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Chapter 5.5

Streamline Vehicle Fleet Registration


Summary

Business owners that own a fleet of vehicles—from a few to several thousand vehicles—currently register each of these vehicles individually. Other states send companies a consolidated registration notice and allow companies to register their fleets in fewer transactions. The Texas Department of Transportation should streamline the fleet registration process to allow for consolidated registration of vehicle fleets.


Background

In Texas, a single procedure is used to register all vehicles. Once a year, TxDOT mails a renewal notice for each vehicle to the owner. The owner can mail in the notice with payment of appropriate state and local fees to the county assessor-collector, or the owner can renew the registration in person. The owner then receives a windshield sticker to place on the vehicle, a license plate in lieu of a sticker, or both.[1]

Vehicle fleets in Texas range from a handful to several thousand cars, trucks, and trailers. Fleet owners must follow the same process for each vehicle, regardless of the fleet size. For example, a business with a 20-vehicle fleet based within a single county would receive 20 renewal notices in the mail. The owner then must mail in or take to the county offices 20 notices and pay the county assessor-collector. Most county assessor-collectors will accept one check from the owner for all of the vehicles that are being registered. If the company operates in multiple counties, the renewal notices are sent to its office in each county unless the company requests that TxDOT mail the notices to a central location. Regardless of where the notice is received, however, vehicle registration renewals must be paid to the county where the vehicle is headquartered. For example, a business operating a 20-vehicle fleet in three different counties may receive its notices at one location, but must return the notices and payments to three different county assessor-collector offices. Since the local fees vary by county, identical vehicles in different locations may be assessed different registration fees. The business owner must ensure that the proper forms and payments are made to each of the three county assessor-collectors.[2]

Discussions with a major rental car company and a heating/air conditioning company made it clear that processing separate registrations for each vehicle is time consuming. Fortunately for these two companies, the majority of their vehicles were registered in the same county. One company built a spreadsheet to manage the payment process and to keep track of registrations. Both companies indicated they would prefer to have a listing of all their vehicles that are to be registered rather then a form for each vehicle.[3]


Drawbacks of the Current System

Although the lack of a “fleet identifier” in the automated Registration and Titling System (RTS) precludes an accurate count of vehicle fleets in Texas, TxDOT estimates about 300,000 such vehicles in the state. TxDOT spends about $0.31 to print and mail each renewal notice, or about $92,200 for 300,000 vehicles.[4] Fleet managers spend a large amount of time handling vehicle registration renewals. Managing a large fleet located in multiple counties, with significant amounts of paper work and filing, is a costly operation for the owner.

As the renewal notices are received by the county assessor-collector, each vehicle is processed as a separate transaction. Even though the forms include bar codes that decrease the transaction processing time, this process can still be lengthy. The Harris County Assessor-Collector officially asked TxDOT to implement a fleet registration program to improve service to Harris County customers.[5]


Other States

A few other states allow fleet vehicles to be registered as a group using a single identifying number and payment for all vehicles operated by a single owner. Arizona Motor Vehicle Carrier Division, for example, sends one registration to each fleet owner, listing all vehicles for which registration is due. The owner can mark through those vehicles that are no longer in the fleet and add new vehicles to the list. The owner mails the renewal list and one payment for the total registration fee. Arizona also provides this fleet registration online through the Internet.[6]

North Carolina Motor Vehicle Division is conducting a pilot test with seven fleet companies using Internet registration. North Carolina’s plan is to implement Internet renewal registrations first. Trucking companies will access the registration data files through the Internet using their identification codes and company name. Viewing the vehicle listing online, companies can accept the fleet as is or add and delete vehicles. The system will accept payment by credit card or electronic funds transfer.[7]


Modifying the Texas Process

A fleet registration process in Texas would require several significant changes. RTS would need to be modified to identify vehicles as part of a fleet and to generate a consolidated renewal notice. The county assessor-collectors and/or TxDOT would need to work with fleet managers to identify fleet vehicles and properly code them in RTS. A method for adding and deleting vehicles from the fleet, both when a fleet vehicle is bought or sold and when registration renewals are processed would be needed. TxDOT would mail consolidated registration renewal notices, which would require a different form and, depending upon the size of the fleet, may cost more to mail than one of the current notices.[8]

TxDOT estimates that the one-time modification of RTS to allow fleet registrations would cost almost $309,000.[9] Without accurate information on the number of currently registered vehicles that are part of a fleet, or the average size of Texas fleets, the savings in printing and mailing costs cannot be fully estimated. The savings, however, would continue each year.


Recommendation

State law should be amended to allow for consolidated registration renewal of vehicle fleets.

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) should modify the Registration and Titling System (RTS) to identify fleet vehicles and produce a combined listing of the fleet vehicles that are registered by each fleet operator. Operators would receive a single listing of all their vehicles to be registered, rather than one notice per vehicle, providing a cost savings to TxDOT and improving customer service.


Fiscal Impact

TxDOT would incur a one-time cost of about $309,000 to modify the Registration and Titling System (RTS). Since RTS is in the process of an upgrade, this enhancement is not expected to be included in the system until fiscal 2003. The costs would be paid from the additional dollar fee, collected in certain counties, dedicated to RTS enhancements. This estimated savings represent the amounts of State Highway Fund revenue that could be redirected to other TxDOT programs or budget items.

TxDOT would realize savings from reducing its printing and mailing of renewal notices. TxDOT’s cost for printing and mailing each renewal notice is about $0.31. Assuming 300,000 fleet vehicles with 100 vehicles per fleet, the savings to TxDOT would be $91,000 each year. The total savings to counties from processing fewer transactions could not be estimated.[10]

Fiscal Year
Savings/(Cost) to RTS RestrictedAmounts in the State Highway Fund
Net Savings to theState Highway Fund Available To Redirect
2002
$0
$0
2003
($309,000)
$0
2004
$0
$91,000
2005
$0
$91,000
2006
$0
$91,000

Endnotes

[1 ]Letter from Charles W. Heald, P.E., executive director, Texas Department of Transportation, to Clint Winters, Research and Policy Development, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, September 25, 2000; telephone interview with Joey Connell, analyst, Operations Branch, Headquarters Operations, Vehicle Titles and Registration Division, Texas Department of Transportation, Austin, Texas, August 15, 2000.

[2 ]Telephone interview with Duane Pufpaff, chief, Headquarters Operations, Vehicle Titles and Registration, Texas Department of Transportation, Austin, Texas, August 14, 2000; interview with Darryl Hunt, deputy director, Steve Elsner, chief, Administrative Operations; Danny Garza, assistant director, Field Operations; Bob Tanner, director, Technical Operations, and Duane Pufpaff, chief, Headquarters Operations, Vehicle Titles and Registration Division, Texas Department of Transportation, Austin, Texas, March 28, 2000; Texas Department of Transportation, Counties Imposing County Road and Bridge Add-On Fee, Austin, Texas, January 1, 2000.

[3 ]Telephone interview with Bill Morris, administrator for Tag and Title, Enterprise Rental Car Administration Office, Austin, Texas, June 5, 2000; and telephone interview with Sam Trogdon, office administrator, Osgood Heating and Air Conditioning, Austin, Texas, June 5, 2000.

[4 ]Fiscal Impact Statement on Fleet Registration, by Duane Pufpaff, chief, Headquarters Operations, Texas Department of Transportation, Austin, Texas, August 14, 2000.

[5 ]Telephone interview with Harry Morgan, director, Field Operations, Vehicle Titles and Registration Division, Texas Department of Transportation, Austin, Texas, August 9, 2000.

[6 ]Telephone interview with Jamie Robertson, fleet supervisor, Arizona Motor Vehicle Carrier Division, Arizona Department of Transportation, Phoenix, Arizona, August 31, 2000.

[7 ]Telephone interview with Mac Davenport, fleet manager, North Carolina Motor Vehicle Division, North Carolina Department of Transportation, Raleigh, North Carolina, September 21, 2000.

[8 ]Telephone interview with Harry Morgan, director, Field Operations, Vehicle Titles and Registration Division, Texas Department of Transportation, Austin, Texas, August 9, 2000.

[9 ]Fiscal Impact Statement on Fleet Registration by Duane Pufpaff, chief, Headquarters Operations, Vehicle Titles and Registration Division, Texas Department of Transportation, Austin, Texas, August 14, 2000.

[10 ]Telephone interview with Steve Watt, county tax assessor-collector, Lubbock, Texas, July 14, 2000.