360 458 years

December 2016

A look at 20 years of NMVTIS, DMV information systems & online customer service

Twenty years ago, when MOVE was just coming into existence, a number of AAMVA programs and services were just starting to take off as well. The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) was in planning stages after the introduction of the Anti Car Theft Act in 1992; DMV information systems managers were diligently coming up with new software to stay abreast of ever-changing technologies; and although customer services were largely done at branch offices, administrators were looking optimistically into the future of the internet and “virtual offices.”

For MOVE’s 20th anniversary, we want to take this opportunity to see how far we’ve come in each of these programs and services, as well as what’s important today.

Part 1: National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS)

In 1992, the Anti Car Theft Act was established to prevent the introduction or reintroduction of stolen motor vehicles into interstate commerce; protect states, consumers and other entities from vehicle fraud; reduce the use of stolen vehicles for illicit purposes; and provide consumer protection from unsafe vehicles.

To meet this tall order, AAMVA began planning the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS), which would provide motor vehicle titling agencies, law enforcement, prospective and current purchasers, insurance carriers, and junk and salvage yard operators access to vehicle titling information. Roughly 20 years since its inception, NMVTIS is alive and well—and on its way to nationwide compliance and full financial sustainability.

NMVTIS began its pilot program development in 1996, with four states participating (Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts and Virginia), and officially conducted the pilot program in 1999. Ten years later, NMVTIS data became available to consumers, and all states were required to start using the system to report information and perform title verifications in 2010. Along the way, several regulations and features were added to NMVTIS to ease implementation.

“Best practices documentation was developed for the states to aid in standardizing processes, as well as tools to improve data integrity and the ability for states to make title and brand corrections on their records in NMVTIS,” says Vivienne Cameron, AAMVA senior director. “There is also a State Web Interface (SWI) feature, which includes current title and title history, branding information, odometer and theft information, state titling anomalies, and state title information from some states.”

Currently, 96 percent of U.S. DMV data is represented in the system, with all 51 jurisdictions either maintaining participation or continuing to move toward full compliance.

Among the 44 states currently providing data in NMVTIS, there are approximately 494 million current title records and 522 million title history records in the system.

“There has been an overall expansion in number of records, with 1.2 billion records held within NMVTIS,” says Cameron. “The State Program contributes the largest number of records.”

With only 4 percent of state data not yet represented, one of AAMVA’s main goals today is to support these states with development and implementation of NMVTIS, as well as help participating states optimize their systems.

“We are currently discussing a State Program Performance Management Concept, which would be a development of tools and reports to assist states in fully maximizing their benefits from NMVTIS by enabling greater information sharing, monitoring and evaluation,” says Cameron. “The result would be a more efficient and effective overall system.”

Another current goal for NMVTIS is to become financially sustainable by 2019. From 1996 to 2011, the Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded AAMVA federal grants to help create, operate and implement the system. The last expenditure of federal grant funds occurred in 2013. Since then, program revenues and contributions from AAMVA member funds have supported NMVTIS. 

Part 2: DMV Information Systems

Back in 1996, Boyd Dickerson-Walden was working with four other team members on the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ (DHSMV) new Vehicle Information System Overall Redesign (VISOR) project, which was a modernization of vehicle title, registration and parking permits processing. At the time, Dickerson-Walden was less than 10 years into his career with the Florida DHSMV—now, he is chief information officer and director of the Division of Information Systems Administration (ISA), and has witnessed the evolution of technology and information systems firsthand at the DHSMV.

“Nowadays, we have a lot of tools available to us that we didn’t have back in 1996,” he says. “A lot of things need to be done before we can issue a driver’s license, and there are all of these business rules that are built into that now. There are tools to capture those business rules in a way that you can manage them and know when they change and how that impacts your system.”

Instead of trying to rebuild the code every time a business rule is changed or added, Dickerson- Walden, who is on the AAMVA Board, explains that information systems now have the rules at their core. “Instead of going out and gathering all of that [information] every time you want to modernize your system, you just change the technology around the business rules,” he says. “The business rule repositories are the biggest thing to assist IT in moving into the future.”

Another big change in information systems development since the 1990s doesn’t have to do with technology, but rather how these projects are managed. “The processes that help us go about modernization are just completely different,” Dickerson-Walden says. “There are all of these project management life cycles now. Back then, we knew how to run a project, but there was a lot less structure to it. There are so many best practices now, and to me that’s a good thing. It may cost you more money and it may take you more time, but you have a better chance of success.”

Boyd Walden
Florida VISOR team plans its strategy for a software development platform. From left, standing, Carl Ford and Sherry Allen; sitting, Boyd Walden, Terrence Samuel and Narendra Babu Thota.

As CIO, Dickerson-Walden is currently in the middle of another major modernization project, along with Carl Ford and Terrence Samuel, who worked with him on the VISOR project in 1996. Although some of the players are the same, roles have changed. This time, Samuel is leading the charge as the director of the Office of Motorist Modernization, while Dickerson-Walden is coordinating the balance of ISA resources maintaining legacy systems and working on modernization efforts.

This project, however, is focusing its efforts on creating a 360-degree view of each customer in the driver and vehicle world—rather than just a view of how a driver relates to his or her own motor vehicle—as well as how the DHSMV can help customers take advantage of online services.

Part 3: Online Customer Services

In 1997, a MOVE article tried to predict the future of customer service in the year 2020, which sounded like quite a long way into the future—everyone had dreams for what kind of advancements would be the new normal. 

Let’s take a walk through the Department of Motor Vehicles. The many pieces of an agency’s virtual office operate seamlessly. The customer interface is a World Wide Web site (accessed from home or office) or a kiosk (found in a mall or grocery store). Through either of these friendly, interactive systems, customers may pay fees and fines, renew their registrations or file new ones, apply for special plates, change their addresses and apply for duplicate identification cards or driver licenses. Many jurisdictions use Smart Card technology in their licenses; kiosks have been designed to optimize their use. Magnetic stripe readers (also available now for home computers) allow payment via credit or debit cards; kiosks will accept checks, as well. “Electronic signatures” are recognized by federal legislation; fraud does not pose a significant problem.

Because these remote locations are linked directly to the agency’s secure network, confirmation of all information, including credit card verification, is nearly instantaneous. Kiosk customers can receive certain products immediately. License plates and new registration cards are mailed, usually within two days.

Because liens and titles are processed entirely through streamlined electronic data interchange, material and personnel costs for these tasks have decreased. In most cases, those funds are reinvested in the agency (this is the future, remember?), allowing for research and development of new technology. We are doing more with less!

As you can see from this excerpt from the 1997 article, “Service with a Smile,” expanding technology allowed for peak customer service efficiency. The World Wide Web and special kiosks around the community made it possible for customers to complete certain transactions without setting foot in a branch office. Most branches changed from queuing systems to appointments, specifically for testing services, and walk-in clients completed their transactions in minutes.

But how accurate was the prediction? As it turns out, very accurate. “We offer our customers quite the laundry list of convenient online services today,” says Christine Nizer, administrator at the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA).

The list includes both vehicle and driver services, including registration, titles, new and personalized license plates, emissions extensions, driving records, driver’s license and ID card renewal, as well as change of both physical and email address so the MVA can reach out to customers electronically.

“Gov. Larry Hogan has challenged us to make our services more convenient for our customers, and we’re delivering with more online options,” says Nizer. Today, more than 50 percent of transactions are now done online, which is a significant shift from where we were many years ago. “By allowing customers to complete their transactions online and at self-service kiosks, it reduces the wait time for people who do need to come to a branch office.”

Other convenient factors today include branch location and features; some branches are located in shopping centers, and several standalone branches have self-service kiosks where customers can perform any service that they could online.

Today, most jurisdictions offer these types of advancements. From mobile agencies and apps, to virtual queuing systems, to self-service kiosks, live web chat and customer outreach programs, motor vehicle departments have taken customer service to the next level.

“The reality is that our customers are savvy and are used to completing transactions online,” says Nizer. “Their expectation is that, when they’re interacting with a motor vehicle administration, they have that same ability and convenience. We strive to exceed their expectations.”