SCDMV employee Alma Shook assists Glenn Cruddas with a transaction at the SCDMV in Berea. (PATRICK COLLARD/The Greenville News)
By Tim Smith, The Greenville News
A year ago, those arriving at South Carolina's Department of Motor Vehicles' offices sometimes felt discouraged by long lines and waiting times, some of which were more than two hours.
No more, the agency's director says.
As of this month, he said, the average wait time for the system was fewer than 10 minutes. It's been that way for each month since last spring, he said. That compares to an average wait a year ago of 22 minutes.
"It's a Godsend it's under 10 minutes," DMV Executive Director Kevin Shwedo told GreenvilleOnline.com. "That's the first time that's ever happened."
The drop in wait times isn't an anomaly, he said, nor accidental. DMV managers have been focused on reducing the time people wait in the past year, he said, and are still looking for ways to whittle waiting.
Customers have noticed as well.
Samir Sleiman said he has visited the DMV in Berea several times in recent months. He said the service and waiting times have improved. "It's very good," he said. "It's improving."
Sleiman said he has visited the DMV in conjunction with his family's transition to the Upstate.
Cindy Bogan also gave a thumbs-up to the service Wednesday. "It's much better," she said. Bogan said it took her about 10 minutes to complete her business.
A spot check by GreenvilleOnline.com a year ago of wait times posted online showed nine of 29 sites checked on different days had wait times of more than an hour, and Greenville's University Ridge office posted a maximum wait time then of two hours and 17 minutes, the longest in the state.
On Monday, the wait times were much less, with several showing no waiting times.
Shwedo said there are a variety of reasons.
One is that the agency began employing temporary workers during its peak transaction season and workers were placed in the offices with the heaviest transaction loads.
The agency also initiated a training program for workers and managers, closing each office for an hour on Wednesday mornings.
"If I want competent, committed and courteous employees, I'm responsible for the competence and that can only happen if I have a training program that gives them a skill set to make them successful," he said.
Another reason for the reduced wait times, he said, is that fewer driver's license tests are being administered in the office because of a new law that allows private companies to administer them. In the past year, Shwedo said, more than 5,000 people have been tested that way, meaning DMV office personnel can use that time for other customers.
And he said the agency's wait times are now routinely available online for every branch. He said customers are now watching the system on the Internet to avoid the heaviest times, which tend to be on Mondays and Fridays.
He also monitors the system with daily reports on wait times at each office. Those offices with average wait times that cross the 20-minute mark have to explain why.
The agency also has worked with car dealerships to encourage them to take their paperwork to seven DMV offices around the state if they want a three-day turnaround time and to other offices if they want five-day service. Shwedo said that prevents any office from being clogged with dealer transactions.
Today, he said, the system is handling more transactions than last year but in less time.