DPS addresses overcrowding at office
Maybe there’s a light at the end of the queue.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is bolstering efforts to address overcrowding at driver license (DL) offices, according to a press release from the department. To help decrease the number of people waiting in line, beginning August 9, additional DPS personnel, including Texas Troopers, will be assigned to the highest-volume DL offices to help identify customers who can immediately get out of line and conduct their transaction online, by phone or by mail. This effort may be expanded to other offices as needed. DPS will also be hiring 100 positions over the course of the next few months to increase staffing at the busiest offices in the state. These will not be immediate hires due to the extensive background checks required.
The majority of customers who come into Texas driver license offices — for example, 3.6 million people in Fiscal Year 2017 — don’t have to. These customers can actually conduct their transaction online, by phone or by mail. So the most immediate way to reduce wait times at offices across the state is for eligible customers to take advantage of these options. This allows them to skip the trip to the office, and will shorten line for everyone, including those who are required to come into an office.
Many Mid-County and South Jefferson County residents go to the DPS office in Port Arthur to get their driver licenses and state identification cards.
A report that aired on KFDM/Fox 4 in July reported the DPS office is only operating two days a week and the impact it’s having on the community, including reports of fights breaking out, accidents in the parking lot and even elderly residents becoming ill due to having to wait in long lines.
In February, DPS began operating the Port Arthur office with less employees due to staff turnover.
DPS released a statement six months ago, stating the situation would return to normal once the agency hired and trained a permanent staff, but that hadn’t happened yet as of July.
Starting August 9, customers waiting in line at the highest-volume offices will be asked whether they are eligible to renew online, by phone or by mail. If a customer does not know if they are eligible, they will be provided the following guidance to find out:
• Call 1-866-DL-RENEW (1-886-357-3639). This can be done from any phone; it does not have to be a smart phone. If a customer does not have access to a phone, DPS will offer the use of a phone in the office lobby.
• From a smart phone, a customer can verify eligibility at Texas.gov.
Eligible customers who do not wish to renew by phone or online will be offered a paper form that would allow them to mail in their transaction request.
Since July 9, DPS has implemented a limited-transaction initiative in seven offices where excessive demand and small wait areas forced customers to wait outside in the elements most of the day. The results of that limited-transaction initiative produced an average 44 percent decrease in in-office transactions as well as an increase in online transactions. By prioritizing in-office service to those customers who are required to be there, both the in-office customers and the alternative-transaction customers are served more efficiently.
Therefore, beginning August 27, DPS will expand this initiative to the highest-volume offices, where service demands create significant overcrowding and safety hazards whereby customers are forced to wait outside in the elements. This effort may be expanded to other offices as needed.
DPS offers these additional tips to increase convenience for all driver license customers across the state:
• High-capacity DL Mega Centers are available in major metropolitan areas to better serve customers.
• Many DL offices utilize a queuing system to provide customers with the convenient option of reserving a spot in line through the DPS website before going to the office. For a list of the high-capacity Mega Centers, as well as the specific DL offices that offer the “Get in Line, Online” feature, visit the DPS website.
• In many offices, you can schedule a drive test online three months in advance. Customers are urged to plan ahead and not delay scheduling a drive appointment.
• Another underutilized option available to customers is to renew their DL or ID card early. Customers can renew up to two years in advance, and renewing early does not impact the expiration date. If an office visit is required, renewing early allows customers to choose a convenient time that best fits their schedule and avoids the busiest times at the DL office.
• Mondays and Fridays tend to be the busiest days, as well as after holidays. Overall, summer is the busiest time of the year. Try to plan your visit around these high-volume times, if possible.
• Before you go to the office, make sure you have all the proper documentation, including documents needed for residency requirements.
The only local office listed for highest-volume DL offices was in Beaumont.