The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 4, 2013

Some residents not getting vehicle renewal forms

By Mannix Porterfield
Register-Herald Reporter

CHARLESTON — Not every West Virginia motorist is getting a vehicle registration renewal form in the mail these days, but don’t blame the Division of Motor Vehicles.

For a variety of reasons, the forms never arrive when the carrier delivers the mail, or a driver fetches mail at a U.S. Postal Service facility.

“Every month, we probably get back between 2,000 and 5,000 of the renewal notices we send out,” Commissioner Steve Dale said Monday.

“And that’s for a number of factors. People don’t change their address, that’s one thing. And another thing is that when they go through the post office, for whatever reasons, sometimes the post office just sends them back.”

One hangup could lie in the fact the postal scanning devices simply misread an address.

“I’ve sent things out myself and had the correct address, but for whatever reason, they might not be the right abbreviation for roads,” Dale said.

Dale pointed out that his agency deals with a huge volume of registered vehicles — 1.3 million passenger types annually, a figure that excludes trailers and larger trucks. And, with 1.5 million licensed drivers, some 300,000 licenses must be updated each year.

While the DMV employs software and attempts to correct any flaws, a certain percentage of the registration renewal forms fail to arrive in the hands of the intended recipients.

For the past 15 years or so, the DMV has outsourced the printing of the forms to a winning bidder, and Dale said the printer cannot be blamed for the failure of some folks to get them.

“It’s not really a requisite to have a renewal notice,” the commissioner said.

“If someone doesn’t get a renewal notice for a vehicle, they can just bring their old registration card along with a tax ticket and insurance information. We can process it that way.”

In fact, he pointed out, a motorist can even make a copy of the current registration form, and mail that in with the tax receipts and check to get the new sticker.

“Folks don’t necessarily have to have a renewal notice to renew, although it’s in our best interest if people have that,” Dale said.

“We make every effort to send those out each month. And most of the county sheriffs renew the registration plates.”

At times, taxes due are not in sync with the expiration of the registration card, “which makes it a little complicated to figure out with the tax receipts you need,” he said.

“We’re looking at some way to streamline that because so many counties post that on the web. We’re looking at some process where we can automatically verify that.”

Dale acknowledged there have been some complaints over the failure to get the forms in the mail.

“It is a renewal notice and we do hope people get them,” he said.

“It is every person’s responsibility to make sure that their driver’s license is up to date and vehicle registration is up to date. We have the expiration dates on the card. Your driver’s license expires on your birthday in a year divisible by five. We hope that’s kind of a trigger. People should not let the lack of getting a renewal notice prevent them from getting that vehicle renewed, either by mail, or the sheriff, or one of the regional offices.”

In addition, Dale said the DMV offers an online form for renewing one’s registration, or driver’s license, although one must appear at a regional office for the mandatory updated photograph and two proofs of residency. One needn’t prove West Virginia residency to get a vehicle registration renewed.

“We are working on some systems that will allow people to renew a driver’s license online,” he said.

“We now have a new system that allows us, if we do a few tweaks, to be able to send you a card with your picture in the mail, which we didn’t have before. But that’s going to require a little more work from the IT folks and some legislation. We think that would be a great opportunity if someone’s in good standing to be able to renew online.”

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