NJ motor vehicle agencies closed since mid-March ready to reopen
After nearly three months in which its doors were closed, during which some transactions continued, the state Motor Vehicle Commission’s reopening date will be announced Friday.
Gov. Phil Murphy will be joined at his daily briefing by the MVC’s chair and chief administrator, Sue Fulton, who opted to withhold most details about the reopening at a Thursday MVC board meeting in deference to the pending announcement.
Fulton told the board that the MVC’s “essential operations” have continued during the shutdowns, despite the closures of agencies, inspection stations and road-test operations and the automatic extension of all expiring licenses and registrations.
“That all includes maintaining commercial driver vehicle status to support the supply chain, identifying and extending some scheduled suspension actions and restoring licenses so that essential workers and caregivers can stay on the road,” Fulton said.
Fulton said a push was made to emphasize and expand online operations.
“We added commercial registration renewals to our online services. We extended grace periods for most renewal transactions,” she said. “And even though expiration dates have been extended for the most common transactions, online license renewals and replacements are up 160%. This is great. The more we can push people online, the better it is for our agencies.”
“And online registration renewals and replacements are up 80%,” Fulton said. “Recall, we had registration renewals online for many, many years. So an 80% increase is also great.”
Fulton said more MVC employees did their work from home, keeping the amount of staff actually in work sites on a given day to 7% to 9% of the total workforce and 13% to 19% of ‘point-of-contact’ workers.
Since mid-March, the MVC assisted over 60,000 motorists with suspended license cases, most of those being restored, completed more than 17,000 registration and title transactions and validated around 500 permits.
“Those last three were thanks to the folks who were able to work from home online, were able to come in and answer the phone and come in and deal with all the mail transactions,” Fulton said. “So we’ve done a ton of stuff. Nevertheless, we still have a huge backlog.”
The MVC also created a small group to handle registration and title processing for some cars bought through private sellers. Cars bought through dealers, which over the course of the shutdowns were allowed to sell cars online and then by appointment, could still be issued temporary tags and registration that were extended through the emergency. Private sellers had no such recourse.
“So we set up an emergent processing group for the most emergent issues, whether it came through our customer information line, whether it came through another avenue, through our legislative affairs or the Governor’s Office, if someone is an essential worker that had an essential need for transportation, we were able to get them a registration,” Fulton said.
“We didn’t publicize that service because our capacity was small, but at the end of the day they ended up doing thousands of those,” she said.
Fulton said that the 39 agencies and 14 road-test facilities have been retrofitted to meet social distancing guidelines during the shutdown: plexiglass barriers at customer stations, soft plastic barriers between employee stations, floor tape and stanchions to separate the lines and keep 6-foot spacing and chairs in waiting areas spaced 6 feet apart. No-touch hand sanitizers, new ultraviolet lighting and upgraded HVAC filters have also been installed.
“A lot of this stuff you may have seen in grocery stores, if you’ve gone in, the way they manage lines to keep people separated,” Fulton said.
“We’ve also established a new maximum customer capacity for every facility based on social distancing,” she said. “So it’s not the fire code number. It’s a new number that’s much lower that assesses how many customers can you get in there with all of them properly social distanced.”
Fulton said information technology staffers have worked on a new text notification system that will be activated June 29. She indicated that additional details would be shared Friday.
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Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.