TOPEKA — Kansans can now have access to services provided by the Division of Vehicles for the Kansas Department of Revenue in all but one country driver’s license office that provided service before the pandemic, although workforce remains a concern at most locations.
All 116 driver’s license offices closed soon after the onset of COVID-19 in Kansas. Almost all have since resumed service, albeit with occasional closures. The single office the Division of Vehicles is not providing service to suspended operations because of business reasons.
In the past two weeks, the Salina office closed due to storm damage, and the Hutchinson office has closed temporarily because of a staffing shortage from COVID-19.
David Harper, director of the division of vehicles for the Department of Revenue, said staffing has been a continual challenge in most driver’s license offices across the state.
“We currently have 268 full-time positions dedicated to driver’s license services, with 37 currently vacant,” Harper told the Legislative Budget Committee on Tuesday. “The vacancy rate on driver services positions is approximately 14%, up from 8% when we last met with this committee in August 2021.”
The Kansas Department of Revenue partners with Kansas counties to provide driver’s license services in 117 offices, covering all but one county. State examiners travel to seven county-run offices to assist with more complex services not offered by those counties.
All county driver’s license offices provide renewals for non-commercial licenses, and 5 county offices in western Kansas provide commercial driver’s license renewals.
Rep. Kyle Hoffman, a Coldwater Republican, was glad to see that services had resumed but was concerned about the lack of offices available to renew commercial driver’s licenses in Southern Kansas.
“The part of the state that I represent is really underserved as far as availability of where they can go to get a first-time CDL,” Hoffman said. “Maybe something in the Pratt area or something. That would really help that whole area because right now it is Dodge or Wichita, really.”
For those seeking to renew driver’s licenses, Harper and the division are urging Kansans to use online services to renew their license if they have an urgent need. He was encouraged by Kansas drivers taking advantage of online renewal options.
A new law approved during the 2021 legislative session amended the online driver’s license statute to allow people up to the age of 64 to renew their license through the division’s web application beginning in October. Also included in SB 127 was an amendment to the law allowing online CDL renewals for nonhazardous material motor carriers.
Those services have helped keep wait times at the state offices to a minimum, although holiday breaks are usually busier, Harper said. Throughout December in large urban offices, service times ran 27 minutes on average.
Harper said the division is also looking into piloting an online written skills test for drivers.
“This has proven to be a popular feature, allowing license applicants to complete the written skills test from home or work on a computer, prior to coming to our office,” Harper said. “We hope to replace the pilot program with a permanent solution in 2022.”
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