TRENTON — While the state Motor Vehicle Commission has pledged to steer drivers toward online transactions, state lawmakers want to force it to have a better call center for those who have Need help.
Eighty percent of MVC transactions can be done online, after a pandemic-era surge accelerated by system-wide shutdowns for months in 2020.
To date, individual agencies do not have all transactions available: some handle driver’s licenses, others handle vehicle transactions.
Assemblyman Bill Moen, D-Camden, said the MVC’s ability to move so many transactions online is part of the good work it has done in recent years, but residents who are put on the challenge of making the transition deserve more help.
“It will simply provide that access to our residents in the event that they have any issues communicating or understanding some aspect of online transactions,” Moen said.
Moen said he realizes the MVC now has customer support phone numbers — the most important being (609) 292-6500, along with others for a variety of topics, but none. for web transactions.
“What it does is it really dedicates a line statewide to address any issues related specifically to the online transaction experience,” he said.
“I don’t need a call center”
Assemblyman Chris DePhillips, R-Bergen, was the only lawmaker not to support the bill, though he abstained rather than voting no. He said the focus should be on restoring in-person services for MVC agencies, not online services.
DePhillips said his legislative office is still inundated with daily calls from residents who are dissatisfied with VMC’s customer service.
“More and more of my residents are saying: I don’t need a call centre. I don’t need to go online. I want to go somewhere and see someone face to face,” said DePhillips, who said he would like an explanation as to why MVC employees are not returning to their offices “in droves.”
In May, then-MVC chief Sue Fulton (who has since left a post in the Biden administration) told lawmakers that 35% to 40% remain absent from work on any given day, double the pre-pandemic rate.
Assemblyman Dan Benson, D-Mercer, who chairs the transportation committee, said better help from the call center is needed, but also doesn’t preclude better in-person services.
“I don’t think it’s one or the other,” Benson said. “I think we can all agree that we want to see more staff so that those REAL ID appointments can open up and people who have to go in person still can.”
As of May 3, 2023, individuals must have a driver’s license or federal REAL ID-compliant identification, or passport, to board an aircraft. At the start of the weekend, there were no REAL ID appointments for them available at 18 of the 24 licensing agencies, and nothing was available until mid-November at four of the six that have squares. There are no appointments to be had in the next two months north of Camden.
What would it take
Bill A3663 would require carriers to take calls at least between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. Services should be offered in English and Spanish.
To ensure transparency, the VMC should publish quarterly performance reports on its website, including data such as the number, subject and duration of calls and the duration of wait times.
The Assembly Transportation Committee included some amendments when approving the bill last week. The call center should be located in New Jersey. And the MVC could rely on additional web-based tutorials and recorded messages to reduce staffing requirements.
If this sounds familiar
The Senate and Assembly committees approved a similar bill in the spring of 2021. However, it didn’t go further until the end of the last session, so now it’s starting the process all over again.
Michael Symons is the Statehouse Bureau Chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]
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