FAQs about the Driver License Division

September 30, 2020

Welcome to the FAQ About the Driver License Division page. These FAQs are intended to provide information for the most commonly asked questions from customers and legislators, and provide insight to the daily operations of driver services.

General

1. Why are there long lines at driver license offices?

In Fiscal Year (FY) 18 and (FY) 19, most driver license (DL) transactions could have been conducted alternatively (online, by mail or by phone). However, these customers continue to conduct their transactions in person, which means more than 50% of all customers visiting driver license offices do not need to do so.

In fall 2018, Texas.gov conducted a marketing study through Deloitte and found that 91% of our customers are aware of the ability to renew their license online yet still choose to conduct their transactions in person. The top reasons for coming into a driver license office are:

  • 22% - To update their photo
  • 19% - Do not want to disclose sensitive information online
  • 19% - More comfortable speaking to a person
  • 14% - Do not want to pay online convenience fees
  • 14% - Do not want to pay additional fees to conduct a transaction online (assume the transaction fees online are higher than in person transactions).

As long as customers choose to come into our offices rather than conduct their transaction alternatively, resources will need to increase for driver license operations.

Also, please note that the Texas.gov fee of $1 is the same whether the transaction is conducted online or in the office.


2. How has DPS informed customers that they can conduct their transaction alternatively?

Customers who need to renew their DL or ID receive two different kinds of letters. This is the DR-5 and the DR-32. One is for renewing in person, which is the DR-5. The other provides the three alternatives for renewal, and encourages them to handle their transaction alternatively, which is the DR-32. These letters are provided 180 days prior to the expiration date.

For customers who do not currently have a REAL ID compliant card and are eligible to renew their DL or ID, two reminders will be sent, one in October 2020 and a second in April 2021 notifying them that their current DL or ID will no longer be valid for federal purposes beginning May 3, 2023. These letters instruct the customer to visit their local driver license office, or if they are eligible, to renew by an alternate method such as online, by telephone, or by mail.

Texas.gov has developed an easier, faster, and more secure way for Texans to take care of government to-dos - like driver license and vehicle registration renewals - anytime, anywhere, and on any device. Visit Texas by Texas for additional information.

Partnership with Texas.gov to provide an alternative to using audit number for transactions
We partner with DIR and Texas.gov to provide customers an alternative to the use of their DL or ID audit number when they conduct a Texas.gov transaction for a renewal, replacement or change of address online. Customers were not eligible to conduct transactions online when they did not have their audit number. In April 2018, customers also started accessing online services by answering a series of questions specific to the customer for an additional fee of $1.75.

Driver License Operations

1. What is DPS doing to help decrease vacancies in the Driver License Division?

The Driver License Division deployed a new hiring process in January of 2019 that has reduced the interview process from 3-5 days to a few hours, and reduced the overall time expended for hiring.

2. Why aren't the DL Mega Centers decreasing the wait times at those locations?

The 86th Legislature appropriated an additional 762 full time positions, increasing the number of full time positions to 2,906.  These newly hired employees have been placed in the Mega Centers and extremely overcrowded offices to help reduce the wait times.  While driver license offices continue to have capacity issues, wait times have improved. In addition to this, the Department implemented a new appointment solution that allows customers the opportunity to schedule driver license services up to six months in advance, using an online link or in a driver license office. Customers will have more flexibility to schedule an appointment based on their availability and the location of their choosing.  This appointment program will help minimize wait times and long lines, as customers will only need to arrive a short time before their appointment.

The Mega Centers are located at: Carrollton, Corpus Christi, Dallas South, Edinburg, Fort Worth, Garland, Houston North, Houston South East, Leon Valley, Midland, Pflugerville, Rosenberg, Houston Gessner and Spring.

3. Where would new Driver License offices be needed?

DPS reviewed data from the State Demographer that details where in Texas the highest growth is projected to be. The new locations needed are:

  • Plano – Includes 42 workstations, 61 additional Full Time Employee (FTEs) for a cost of $13.8M.
  • San Antonio – Includes 42 workstations, 74 additional FTEs for a cost of $16.4M.
  • South Austin/San Marcos  – Includes 42 workstations, 71 additional FTEs for a cost of $15.8M.
  • Houston/Katy – Includes 42 workstations, 95 additional FTEs for a cost of $20.8M.
  • Temple – Includes 12 workstations, 37.5 additional FTEs for a cost of $8.6M.
  • Denton – Includes 12 workstations, 33.5 additional FTEs for a cost of $7M.
  • El Paso – Includes 42 workstations, 74.5 additional FTEs for a cost of $16.4M.
  • Beaumont – Includes 24 workstations, 50 additional FTEs for a cost of $11.4M.
  • Fort Worth – Includes 42 workstations, 67.5 additional FTEs for a cost of $15.1M.
  • Wichita Falls – Includes 12 workstations, 28.5 additional FTEs for a cost of $6.6M.
  • Abilene – Includes 12 workstations, 32.5 additional FTEs for a cost of $7.4M.
  • Bowie & Cass Counties – Includes 12 workstations, 38 additional FTEs for a cost of $8.5M.
  • El Paso – Includes 42 workstations, 61 additional FTEs for a cost of $13.7M.
  • McAllen – Includes 24 workstations, 53 additional FTEs for a cost of $12M.
  • Houston Northeast– Includes 42 workstations, 69 additional FTEs for a cost of $15.4M.

The full cost of these 15 offices with 846 additional DL FTEs and 106.4 indirect FTEs is $190M. During the 86th Legislative session, the Legislature appropriated funding for a new office in Angleton, and Denton, Texas. The request for additional offices will be reviewed and resubmitted during the 87th legislative session, to be held in 2021.

4. How are new locations for DL offices chosen?

Typically, the process is that DPS recommends locations based on population growth. Then the Texas Facilities Commission (TFC) creates the solicitation and determines the winning bid.

DPS and TFC work in partnership so that TFC can choose the proper location based on the need that DPS has and the available funding.

5. How has DPS spent Driver License funding throughout the years, and why is that not enough?

Since Driver License Improvement Plan (DLIP) funding began in 2012, a net total of 300 workstations were added to DL offices statewide, along with 13 Mega Centers, 6 large offices and 66 office remodels/refreshes.

The Driver License Division currently has 230 offices throughout the state, ranging in size from 1 counter to over 40 counters in our Driver License Centers.

As of September 1, 2019, the state had over 1,200 workstations spread among the 230 offices. Keep in mind, only 918.5 of those are able to be manned at any given time. This leaves 219.5 workstations unmanned.

 

Commercial Driver License Issues

1. Why can't DPS waive the rules to make it easier for Texans to get a CDL?

Commercial Driver License laws and standards are dictated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

While states have an informal ability to provide input through the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), CDL regulations are federal law. If Texas disregarded the federal standards, our program would be out of compliance and FMCSA could issue a Notice of Non-Compliance resulting in the decertification of Texas' CDL program, thereby prohibiting the ability to issue CDLs to its citizens and enabling federal highway funds to be withheld from the State of Texas. This could affect the nearly 700,000 valid CDL holders and cost the State of Texas up to 4% of the federal highway funds during the first year of non-compliance (estimated at over $150M) and up to 8% of the federal highway funds during the second year of non-compliance (estimated at over $325M).

In 2011, FMCSA changed the standards for CDL testing to include a vehicle inspection "pre trip" test as the beginning of the process. During this process, drivers have to walk around the vehicle and determine that the various components are fully functional.

This test mirrors the report that every motor carrier requires every driver to submit each day the vehicle is operated. The reports have to cover: service brakes, parking brake, steering mechanism, lighting, reflectors, tires, horn, windshield wipers, mirrors and emergency equipment.

The report has to detail any defect or deficiency that the driver discovers that could affect the safety of the vehicle. The driver must sign the report.

School bus drivers are exempted from submitting this report daily. However, they are expected to know how each of the components works, and since they can drive other commercial vehicles within that class other than school buses, they are subject to the vehicle inspection portion of the test.

2. What changes did FMCSA make to the CDL tests?

In 2011, FMCSA implemented increased standards for CDL drivers. DPS was granted an extension and implemented these regulations in late 2016.

A challenge with the implementation of the new uniform CDL testing standards has been the increase in the time needed to successfully execute a skills test. These new uniform testing standards, which have increased testing time from one hour to approximately two hours per test, now include:

  • A new pre-trip inspection test.  Conversion of the pre-trip written test to a randomized vehicle walk around test, requiring the applicant to identify the components of the vehicle which require a check prior to placing the vehicle into operation.
    • Please note: Per the Commercial Skills Test Information Management System (CSTIMS) there appears to be a dramatic difference in passage rates of persons who take third party testing (comprised of companies and schools with training programs) vs come straight into the office to take their tests. This shows that persons who participate in a formal training program appear to have a higher passage rate than those who do not.
  • A revised scoring criteria.  The scoring of the basic maneuvers and road-test has changed.  Points are now deducted for encroachments and excessive pull-ups during the execution of the basic skills test, and the road test has increased the number of maneuvers from three to four each.
  • An increase in the size of the basic skills testing area.  The basic skills testing maneuver area must be marked utilizing cones so that the exam may be scored according to the revised scoring criteria and segregated from public roadways.  This testing area must be at least 33' by 240' to accommodate all three maneuvers. 
  • An additional basic skills test maneuver.  An off-set backing maneuver is now required, in addition to the existing parallel parking and straight-line backing maneuvers.
  • A mandatory Commercial Learner Permit (CLP) holding period.  CDL applicants are required to obtain and hold a (CLP) for 14 days prior to skills testing to gain additional driving experience.  This extends the amount of time an applicant must wait before taking a skills test.
  • Mandatory CDL skills test examiner certification.  CDL skills examiners are required to be federally certified to administer CDL exams and must conduct at least 10 exams annually.
    • As of June 1, 2020, DPS has 273 employees dedicated to CDL transactions with 29 vacancies.
  • Secondary review of CDL transactions.  All CDL transactions must have a secondary, independent evaluation within 24 hours to prevent fraud. 

3. What is DPS doing to assist CDL applicants to pass the Vehicle Inspection or Pre Trip test?

In addition to providing the CDL handbook that outlines the process and contains all relevant study materials, DPS has created a series of videos specifically for school bus applicants. These videos are available on our website and have received almost two hundred thousand views since being published.

Pre-Trip Vehicle Inspection Exam:

  • Module 1 – Engine Start was published on February 7, 2018.
  • Module 2 – School Bus Pre Trip Inspection was published on May 8, 2018.
  • Module 3 – Engine Components was published on August 13, 2018.
  • Module 4 – The Exterior was published on August 13, 2018.
  • Module 5 – The Axles was published on August 13, 2018.
  • Module 6 – Coupling Systems was published on August 14, 2018.

The videos can be found at: Commercial Driver License (CDL) Instructional Videos

4. What options are available for taking a Commercial Drive Test?

Applicants have three options: they can schedule a test at one of the DPS CDL locations, can request testing from one of our CDL mobile teams or they can take the test through a Third Party Skills Testing provider, if eligible.

DPS CDL locations – DPS CDL locations can be found at: Texas CDL Skills Testing Locations

Third Party Skills Testing - In April 2017, DPS initiated a Third Party Skills Testing (TPST) program to allow qualified companies, certified by the Department, to administer the driving skills examinations for CDL applicants. As of August 2021, there are 107 authorized TPST programs. Applicants, who are students or employees of these programs, have the option of testing at DPS or at one of the current TPST locations.

The Department provides additional TPST training sessions to eligible organizations on a quarterly basis. 

Additional information on TPSTs can be found at CDL Third Party Skills Testing Program

CDL Mobile Teams – The Department established nine mobile CDL testing teams to serve customers outside of the 50-mile radius from one of the fixed testing sites.  Approximately 6% of our potential applicants are outside of this area.  The primary customers for these mobile teams are community colleges, school districts, education centers, fire departments, and other government entities.  These customers may request mobile team services by contacting the local Driver License Regional Managers. 

School Bus Issues

1. Why are school buses considered Commercial Vehicles when they are so different?

A school bus is similar in weight, design and passenger capacity to a Class B vehicle. Therefore, all school bus drivers have to be tested in a similar manner as other commercial vehicle drivers.

2. Why do school bus drivers have to know mechanical things like "how to build an engine?"

There are many myths about the CDL testing process. Specifically, this question comes from the new federally-mandated vehicle inspection or pre-trip test. The pre-trip test requires CDL applicants to identify key components of the vehicle as a "hands on" inspection. All information to study can be found in the Texas Commercial Driver Handbook. 

School bus applicants specifically are advised to review and be prepared to test on Sections 10 – 13. Section 10, specifically related to school buses. A review of this section indicates the focus is on the safety of the child passengers.

Section 11.3 details specific questions for school bus drivers related to: emergency equipment, lighting indicators, lights/reflectors, mirrors, the stop arm, passenger entry, emergency exit and seating. The goal of understanding each of these items is safety of the child passengers.

Other

1. Why did I get a letter stating that, due to Real ID, I have to renew my license or ID card two years ahead of time?

DPS officially became REAL ID compliant (a federal requirement) in October 2016.

In an effort to reach out to the customers who are eligible to renew prior to the May 3, 2023 deadline, DPS has begun mailing customers letters up to two years prior to their card's expiration date, explaining that they can renew up to two years in advance – and encouraging them to do so. For those who have not received a letter at this time, two reminders will be sent, one in October 2020 and a second in April 2021 notifying them that their current DL or will no longer be valid for federal purposes beginning May 3, 2023. These letters instruct the customer to visit their local driver license office, or if they are eligible, to renew by an alternate method such as online, by telephone, or by mail. 

2. What happened to the Driver Responsibility Program? Do I need to continue to pay my surcharges? Does DPS want to keep the program because it funds DPS employees?

The Driver Responsibility Program was repealed with passage of House Bill 2048 by the 86th Texas Legislature, therefore you are no longer required to pay your surcharges. However, the point system still applies to school bus drivers, per TRC 521.022(d) and TAC 14.14.

For more information on the repeal of the Driver Responsibility Program visit our Driver Responsibility Program (Surcharge) Repeal FAQs.

3. Is DPS partnering with municipalities and counties to issue DLs and IDs? Does this partnership work?

Yes, the Texas Transportation Code allows DPS to partner with municipalities and counties to issue renewal and duplicate DL and ID cards. By participating in this program, the county or municipal government can impose a fee of up to $5 per transaction. Currently 11 jurisdictions are participating in this program.

In FY 19, this program conducted nearly 7,000 transactions. This provided 7,000 customers with an alternative to coming into a traditional driver license office.

4. Does DPS have mobile units? If so, why don't you use them to expand your Driver License services?

The Driver License Division (DLD) has Disaster Response Units (DRU) that were first deployed as a pilot during the wildfires in Bastrop County in 2011. DLD has six DRU sets divided into three deployable units. When deployed, the DRU requires space, electricity and internet (WIFI) to be provided by the agency being supported. The units are normally employed by the local emergency manager at a Multi-Agency Resource Center.

These have been used at the following events: West Fertilizer Plant Explosion (2013), Austin Dove Spring Floods (2013), Wimberley/San Marcos Memorial Day Flood (2015), San Antonio Nursing Home Fire (2015), Eagle Pass Flood (2015), Dallas County Tornado (2015), Hurricane Harvey (2017), San Marcos Fire (2018), Lago Vista and Lake Travis Floods (2018), and La Feria, Sebastian, Elsa Floods (2019).

Because there is no dedicated team to staff the DRUs, when deployed, those staff are removed from their traditional assigned duty station. Though they are typically used in a disaster relief effort, with additional staff for each unit, these could be deployed to provide additional driver license coverage in underserved areas.

5. Why does DPS sell driver records?

Per the Texas Transportation Code, DPS is authorized to disclose certain types of information to requestors including:

  • DOB, license status, address (521.045)
  • Accident and conviction information (521.046)
  • DOB, license status, address, completion of a driver education course, traffic violations and motor vehicle accidents – this is only to disclose to the license holder (521.047)
  • Names, addresses, and DOBs of all license holders in the file (521.050)
  • Similar information can be provided by CDL holders. (521.053)

Texas Transportation Code Chapter 730 outlines the types of persons that can request the information and what it can be used for. Permitted disclosures include:

  • Use by a government agency
  • Use in connection with motor vehicle safety, theft, monitoring
  • Use in research to provide reports
  • Use by an insurance company
  • Use by a private investigator or licensed security
  • Use in connection by an employer or insurer for CDL purposes
  • Use in connection with the operation of a toll transportation facility
  • Use in the ordinary business by licensed Salvage Vehicle Dealers, Dealers and Manufacturer’s Vehicle License Plates, Used Automotive Parts Recyclers
  • Use by an employer principal, general contractor, nonprofit organization, charitable organization or religious institution to verify Driver License information relating to an employee, contractor, or volunteer

The fees related to the sale of driver records are not appropriated to DPS.