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Wright County News

Posted on: February 14, 2020

County Looking for Legislative Relief to Reduce Long Wait to Take a Driver's Test

Among the issues of interest to Wright County officials during the current session of the State Legislature is a problem that has been growing over the last several years and may finally be hitting a tipping point – scheduling a road test with the Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS) division of the Department of Public Safety that is required to obtain a driver’s license.

Wait times for road tests have been extended out for the last couple of years, but the problem has become much worse over the last year. Wright County Commissioner Darek Vetsch said he and the other commissioners brought the matter to the attention of their legislative delegation because the shortage of testers with the DVS has reached critical mass and needs to be changed. The Wright County Board is advocating legislation through that will add staffing because people have to go to great lengths (and distances) simply to get the opportunity to take a road test.

“It’s awful how long people have to wait just to get appointments and how far people have gone to take road tests,” Vetsch said. “It can be months before you get to the top of the waiting list. A lot of people have gone as far as Bemidji and Mankato to take their road tests because it’s that difficult to get an appointment in any sort of timely fashion.”

A call was made to the Driver’s License Exam Station that represents Buffalo Feb. 14 and the person doing the scheduling said that road test appointments were booked out “until June or July.” A call to the number that schedules road test appointments in the Twin Cities resulted in the first available testing date for the entire seven-county metro area was June 22 in Anoka.

Vetsch said that the current system is unacceptable and needs to be changed.

“We need to get the state to put more testers out there so people can get the road tests they need in a fair time,” Vetsch said. “They’re only open two days a week here in Buffalo. They’re booked out for months. When your kid turns 16, you have to make your appointment three or four months in advance to get something close to your kid’s birthday. If you happen to fail your test, you start the clock over again and go to the back of the line.”

Of equal concern is the lag time for commercial drivers. While not as long of a backlog for those testing for a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) as there is to get a road test for the standard Class D license, it still is stretching out a month or more.

That is an issue for Wright County because of the expansion of the Trailblazer Transit system. The program is looking to hire additional drivers, but have hit a wall with DVS there as well. Wait times can stretch out several weeks and some prospective employees have been forced to quit because of the wait time after being hired and trained and can’t afford to go a month or more without a paycheck.

“It’s a big problem with some of the Trailblazer drivers we hire,” Vetsch said. “We hire our commercial drivers, we train them for two weeks and then they have to wait four, six, eight weeks before they can get in to a testing center to get their commercial licenses. They sit on the bench unpaid. A lot of people have just quit and get different jobs because they can’t just sit and not get paid for two months. You can’t apply for a job, get the job and not get to start working for two months. It just doesn’t work like that. It’s a job killer.”

Vetsch said he hopes that one of the multiple bills currently being proposed can be merged into one and make it through the legislative session to make significant increases to staffing to meet the demand, which is clearly needed. He added that this has been a source of frustration for the last few years, continues to get worse and needs to be fixed.

“This is clearly a broken system,” Vetsch said. “Something needs to be done to fix it at the state level because the DVS is a state-run operation, not a county operation. We’re not proposing to have counties take over road testing. We just want the state to know that this is an issue for a lot of people and there are ripple effects when you don’t have your offices staffed to the level they need to be at to do the job you’re supposed to do. The need is there and it is obvious.”

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