The statewide rollout this week of a new computer system intended to make renewing license plate tabs, issuing plates and processing vehicle titles more efficient has proved to be a bit challenging for some.
Two deputy registrar offices, which are locally owned and provide motor vehicle services to the public, were closed temporarily Thursday because they could not serve customers. Other offices have cut back hours to handle the switch. And some consumers have reported long waits for tabs, titles or plates.
The Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS) division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) is in the throes of replacing a 30-year-old computer system used for motor vehicle transactions. The idea is to switch to a more-efficient and secure Web-based system.
Called the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS), the first phase of the project, introduced Monday, covers the motor vehicle portion of the service. The driver's license part will be rolled out next year. Each year, DVS registers some 7 million vehicles, and issues more than 1.4 million titles and 1.8 million driver's licenses.
In Minnesota, 175 deputy registrar offices are locally owned, while DVS offices are run by the state. Anecdotal evidence suggests some deputy registrars across the state have experienced some glitches in the rollout. All state DVS offices are operating, and online tab renewal is working, as well.
"This has been the most challenging time that any of us have ever experienced during our history processing motor vehicle transactions," wrote Suzanne Jensen, president of the Minnesota Deputy Registrar's Association, in an e-mail to colleagues Wednesday. "The system is not ready," Jensen added.
Reached Thursday, Jensen said deputy registrars are logging all the issues and working with DVS to get them resolved. Members of the group met with DPS Commissioner Mona Dohman Thursday.
DPS spokesman Bruce Gordon said issues with the rollout "are not serious." The department is working with deputy registrars "triaging feedback and addressing any issues, including finding a temporary solution before rolling out a permanent fix as quickly as possible," he said.
Kathy Schons, the service center division manager for Hennepin County, said Wednesday none of the six full-service offices in the county has closed. But, she noted, "there are several bugs to be worked out" with the new system.
"I know we're turning away a fair number of people because we're unable to complete the transactions for them," Schons said. She was unsure how many consumers were affected.
Sean Tuohey of Golden Valley, tried renewing his license tabs online but kept getting an error message with a red box that said, "Undefined." When Tuohey went to the St. Louis Park office he waited in line for three hours only to discover there was a glitch in the system that would not permit him to renew his tabs if his license plates were due next year. "I said, 'OK, I'll pay the $10 for new plates now.' "
That resulted in another glitch because Tuohey has collegiate specialty tags for the University of Minnesota. "They said, 'This isn't going to work today.' " But on Thursday, Tuohey reported that he was able to renew his tabs online.
Efforts to update the system have long been troubled. The new MNLARS system was supposed to be ready in 2014, but after spending nearly $60 million, only a small part of it was online by June, according to a report issued by the state legislative auditor.
DPS and Minnesota IT Services were chosen to replace the system after the state parted ways with the original vendor, Hewlett-Packard Co.