Think about this the next time you're getting a car inspected or renewing a driver license:
The Texas Department of Public Safety is failing to properly manage the vehicle inspection program, and the state's driver license division doesn't meet consumers' needs, according to a scathing report released Friday by a state commission.
Texans are required to have their cars inspected yearly for safety and, in major cities, for emissions. But DPS lacks the supervision to prevent the issuance of fraudulent inspection stickers, the Sunset Advisory Commission report states.
Also, the average wait time for calls to DPS' customer service phone line is 13.5 minutes, and only 35 percent of calls are completed because most people get frustrated and hang up.
The commission, a group of state lawmakers that periodically reviews state agencies to determine if they're still functioning properly, is recommending major changes at DPS. Among them:
- Run the vehicle inspection and driver license programs like a business, instead of a law enforcement function. Many civilian, consumer-related duties are still managed by an outdated, law enforcement chain of command, the report noted.
- Overhaul DPS to focus more on law enforcement duties, including highway patrol, anti-terrorism efforts, drug and gang interdiction and border security issues.
The issue is expected to be a hot topic during the 2009 legislative session, which begins in January in Austin.
READ THE REPORT HERE (114 pages)
The report notes that few state agencies touch as many lives as DPS. "Virtually every adult in the state has a driver license or identification card issued by the agency, and automobile owners must get their vehicles inspected at stations regulated by DPS," a summary of the report reads. "Because Texas ranks first among the states for frequency of tornadoes and flash floods, DPS’ emergency management efforts also impact large numbers of Texans. ... Despite its many dedicated employees, the Department’s tendency to do things 'because they’ve always been done that way,' and not carefully scrutinize operations reduces the agency’s success."