RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – As customers face long wait times at some North Carolina DMV offices, the head of the agency said they’ve taken some steps to try to cut down on those times but also urged state lawmakers to act.

DMV Commissioner Wayne Goodwin told lawmakers during a recent hearing that the agency has hired about 200 permanent employees in the last year-and-a-half but is still operating below what’s needed to handle demand, particularly in urban areas.

“The wait times are better in some places, but in the metro areas, we need help. And, I think more employees and then more offices,” he said. 

Goodwin noted that hiring bonuses have helped with filling positions, but the agency still faces significant staffing challenges. 

High vacancy rate

He said DMV relies on temporary employees, who work 11 months out of the year and do the same work as examiners as well as help customers when they arrive to ensure they’ve brought all the necessary paperwork and get checked in appropriately. 

The agency is losing many of those employees, as Goodwin said there’s a 77% vacancy rate in temporary positions.  

“Those are the folks who, they’re getting paid to do more somewhere else. So, we’re losing them,” he said. 

The DMV needs 638 employees to be able to operate all of the computer terminals it has at driver license offices across the state. As of the end of August, the DMV is operating with 450 employees to handle that, according to a report provided to the NC Board of Transportation. 

One step Goodwin urged lawmakers to take is to lift the cap on the number of permanent positions DMV can have in driver license offices, which is currently 568. The vacancy rate in permanent positions is 12 percent, which is much lower than for the temporary positions. 

Earlier this year, the DMV launched a new website that allows people to see what the current wait time is at offices across North Carolina. 

DMV still allows people to make appointments in the mornings but eliminated afternoon appointments earlier this year because so many people failed to show up for them, Goodwin said.

Wait times high in Meck, Wake counties

When CBS 17 checked for appointment availability on Monday, there was nothing available in the largest cities for the next three months for various services DMV offers. 

“In the metro areas where we need new offices in Mecklenburg and Wake counties, that’s where our extended wait times have been,” Goodwin said.  

That was evident in Raleigh on Monday where there was a line to get into the DMV office on Spring Forest Road. One woman said she had been waiting nearly three hours outside. 

Another customer, Alba Garcia, was hoping to be able to take the driving test to get her license. She already had taken the written test in Wendell, but on that day there weren’t enough employees to take the driving test too.

She said she needs her license this month but couldn’t find an appointment until Dec. 8. 

“It’s gonna be difficult. So, we’ll try,” she said as she waited to go inside.

The new state budget was enacted this month, which included pay raises for state employees that average 7% over the next two years. Goodwin said it was “too soon to tell” whether those raises would have a meaningful impact on hiring.