PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (KXAN) – There was no line outside the driver’s license mega center in Pflugerville when Kelsea Ledterman walked to the door at 8 a.m. But she was still nervous that her attempt to get a new ID might not work out in her favor.
“I tried to make an appointment online, but they were months out, like four or five months out,” Ledterman said.
The new mom, and new Texan, only has a few weeks before her California license expires. She was hoping she would get one of the very rare walk-in slots.
“Unfortunately, they don’t have openings until September,” Ledterman said. “We will have to see if we can get to another surrounding county or something and find something a little sooner because that is a long time to wait to be able to drive your car.”
The problem looks different across the state. In 2020, DPS moved to an appointment-only system to curb long lines outside its offices.
On March 13, KXAN analyzed the earliest available appointments in some of the largest cities in Texas, including Houston, San Antonio and Dallas-Fort Worth.
In offices within Houston and Humble, customers trying to get a new Texas license could find appointments as early as the following week. But in other offices across the state, the earliest appointment for a new Texas license was as far as out as June, July, August, and September.
DPS calculates the estimated amount of days people will have to wait before getting an appointment at any given driver’s license office. The data shows six of the seven longest wait times are in the KXAN viewing area.
The office with the longest estimated wait time is the Giddings driver’s license office at 161 days, meaning its next available appointment should be Aug. 23.
Pflugerville Mega Center is estimated as of March 15 to have an appointment wait time of 65 days, meaning its next available appointment would be May 19. But the booking site for appointments showed the next available dates were Aug. 3 and Sept. 7.
The appointment times also vary depending on what service people are trying to receive. Wait times are, generally, much shorter for those who must renew or replace their license in person. Data from DPS shows those trying to get a “New to Texas” driver’s license or who need to take a non-CDL driver test have the longest wait time for an appointment.
DPS officials also say people not showing up for their appointments is making the problem worse. Its no-show rate is nearly 30%, according to department data.
DPS would not agree to a sit-down interview between our investigators and its driver license director. But said in a statement its goal is to reduce booking times to 60 days or less.
Its current resources, officials with DPS said, are inadequate to meet the goal.
DPS Director Steve McCraw told the Senate Committee on Finance driver license appointments were its “biggest problem,” asking for additional funding to hire more than 1,300 new workers at its driver license offices.
Some lawmakers, including Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, took issue with providing more money after allocating funding back in 2019 to solve issues of wait time and customer service at Texas driver’s license offices.
Nichols even referenced a 2018 Sunset Advisory Commission report that suggested having the Texas DMV take on the responsibility of distributing driver licenses.
“A lot of states do this in the DMV office,” Sen. Nichols said. “This issue came before Sunset and Sunset basically suggested we need to take a look at this administrative function. Let you focus on safety, security, all those types of things and put this administrative function into one entity by itself — either joined with DMV or by itself.”
The long wait is not just an inconvenience. It’s also causing issues for those trying to get new jobs — and those who need to travel in their cars.
Allora Estrada needs a replacement ID after losing hers but was turned away and told the next available appointment wouldn’t be for another month.
“I won’t be able to get a job I had lined up,” Estrada said. “My finances are stacking up and it’s only me and my partner. We are both stressed and struggling. It’s not an easy thing to go through.”
Ledterman said she hopes lawmakers make the necessary changes to shorten appointment wait times.
“I don’t know about other people but how can you not drive for six months when you have to work and do stuff?” Ledterman asked.