Kansas Vehicle Division Resumes Service in All But One Counties Despite Labor Shortage

TOPEKA – The Kansans can now access services provided by the Kansas Department of Revenue’s Vehicle Division at all but one driver’s license office, which provided services before the pandemic, although the workforce remains a concern in most places.

All 116 driver’s license offices closed shortly after the start of COVID-19 in Kansas. Almost all have since returned to service, but with occasional closings. The single office of the Vehicle Division does not provide service to operations suspended for commercial reasons.

For the past two weeks, Salina’s office has closed due to storm damage and Hutchinson’s office has closed temporarily due to a staff shortage due to COVID-19.

David Harper, director of the vehicles division for the Revenue Department, said staffing has been an ongoing challenge at most driver’s license offices across the state.

“We currently have 268 full-time positions dedicated to driver licensing services, 37 of which are currently vacant,” Harper told the Legislative Budget Committee on Tuesday. “The vacancy rate for driver positions is around 14%, compared to 8% when we last met with this committee in August 2021.”

The Kansas Department of Revenue is partnering with counties in Kansas to provide driver’s license services in 117 offices, covering all counties but one. State examiners visit seven county-run offices to assist with more complex services not offered by those counties.

Rep. Kyle Hoffman was hopeful that options for those seeking a commercial driver’s license for the first time would develop in southern Kansas, where he felt there were too few options. (Noah Taborda / Reflector Kansas)

All county driver’s license offices offer renewals for non-commercial licenses, and 5 county offices in western Kansas offer commercial driver’s license renewals.

Rep. Kyle Hoffman, a Republican from Coldwater, was happy to see that services had resumed, but was concerned about the lack of offices available to renew commercial driver’s licenses in southern Kansas.

“The part of the state that I represent is really underserved in terms of the availability of where they can go to get a CDL for the first time,” Hoffman said. “Maybe something in the Pratt area or something. That would really help this whole area because right now it’s really Dodge or Wichita.”

For those looking to renew their driver’s license, Harper and the division are urging Kansans to use online services to renew their license if they have an urgent need. He was encouraged by Kansas drivers who took advantage of online renewal options.

A new law approved in the 2021 legislative session changed the status of the online driver’s license to allow people up to 64 years of age to renew their license through the division’s web app from October. SB 127 also included an amendment to the law allowing online CDL renewals for non-hazardous motor carriers.

These services have kept wait times at state offices to a minimum, although vacations are generally busier, Harper said. Throughout the month of December in large urban offices, uptime has averaged 27 minutes.

Harper said the division is also considering piloting an online written skills test for drivers.

“This has proven to be a popular feature, allowing license applicants to take the written skills test at home or work at a computer, before coming to our office,” said Harper. “We hope to replace the pilot program with a permanent solution in 2022.”

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