RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - While some restrictions may be easing April 1 under Governor Ralph Northam’s executive order, there are still plenty of COVID-19 safety measures in place at the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Currently, all in-person transactions must be booked by appointment and that has left not only customers but the DMV facing challenges.
Since customer service centers started reopening in May 2020, the DMV has scheduled 3 million appointments. However, one of the major issues the agency is facing is no-shows.
“We’re pushing about half-a-million since we started reopening,” said DMV spokeswoman Jessica Cowardin.
That is 500,000 appointments that could have gone to other people - like Jose Munoz.
“It’s actually been quite a hassle,” Munoz said. “For about four months I’ve been trying to get an appointment.”
However, unlike others, the college student canceled the appointments he was not able to make.
“[I had to] in order to have enough funds to pay all the taxes and fees and whatnot,” Munoz said.
Those fees associated with getting the registration for his SUV transferred to himself as he branches out on his own.
Thankfully, after months of searching, he was able to secure an appointment.
“I woke up early on a Sunday morning and clicked on it and saw Thursday availability - so I went ahead and did it,” Munoz said.
“We have 90 days of appointments open right now,” Cowardin said. “Each day new appointments are added throughout the day to our appointment calendar.”
Cowardin said that the calendar is for all 75 customer service centers which have reopened across the state.
According to the DMV, there is a maximum of three months of appointment slots available at any time on the calendar.
“Each day, a new day of appointments is added to the end of the available 90-day period,” a DMV social media post stated. “New appointment slots will be posted multiple times every hour.”
The DMV added if you do not see availability, that means the posted appointment slots are currently booked.
Long gone are the days of sitting beside a stranger in an often-packed DMV center. Now, chairs are socially distanced, equipment constantly cleaned and required transactions done by appointment only.
“I wasn’t in there very long,” Munoz said.
“We are right now allowing people to scheduled one appointment per transaction at a time,” Cowardin said. “In some cases, you can go online and schedule multiple transactions as part of one appointment, but keep in mind we need to be mindful of the time and space we have.”
It is why a vast majority of your typical DMV needs can now be done online, including renewing your registration.
Additionally, in September 2020, the DMV launched a two-year renewal option for driver’s licenses and ID cards to help free up space for others at the service centers.
“So, if you’re up for that big renewal, you can go online and do that quick two-year renewal; we’ll see you in two years,” Cowardin said.
“When the two-year credential expires, customers will then visit DMV to renew and obtain a standard five-year or eight-year credential and have a new photograph taken,” a press release stated.
Since May 2020, 2 million customers have been served with 4 million transactions taken care of across all service platforms (i.e.: in-person, online or mail).
“We’re actually conducting more transactions now than we were pre-pandemic across all service channels,” Cowardin said.
Meanwhile, there are still several services that require in-person appointments, including road skills tests. That is a service the DMV has made several modifications to during the pandemic, Cowardin said.
“That’s definitely a highly sought-after appointment,” she said. “Instead of hopping in a car with a DMV representative and driving around, we’re now containing that too in some locations, like the Richmond location, a parking lot in the back – a course set up.”
Cowardin said the driver will be in the car wearing a mask while the instructor remains outside, wearing a mask, walking the person through the requirements.
According to the DMV, appointments for road skills testing at the Chester office recently became available. Service is expected to begin on April 5.
In the meantime, calls continue to pour into the DMV from customers with numerous questions about the ongoing operations.
“We are still experiencing a high call volume,” Cowardin said. “We’ve trained some new folks and gotten some more help in. Rest assured, if you’re getting that busy signal we will get to you.”
On Tuesday, the DMV posted on Facebook information about customer service hours on social media after dozens of people have reached out on that platform for help.
“Our customer service hours on social media are from 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday – Friday,” the post read. “We do not accept messages outside of our business hours in order to provide the most timely response possible to our customers.”
Cowardin said customers can also access the Frequently Asked Questions page on the DMV website.
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