One-Stop Shopping

August 2016

How DMVs are remaking themselves to put government services under one roof

Thanks to smartphones and tablets, it’s an exciting time to be a consumer. Free same-day shipping from Amazon Prime means you no longer need to wait for your cosmetics, books, vitamins or video games. Transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft mean you can hail a taxi whenever and wherever you need one. Delivery services like GrubHub and Postmates mean you can order sushi whenever you crave it. And streaming music services like Pandora and Spotify mean you can listen to your favorite song on your phone or in your car just as easily as you can on your computer.

More and more, it seems, life is like an app store: You log in whenever you want and receive on-demand access to whatever products and services you need. All it takes is a point, a swipe and a tap.

The DMV is on its way to becoming the new app store for jurisdiction and government services, according to AAMVA Chair of the Board Rick Holcomb, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

“Self-driving cars, transportation network companies, smartphones and social media use are examples of technology driving societal change,” Holcomb says. “DMVs need to diversify their portfolio of product offerings to remain relevant. If motor vehicle agencies are selling fewer licenses, and titling and registering fewer vehicles, what will be the DMV’s future sources of revenue? How will motor vehicle agencies justify their existence? What will customers need from us? With this reckoning, [DMVs must position themselves] to provide a broader array of products and provide them through the service channels that people want.”

Many jurisdictions are already doing exactly that. Like retailers, restaurants and countless other businesses before them, DMVs are responding to a new world by creating new products and services that satisfy consumer cravings for transactions that are quick, comprehensive and customized to the user.

Friendlier Tax Filing

It’s not just consumers who are changing. It’s also businesses—including motor carriers, which are asking for new, more modern ways to transact with DMVs. One new service DMVs are adding, therefore, is online tax filing.

The Commonwealth of Kentucky is one such DMV. Since the early 1980s, it has levied a highway use tax on commercial motor vehicles weighing 60,000 pounds or greater traveling into or through Kentucky. Called the Kentucky Highway Use (KYU) tax, it’s collected quarterly from motor carriers that must track and report their mileage traveled on Kentucky highways.

“The theory is: The heavier the vehicles get, the more they should pay in taxes because of the wear and tear they cause on the roads,” explains Kentucky Department of Vehicle Regulation Deputy Commissioner Rick Taylor, who says the tax was collected manually until 2015, when his agency introduced KYU Efile, an online portal through which motor carriers can electronically file their quarterly highway use taxes. “It’s set up like a tax wizard—like TurboTax®—where you answer questions electronically and it fills in the tax return for you … It prevents any type of math errors, and automatically calculates penalties and interest for filing late.”

The new system, which also allows for electronic payments, is more convenient not only for motor carriers, but also for the Kentucky Division of Motor Carriers, which administers the tax. “The old system became an administrative burden because we were trying to process more than 65,000 tax returns every quarter with limited staff and technology,” Taylor explains. “Now, 98 percent of carriers are filing their taxes online.”

Although the average motorist will never interact with KYU Efile, streamlining processes and digitizing manual workflows frees up resources that the Kentucky Department of Vehicle Regulation can use to provide more and better service elsewhere.

“The taxpayer is paying our salary,” Taylor says, “so we ought to be providing them the best service possible.” 

BC Services Card
In British Columbia, citizens can opt for a single photo ID that combines the driver’s license and BC Services Card, which allows them to access government services such as health care.

Consolidated Convenience

In Canada, where the government provides universal health care to citizens, DMVs are elevating their offerings by exploiting synergies with the national health care system.

Take the Government of British Columbia, which has been issuing secure driver’s licenses since 2008, when facial recognition and secure card features were introduced. When the provincial government rolled out its new government services card in 2013, opportunities for synergy with the already secure driver’s license were immediately apparent.

“The government services card, called the BC Services Card, allows users to access government services, including health care,” explains Susan Lucas, director of driver and vehicle licensing at the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), a government-owned corporation that sells auto insurance and administers DMV services to citizens on behalf of the province.

Because ICBC already verifies citizens’ identities to issue them driver’s licenses, lawmakers determined ICBC would be an ideal conduit through which to issue the BC Services Card.

“As a company, we have low administration costs and a large geographic presence throughout the province,” Lucas continues. “We already have the people and infrastructure in place to verify identity and residency, so it made sense to offer this service out of our driver’s license offices.”

Citizens can opt for two separate pieces of ID—a driver’s license and a BC Services Card—or a single photo ID that combines both the driver’s license and government services card.

“Having these services integrated has created one-stop shopping for the customer,” boasts Lucas, who says citizens have responded well to the new service. “They don’t have to go to a separate agency and go through the same identity verification process again, so it saves them time in the end … We’re very efficient—our average wait time is under 10 minutes—and we have very high customer satisfaction scores because of it.”

Securing Social Security Cards

Like British Columbia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania believes DMVs of the future will specialize in services that increase customer convenience. With that in mind, this year it began helping Pennsylvania residents order replacement Social Security cards.

“When individuals move to Pennsylvania, they are required to present their Social Security card as part of the process to receive a Pennsylvania driver’s license or ID,” explains incoming AAMVA Vice Chair Kurt Myers, deputy secretary of Driver and Vehicle Services for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. “In some cases, people come in and for whatever reason don’t have a Social Security card. That means they have to be turned away, go to the Social Security Administration, get a new card and come back. So one visit [to the DMV] becomes two.”

In May 2016, Pennsylvania Driver and Vehicle Services answered frustrated customers by partnering with the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) to authenticate residents’ identities using AAMVA’s Driver’s License Data Verification (DLDV) service, which allows participating organizations to electronically verify residents’ identities based on their driver’s license data. As a result, Pennsylvania residents, along with residents of states participating with SSA and DLDV, now can request a replacement Social Security card from SSA online before they visit the DMV.

“If you live in Pennsylvania, or are moving to Pennsylvania from another DLDV-participating state, you now can go online to the Social Security Administration’s website and request a replacement Social Security card; all you need to do is put in your driver’s license or ID number, and a couple other data points,” Myers says. “That data is sent immediately to AAMVA, which, through DLDV in the case of Pennsylvania residents, compares it to Pennsylvania’s database … to verify for the Social Security Administration that the person requesting a replacement Social Security card is, in fact, who they say they are.”

Because the transaction is executed through the SSA, most customers will never realize the DMV’s contribution. They will, however, benefit from that contribution at the driver’s license office, or in any situation when they need to present their Social Security card.

“Our hope is that because it’s more convenient to get a replacement Social Security card, those people who don’t have a Social Security card will get one before they come into our office, which hopefully will reduce the number of visits somebody has to make to the driver’s license center,” Myers says. “It’s something we can do behind-the-scenes to improve the quality of life for our residents.”

Staying Vital with Vital Records

Because it had the same problem with birth certificates that Pennsylvania had with Social Security cards, the Commonwealth of Virginia saw an opportunity to evolve its offerings with vital records services. In 2013, it partnered with the Virginia Department of Health’s Division of Vital Records to issue replacement birth certificates over the counter at DMV locations across the commonwealth.

“On a monthly basis we were turning away about 4,300 customers who could not prove legal presence because they didn’t have a birth certificate with them,” Holcomb says. “Now, if they were born in Virginia, they can come in and we can sell them a copy of their birth certificate that they can use to do their DMV transaction.”

Because that offering has been so successful—it has processed more than 250,000 birth certificates to date—the Virginia DMV since has expanded its vital records services to include death, marriage and divorce certificates, and has forged additional partnerships with other state and federal agencies. Among them: the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, which has sanctioned it to issue hunting and fishing licenses; the Virginia Department of Transportation, on behalf of which it sells and services toll-road transponders; the Virginia Department of Elections, for which it provides electronic voter registration; the Supreme Court of Virginia, which early next year will allow it to collect payment from motorists whose driver’s licenses have been suspended due to outstanding court fees; and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a contractor of which—MorphoTrust—has partnered with the Virginia DMV to provide Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) and TSA PreCheck trusted-traveler enrollment at nine DMV locations across the commonwealth.

“Taxpayers have made an investment in 74 brick-and-mortar [DMV] offices across the commonwealth, as well as five mobile units. We have buildings, we have employees and we have equipment. There are a number of members of our legislature who look at that and think: Why not have government centers across the commonwealth where multiple transactions can be done on behalf of multiple agencies?” Holcomb says. “We want to be able to serve people in one contact. So where there is a potential relationship between another agency and our ability to successfully serve our customer, we [will] pursue a technological connection to that agency.”

When citizens can do more government business in fewer trips, the result isn’t just satisfied customers; it’s also satisfied employees. “When you’re not turning them away because they don’t have a birth certificate, you have happier customers—which makes the lives of your clerks a lot better,” concludes Holcomb, who says the Virginia DMV’s most recent customer satisfaction survey reinforced its strategy. “Eighty-five percent of our customers said, ‘When I got to the window I was greeted by a knowledgeable clerk who got my transaction done on one visit.’ As far as I’m concerned, that’s the new metric for success.”

Evolution Solutions

From online tax filing to vital records replacement, what the new DMV services have in common—with each other, as well as popular 21st-century services like Amazon, Uber and Pandora—is a renewed focus on the customer.

“The DMV tends to be the face of state government for the majority of citizens, so we want them to feel good about doing business with us,” Taylor says. “That’s driving us 100 percent to look at our current services and modernize them to make them more convenient for our customers.”

Of course, the new services motor vehicle agencies are rolling out today are only the first steps in creating the “DMV app store,” a one-stop shop where customers will be able to do more than just renew their license and registration, but also conduct a bevy of new personal services. Although it’s not yet clear what the store ultimately will look like, Taylor eventually foresees leaner DMVs and more digital services. So much so that the motor vehicle agency of the future might look and act a lot more like a government app store than a traditional DMV.

“The more we can push things online where people can serve themselves, the better,” Taylor concludes.