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Chapter 5

Vehicle Title and Registration Systems:
Use Technology to Increase Efficiency and Improve Customer Service

The TxDOT Austin headquarters, 17 TxDOT regional Vehicle Titles and Registration (VTR) offices, and 254 county assessor-collector offices perform vehicle titling and registration transactions. In addition to titling and registering personal vehicles at these locations, Texans can also register trucks engaged in interstate commerce under the International Registration Plan (IRP), issue special license plates, issue copies of titles and support county operations. These various transactions are processed through the automated Registration and Titling System (RTS) as well as other automated systems that are the responsibility of TxDOT.

Citizens interact a great deal with this system due to the types and number of transactions processed.

TxDOT can use modern technology to increase efficiency and improve customer services in of VTR. Better business practices should result in cost savings that can be redirected to highway construction and maintenance.

Create County “One-Stop Shops” for Vehicle Titling and Registration

Titling and registration functions are performed by the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) Austin Headquarters, 17 Vehicle Titles and Registration regional offices and 254 county assessor-collectors. Most Texans are familiar with registering and titling their personal vehicles through their county assessor-collector. Less familiar transactions, generally performed at regional offices or by Austin headquarters, include registering trucks engaged in interstate commerce, issuing copies of original titles, and issuing special license plates. Some transactions are performed at more than one location; in other cases a person must contact both the regional office and the county assessor-collector to complete the transaction. To improve customer service, one stop shops should be created at the county level and TxDOT’s regional offices should focus on unique functions.

Register Vehicles Online

Each year, TxDOT sends out millions of vehicle registration notices that must be returned with the appropriate fees to the county assessor-collector, in person or by mail. TxDOT recently began a pilot project allowing for vehicle registration through the Internet, however, one drawback is that information provided by vehicle owners must be manually re-entered into the agency’s Registration and Titling System (RTS) because RTS and the Internet system do not communicate. The current system also cannot register interstate commercial vehicles, and fleet vehicles are treated as separate registrations. The agency should expand its Internet registration system to make it easier for individuals and business’ to register their vehicles.

Conduct Vehicle Lien Transactions Electronically

Lien holders, usually financial institutions, must receive and store vehicle titles during the life of the loan. Then they must retrieve, sign and deliver the title to the purchaser. Changes in technology now allow this transaction to be performed electronically. However, state law prevents TxDOT from taking advantage of this technology, because it requires TxDOT to issue paper titles and mail them first class. Changing the Transportation Code to remove these requirements would allow the department to issue electronic titles to lien holders.

Reduce Vehicle Registration And Titling Fees For Texas Drivers

The Automated Registration and Titling System, which is used for most vehicle registration and titling transactions performed by TxDOT and county assessor-collectors, has become obsolete and is being upgraded. Last session an additional registration fee was enacted to pay for these changes. TxDOT should give priority to more flexible technology solutions and complete the current upgrade and enhancements on a more aggressive schedule. After the changes are complete, state law should be changed to reduce the fee and return about $11 million annually to vehicle owners.

Streamline The Special License Plates Process and Simplify Vehicle Fleet Renewal

To improve customer service, special plate renewals should be processed in a single transaction through the county assessor-collector’s offices. In Texas, companies with vehicle fleets must register them individually in comparison to other states that allow for consolidated fleet registration. TxDOT should identify vehicles as belonging to a fleet and should allow for consolidated registration of vehicle fleets.