Texas DPS: New driver license system will let people book 6 months out

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Texas Department of Public Safety driver license office in Austin on June 13, 2019. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — When driver license offices reopen, Texans will notice some changes.

The Texas Department of Public Safety closed the state’s driver license offices during the COVID-19 pandemic. An agency spokesperson stated Thursday there is “no set date” for when those offices will reopen.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced a phased reopening of the state’s businesses starting May 1, beginning with restaurants and retailers, as well as some state-run buildings.

“DPS continues to work with the Governor’s office towards safely opening the offices,” the agency wrote in a statement.

The agency has been working on changes “for several months,” including a new appointment solution, which would allow customers to book in-person appointments at driver license offices up to six months in advance.

“We are confident this will reduce the number of people who spend time waiting in line, as it will give them the ability to make an appointment and come in to the office at that specific day and time,” the agency wrote Thursday. “For customers who do not have an appointment, DL staff will be able to help schedule an appointment for a future day or for another office at their convenience.”

Some Texas drivers who are seeking to renew their licenses can conduct transactions online or over the phone. The agency encourages Texans to check the expiration date on their card and call 1-866-DL-RENEW (1-886-357-3639) or visit Texas.gov to see if they are eligible to conduct their transaction online.

The majority of the customers who visit driver license offices in the state, an estimated 3.2 million people in Fiscal Year 2019, don’t have to, the agency stated.

Over the past few years, the agency has faced pressure to improve long wait times and high call volumes. Last year, lawmakers passed— and the Governor signed— a law extending the life of the agency. That bill included a provision to start a working group to address possible changes to the “management and operating structure of the driver’s license program.” The bill also stipulates the working group explore the viability of transferring driver license responsibilities from DPS to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. That working group is due to submit a report by September.

In April 2018, a state report cited long wait times and high call volumes, suggesting DPS to consider consolidating offices. That August, DPS opted to leave 87 little-known or unlisted centers open across the state. DPS said it would need more financial resources to meet the statewide demand. A December 2018 audit by the state revealed gaps in security in the system for driver license information. At the time, an agency spokesperson said the driver license system is a “function and responsibility that is a top priority for DPS.”

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