December 1, 2011

DMV Will No Longer Spit On You

Patrick Laverty

One of the big changes to the new Rhode Island Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is they're going to try to be a little nicer. According to the AP, Governor Chafee reported:

Rhode Island's governor says he wants residents to know they can now expect to be treated with courtesy and "dignity" when visiting their local Division of Motor Vehicles office.
I have to say, I'm quite glad that being treated with dignity by state employees who I need to give money to, is worthy of a press release and story, never mind it simply being a change in how they do business.

While we're on the topic of the DMV, one thing that I can't understand is why they're expanding.

Chafee, an independent, has said fixing the DMV is one of his top priorities. Since taking office in January Chafee has appointed a new DMV administrator and opened new branch offices.
Great, you want to make improving the DMV one of your top priorities, then downsize it. By downsize it, I mean greatly eliminate the number of employees, and use tiny offices. There's no need for offices the size of what was being used at the Apex building in Pawtucket. I'm thinking a 20 by 20 foot office would suffice. Think about this, how many things do you actually need to do in person at the DMV? I can think of two, road tests and identification photographs. You "webify" the rest of the tasks through the DMV's web site.

So you need your road test examiners, someone to take the photographs, and maybe someone as a concierge. Set up three kiosks in the new DMV offices for people who don't have access to computers, send out instructions to all the public libraries in the state, so they can help people as well. After that, have a few people in offices taking care of all the online requests for titles and plates.

What else is there? We'd drastically cut down on the redundancy of staff in the many offices. We'd have one central office handling all the web requests. We'd be able to downsize the workforce while improving efficiency for people by letting them simply go online and conduct their business through a computer instead of spending hours of their day in line at the DMV.

Governor Chafee and new DMV Chief Lisa Holley, if you want to improve the department and be more efficient, don't open more offices and hire more staff at an increased cost to the state. Join the 21st century and put it all online. It's the smart thing to do.

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During my last visit to the RI DMV, I remember being confronted with a table of forms labeled some combination of numbers and letters that were foreign to me. I didn't know which forms I needed, so I waited in a customer service line for 30 minutes to find out. After getting the 10-second answer to my question at the front of that line, I went back to the table and collected the required forms. Then it was another hour and a half wait in stuffed-to-capacity conditions to turn in the completed forms. The room had a significant amount of fog in it from a combination of human perspiration and cough particulates. That was the first and only year I got the flu, of course, I can only speculate as to the cause.

I'd point out that this all could have been easily accomplished online, but as our progressively-minded friends will quickly point out, that would be immoral as it would cost the two *very nice ladies* I dealt with their jobs.

Posted by: Dan at December 1, 2011 11:19 AM

You can't legislate good manners. What's going to happen to one of those union employees if they're rude (as usual)? Fire them? Ha! Rather than head for the DMV last week, I gave up and paid $50 to AAA so I could go there and renew my license. I suspect it was a net gain from time not lost at work. But I have to re-register my car soon. For that you have to show at the DMV. It may be time to head to New Hampshire and register it there. It would probably take the same amount of time and I'd save a ton in taxes.

Posted by: Andy at December 1, 2011 12:27 PM

Good choice, Andy. New Hampshire also does not require you to carry auto insurance and, contrary to statist claims, it has not resulted in the end of the world there. Personally, I'm getting a little tired of being mandated by government to pay a private company $1000/year for absolutely no return since I am a safe and defensive driver. I don't know how you feel about it. Of course, most people are so brainwashed that they actually believe that insurance is necessary and saves them money.

Posted by: Dan at December 1, 2011 1:25 PM

@andy-why do you need to go to DMV to renew your registration/it can be done by mail.Or AAA-I belong also and they do almost everything,including accepting surrendered plates-it takes maybe 4 minutes.
The only thing AAA can't do is a VIN inspection for an out of state car or maybe issue a tile.
If you need a disabled placard,they cn give you the form,but you have to mail it in yourself(or your doctor can).

Posted by: joe bernstein at December 1, 2011 2:53 PM

You cannot make the DMV more efficient -I mean Lisa Holley needs a job - she has been suckling the state "- - -" for over 20 years now. Her meery go round through state agencies is a joke and shows why RI governement is so deficient. We would not want to hire someone with real world results.

Posted by: Mark at December 1, 2011 3:39 PM

I lived in Massachusetts for a few years. When I moved there, they had a 'one counter' philosophy. Your number got called, you went up to the counter, they had 'backups' or forms if you were missing any, and they did everything while you stood there. Contrast to Rhode Island where there's often two or three counters you need to go to and you have to 'start over' if you're missing anything.

Contrast to Rhode Island. I had wasted two full 8am-5pm days trying to recover a title from them (for a car I had sold). Apparently there was an obvious typo on the title, but legally nobody could just fix it. The DMV worker actually held it up in front of me (the first day was spent convincing them to actually look for it, since they denied having it) and said "It's my job to make sure you never get this!". Two months later I got a call from the dealer I sold the car to in Georgia. He still hadn't received the title even though all three parties confirmed that it was his. He told me he had never had a more frustrating experience than dealing with the RI DMV.

I don't think it's about 'starving the beast' or 'downsizing' or 'growing' the DMV. I think they need a top-to-bottom rethink of their business process. They need to figure out what exactly it is that they are mandated to 'produce', what inputs are needed to get that production, and then start a DMV-NextGen that gradually overtakes the existing system's load. As for the web stuff, they could REALLY simplify things by building a website that actually started the process of a DMV visit.

Posted by: mangeek at December 1, 2011 6:37 PM

The entire problem, besides being technologically perpetually mired in 1982, is that the people working at the DMV have no incentive to be anything but wretches, like most government jobs, and there is no accountability for anything because nobody can ever be truly punished or fired, also like most government jobs. Public unions are set up to provide members with automatic and equal rewards and remove all accountability from the workplace, so you do the math on what has to be done.

Posted by: Dan at December 1, 2011 9:19 PM

Yippie! I get to be treated with "dignity" by the people whose salary I help pay while I'm waiting for hours on end for services that should only take a few minutes! Before you know it, they might say "hello" and "thank you" or otherwise acknowledge my humanity!

My simple solution: Replace the three letters DMV with AAA. They should do everything!

PS How come there is an extra fee/surcharge to use the somewhat limited services available through the DMV website? Does not one tax something you don't want used? Just thinking too logically I guess...

Posted by: Will at December 1, 2011 10:21 PM

I have found that, from coast to coast, residents of all states are dissatisfied with their DMV/Registry.

I noticed Massachusetts received good reviews. People there bordering Eastern RI, have a Registry of Motor Vehicles in Taunton, MA. The staff at Taunton has developed such a reputation for rudeness that many people choose to drive the 40 miles to the Milford Registry.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at December 1, 2011 11:01 PM

"I have found that, from coast to coast, residents of all states are dissatisfied with their DMV/Registry."

Virginia was fairly painless. In and out in around 15-20 minutes. The people weren't friendly, but they weren't rude either. Just business-like.

What's the difference? Virginia doesn't have "closed shop" public unions so its public employees live in something more closely resembling the real world.

Posted by: Dan at December 2, 2011 7:32 AM

"I have found that, from coast to coast, residents of all states are dissatisfied with their DMV/Registry."

I had to register a boat in Maine a few years ago. The smiling clerk at the Lincoln Town Hall said I could register almost any motor vehicle at participating town halls and that license renewals can be completed on line. That was about four or five years ago.

Posted by: Max D at December 2, 2011 2:37 PM

"How come there is an extra fee/surcharge to use the somewhat limited services available through the DMV website?"

I actually did some looking into this. Each state unit and each city/town have contracted with different vendors, virtually all are out-of-state, to provide their web-based fees. The Pawtucket one is actually an offshoot of Hewlett Packard Business Services, and they collect HUGE fees. I estimated that about $60M a year leaves RI in these service charges for payments.

It would actually be MUCH more efficient and beneficial for the state to open a small 'payment processing' office and contract the services to the towns. Even better would be for the EDC to identify this and offer a grant to get a totally private company started.

Can you imagine a $6 billion dollar company that can't process their own credit card transactions? That's what Rhode Island is right now.

This is what our legislators ought to be doing. Putting pressure on the EDC to do something for the state, trading five jobs that aren't getting much done for five in a department like this that could be a major economic boon (basically, making government more efficient).

Posted by: mangeek at December 2, 2011 5:01 PM

"I have found that, from coast to coast, residents of all states are dissatisfied with their DMV/Registry."

When I stated the above, I should have qualified that. I have a few old cars, and most out of staters I speak with have a few. We approach the DMV's of the world with problems more difficult than renewing a license. Difficulties are not appreciated by a DMV/RMV.

The usual problem is lost, or missing, titles. Unlike RI, many states require titles form the beginning of time. Massachusetts is an example, and a state where I have had experience. Many old cars sit unregistered in barns and garage, unregistered for many years. If the car has not shown "activity" for more than 10 years, it is dropped from the computer. So,if you have lost the title, and the car is off the computer, you are out of luck and cannot sell the car. And no one will help you at their RMV, they dismiss you as a "trouble maker". These are the problems we have.

It has reached the point that there are companies that will "create a title" for you, the charge is about $400. A lot easier than trying to deal with a RMV/DMV that wants notarized statements, death certificates, probate records and tax returns if the car has been "gifted".

Those of us that live in a state with 10 year titles have no idea how lucky we are.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at December 2, 2011 8:11 PM

Lisa Holley is someone I've known since she was a Warwick police officer serving on the Federal Drug task Force where she did a very good and often dangerous job working undercover making drug transactions with some really bad people.
She got a law degree and became Chairman of the Parole Board and later general counsel for the State Police/Public Safety Dept.
She has never been even accused of being incompetent,dishonest,lazy,or any other form of poor public service,and to the contrary has always had a good reputation.Well deserved.
Taking over the DMV temporarily was not her dream job.I would guess she has done the best she can given what she ahs to work with.She has made it clear she'll be happy to leave there ASAP to return to her regular job with RISP.

Posted by: joe bernstein at December 4, 2011 11:51 AM
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