The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has announced its plans to address overcrowding that local residents are facing at driver licenses offices across the state.
This comes after many lawmakers, including a delegation of Collin County representatives, have reached out to the DPS requesting immediate solutions.
In a joint letter to Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw last Wednesday, seven Collin County lawmakers laid out their concerns and expectations about conditions and wait times at North Texas DPS offices.
Signed by Sens. Pat Fallon and Angela Paxton and Reps. Justin Holland, Jeff Leach, Candy Noble, Scott Sanford and Matt Shaheen, the letter cites excessive wait times at driver license offices.
“We have heard countless horror stories from our constituents, many of whom have waited for several hours in the treacherous heat of the summer, to simply apply for or renew their driver licenses. Simply put: this is unacceptable,” the letter states.
As part of the budget year starting Sept. 1, the Texas Legislature earmarked over $212.4 million for more staff and pay raises to address the issues.
They noted their constituents are “outraged, and we share their sentiment.”
In a letter to Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), McCraw outlined several plans to address the long lines, including the addition of 762 employees to staff DPS workstations across Texas.
Of the 762 employees, 713 will be dedicated to driver license offices, the letter stated, with 702 of those staffing the workstations and 11 being dedicated to auditing driver license transactions to help ensure accuracy. The remaining 49 positions will provide administrative and other support to the driver license program.
As a result, the letter states, the every mega center, large office and those considered severely crowded will be fully staffed. The capacity for service transactions and the number of available appointments for non-commercial and commercial driving tests are expected to increase.
The letter states the department was provided with funding to fully staff 94 out of the state's 229 offices. It states these 94 offices represent 78 percent of the transactions in the 2018 fiscal year. The staffing in 194 offices will also increase.
The letter states DPS began an aggressive hiring process this summer as it expected to receive funding for additional employees. That included posting positions for 371 employees in April to fill positions at severely crowded offices in the summer.
“Our goal was to get these temporary positions into place and then turn them into permanent positions that begin on Sept. 1, 2019,” the letter stated.
Through 85 open-house style events DPS was able to offer 404 conditional jobs and place 178 on an eligibility list as of Aug. 19.
“Our goal is to have the majority of our staff in place by the end of 2019,” the letter states.
The letter states that all vacant positions that existed before the new fiscal year 2020 positions were added have been filled.
“Provided that the candidates pass their background, another 257 candidates will be hired, and we are actively working to fill the remaining 445 positions,” the letter stated.
The DPS has taken additional steps to address the long wait times.
The website Texas.gov was modified in the spring to help drivers who need to perform a service that previously required an audit number but did not have access to it. The change will allow customers to obtain a replacement or duplicate driver license and to renew online without having access to the audit number.
In June DPS began a program to allow state troopers and other interested DPS employees to provide Class C driving tests. The goal is to increase capacity at DPS offices by allowing customer service representatives to spend more time conducting transactions at their work stations. The plan is to continue the program until the end of the year or until all of the staff members have been hired.
Beginning this week, DPS plans to send out letters to residents who are about to turn 21 years old to inform them they can have the “under 21” designator from their license by going toTexas.gov instead of coming into an office.
The DPS has also begun an appointment model where residents can book an appointment up to six months in advance.
“While we still may not have capacity at a certain office for a certain day we will have the tools to empower customers to make appointments at their convenience,” the letter stated.
Customers can still wait for an opening at the office. A pilot of the program is expected to begin in early 2020.