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May 2016


Administrators and employees of motor vehicle departments across the United States have long discussed the ideal of ‘one driver, one license.’ However, until recently, there was no systematic way for states to enforce this vision.

For the past four years, the DL/ID Verification Service, Inc. (DIVS)—a short-term governance organization created to tackle this issue, comprising members from state DMVs, private-sector vendors and AAMVA—has been working to change this. In August 2015, Wisconsin became the first state to implement the State-to-State (S2S) service. Since then, Indiana, Maryland and North Dakota have joined Wisconsin, and at least 11 more states are confirmed to implement the service in 2016.

“Given the flexibility of the [service], I can’t imagine ultimately that a state wouldn’t want to have this capability,” says Stephen Leak, executive director of Credential Programs at the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles. “I’ve been around [the motor vehicle industry] since 2005, and ‘one license, one person’ is all I’ve heard since I’ve been here. This gives us the ability to reach that.”

Brad Schaffer, IT manager for Driver’s License and Motor Vehicle Systems at the North Dakota Department of Transportation, agrees with Leak’s assessment, saying it will take some time, but he fully expects S2S to be a nationwide program in the future.

“I don’t see how every state wouldn’t want to join eventually,” he says. “Once we start showing the results and fraud cases—we already have one confirmed fraud case we found—I don’t see how a state could sit there and not want to be a part of that. Especially as governors and higher-ups in the states start seeing that.”

Making Matches

‘One driver, one license’ is an important goal in the fight against fraud. As driver’s licenses have become the de facto form of identification for Americans, the opportunity for their misuse in fraudulent transactions has increased.

“Security is at the forefront of everything we do,” says Christine Nizer, administrator for the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. “Everyone is concerned about identity theft, and we want to do anything we can to prevent it. State-to-State is a [service] that allows us to implement that secure vision.”

This secure vision includes the ability to determine quickly whether a driver is licensed in another state when he or she comes into a motor vehicle department for a new license. In addition, the service can determine which currently licensed drivers also hold licenses in other participating states. In fact, as each new state joins the program, they are finding more and more license matches among the states.

“When we went live we got a list of potential duplicates, and that’s something we would have never known about,” says Nizer. “It truly speaks to the benefits of the service—preventing individuals [from having multiple licenses].”

Leak had a similar experience when Indiana joined S2S earlier this year. “Our findings are supporting what everybody thought about this [issue], which is that people aren’t necessarily forthright about saying ‘I have a credential somewhere else,’” he says. “And we’re figuring out we can detect fraud.”

Leak says the Indiana BMV found a few cases that had already been on the state’s radar as possible fraud, and when they popped up as matches in the S2S service, that only strengthened their suspicions. The number of matches each state finds will only increase as more states adopt S2S.

“As more and more states participate in the service, there is more information to be dealt with,” says Kristina Boardman, DMV administrator at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. “It can be a little scary, and we know we can’t take care of every issue right away, but it’s really valuable information and it’s important that we have it. [In the end] our records will be much more accurate. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Getting going

While the launches of S2S in the first four pilot jurisdictions occurred with minimal issues, getting the service to work smoothly required a lot of effort pre-deployment from the jurisdictions, AAMVA and Clerus Solutions.

“The number of use cases increased substantially from CDLIS to S2S,” says Tom Osterbind, president and CEO of Clerus Solutions, “which means the decision logic for a state is more complex. This also means the states have a more complex testing procedure to complete prior to implementation.”

Part of this complexity is due to the different rules surrounding the issuance of driver’s licenses in each state. S2S is built to handle these differences and is customizable for each state’s set of rules. For example, states, such as pilot program member North Dakota, don’t need to be REAL ID compliant to take advantage of S2S.

“One of the unique things [about S2S] is that it was truly a state-driven exercise,” says Nizer. “In other words, the rules for the jurisdictions were developed by the jurisdictions.”

Ensuring that each state’s rules were properly implemented—and that the new program worked on top of the existing CDLIS infrastructure when it went live—was an important part of AAMVA’s involvement in the process.

“The states give us their high-level business requirements, and we take those and ask, ‘what does that mean for State-to-State?’” says Pamela Dsa, senior project director for Driver Systems at AAMVA. “We had to make sure current users [of CDLIS] weren’t impacted. The rearranging of the whole system was not just a Band-Aid—we had to re-engineer the whole thing. [When we went live], we hit the switch and everything had to work like it did before.”

And so far, the new S2S service has gone live in four states without issues, working seamlessly on top of CDLIS in each of the pilot jurisdictions. The transition also has worked out well for motor vehicle department employees.

“At the front counters not a lot has changed,” says Schaffer. “We were used to dealing with CDL records, so we built all the State-to-State messages the same way. The learning curve is not that steep for them.”

Looking Forward

With the success of the first four pilot states—and at least 11 more states set to join the program this year—it seems likely that S2S will be adopted by a majority of jurisdictions in the coming years.

“The value of the service, the self-sustainability of the service through reasonable fees and the support of federal grants to states come together to provide an environment for nationwide adoption without federal mandates,” says Osterbind.

Boardman agrees and, like Leak and Schaffer, explains that as states see the success of current members, they will be more and more likely to join the program.

“The concept of communicating among other states is something jurisdictions have been talking about for almost 20 years,” says Boardman. “I hope people are seeing the benefits and making the decision to get on board. I really look forward to it being a nationwide [program] that we all take advantage of.”