles says 93 new employees are scheduled to start issuing licenses and vehicle registrations by Sept. 1.
The news comes on the heels of longer wait times reported by the agency. The average wait time at the DMV in 2013 was 42 minutes, 72 minutes last year, and up to two hours this year, according to agency figures.
DMV spokesman David Fierro said the agency is hopeful that a new appointment program scheduled to be unveiled this fall and the new employees will bring change.
“First off, residents have our sympathy,” Fierro said. “We understand how inconvenient this is, and that’s why we’re doing everything we can to remedy the situation…We’re hoping all of this will help to reduce wait times.”
Fierro said staffing shortages have been a constant challenge.
“For the first time in five or six years, we’ll be fully staffed, with someone working every window,” Fierro said of the new employees. “We’ve been understaffed for the last five years. Wait times over the last year have been horrendous and this is going to alleviate that.”
In addition to the 75 new hires authorized by the Legislature, the agency had 18 vacancies for entry-level positions to fill, Fierro said, for a total of 93 new positions. Of the new employees, 23 will be in Reno.
“Vacancies are pretty constant.” Fierro said. “There’s a high turnover rate, because it’s an entry-level position, and there are other state entry-level jobs that are higher in salary.”
While it trains the new employees, the DMV has shut down a program aimed at reducing lines at its offices. Less than a year ago, the DMV launched Dash Pass, an online check-in program. Dash Pass allows customers to get in a queue or line from a remote location by using a smartphone and then receive text updates on when they could expect to be served.
DMV has shut down Dash Pass for remote access, saying tests showed it wasn’t as effective as the agency had hoped. Customers can still use Dash Pass if they come to the DMV to check in and then leave to wait for a text message.
“We really hoped that it (the DashPass) would be effective and become a permanent part of our systems, but it hasn’t delivered at all on the promises made of what it could do,” Fierro said.
DMV Director Troy Dillard said 20 percent of those who used Dash Pass never showed up. This meant employees waited for no-shows while customers who were ready to be served waited in the lobby.
Dillard said that after shutting down remote access to Dash Pass in select metro offices as a test run, average wait times dropped significantly. When two offices in Las Vegas turned off Dash Pass they immediately saw reductions in the no-show count by 175 customers per day, he said.
Alex Backer, CEO of Less, the company that provides Dash Pass, told The Associated Press that the shorter wait times resulted from fewer people going to the DMV because Dash Pass was no longer available.
In addition to staffing shortages, the DMV cited several reasons for increased delays this past year.
Nevada’s population is growing with new residents moving into the area. The US Census Bureau reports that Nevada’s total population grew from 2.7 million residents in 2010 to 2.8 million in 2014, a 5.1 percent increase.
Economic growth in Nevada has increased new car registrations this past year. Because car dealers electronically send a report of sale to the DMV on new car purchases, it creates a way for customers to complete their paperwork online.
Many car buyers, however, are still not comfortable with online technology, Fierro said.
“Human behavior is hard to change if you have been doing something one way all your life,” Fierro said. “This is still new, and not everyone has embraced it yet. We think more and more people will. We are seeing more online transactions, kiosks, but those numbers have room to grow.”
DMV officials also cited several new legal initiatives that require an office visit and added to delays.
In January of 2014, the Driver Authorization Card program allowed undocumented residents to have a Nevada ID. There was a spike in customer count for this program.
Last year, the federal government changed a medical requirement for those holding a commercial driver’s license, requiring these customers to come in with new paperwork.
The federal government’s Real ID driver’s license went into effect last November. Real ID will replace the standard driver’s license primarily for those who plan to fly. While Real ID will be required in airports (unless travelers have a passport), this doesn’t go into effect until October 2020. Fierro said residents have come in early to get the Real ID despite the agency’s discouragement of this action, since residents can use their current ID’s until 2020.